What is it?
SEL has been defined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
Essentially, SEL gives people concrete steps to develop their capacity to live fulfilling lives of their own design while creating positive connections with those around them. These skills go by several names: 21st century skills, soft skills, character education, experiential learning, and positive youth development.
Why does it matter?
There is a growing body of evidence that has developed over the past few decades teaching people some very new, very important things, according to Susan Crown, writing for Preparing Youth to Thrive: Promising Practices for Social and Emotional Learning. “First, we can take our innate abilities and cultivate them, just like we build up muscle, dexterity, and language fluency. And secondly, that social and emotional skills matter just as much in determining life satisfaction and success as traditional intelligence,” said Kori Donley, CFI’s Education director. Researchers are now stating that the skills to increase academic performance and employability can be learned. This information has the ability to impact students in every community across the nation if steps are taken to implement SEL in schools and informal education programs such as CFI.
How Canyonlands Field Institute is nationally involved
Over the next year, the Residential Experiential Education Partnership will combine collective wisdom of all organizations in the service of establishing common language and developing shared tools related to SEL. Representatives from Canyonlands Field Institute will join NatureBridge as thought partners in this work along with representatives from UC Berkeley and Stanford to conduct research on the effectiveness of the practices developed. Ultimately, REEP findings will be disseminated to the extended environmental education community.
How this work will impact Moab
“It will be our privilege and pleasure to share what we have learned and contribute in a meaningful way to both the environmental education community and our hometown community in Moab. We strive to help our local 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students develop positive social and emotional skills through our educational programs,” said Donley.
Contact CFI for more information at 435-259-7750 or www.cfimoab.org.