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Elementary students benefiting from social emotional learning – Duluth News Tribune

WADENA, MN – Elementary students at Wadena-Deer Creek learn more about understanding their emotions through class discussions, videos, lessons, and calming items.

While the social and emotional effects on students have been a concern throughout the pandemic, staff at the primary school have worked on mental health and trauma-conscious school training for nearly four years. Elementary School Mary Ellison added as Student Success Coordinator at the start of this school year, along with morning meetings and extra curricula to create shared vocabulary and unity and encourage discussion around emotions.

“We cannot learn our ABCs and ABCs 123 if our students do not feel safe, loved, listened, helped, connected, or generally feel part of our community,” Sarah Lenz wrote in an email shared with school board members on December 20. . She is an Emotional Behavior Disorder specialist and educator. “WDC has recognized this and I see changes daily as crisis calls have dropped dramatically, students have coping tools to use on their own and students are asking for the help they need!”

What is social emotional learning?

The Children’s Committee defines social emotional learning (SEL) as “the process of developing self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are vital to school, work and life success.” The essence of SEL is to listen to students and help them understand their emotions to become better students.

At Wadena-Deer Creek, elementary students have a morning meeting in their classroom with Elementary Principal Louis Rutten and the entire school on Zoom for approximately 5 minutes. The teachers then move to a presentation with quotes, videos, and questions prepared by Ellenson.

“By setting aside 30 minutes each morning for a morning meeting, he really united the classroom and the school with this common language,” Elinson said. She said the students celebrating birthdays approach the camera as the whole school wishes them a Merry Christmas.

According to Rutten, through morning meetings, lessons, and PAWS funds, teachers and career assistants have been able to transition from training to work. The PAWS Box includes items to help students de-stress and calm down. Students have learned that when your brain “explodes” you react in a fight, flight, or freeze mode. For example, a student who used to leave the room (the flight) now heads to the PAWS square area as a safe space.

What do students learn in morning meetings?

Ellison said teachers see the value of lessons for students.

Lenz had a morning meeting with a group of fourth graders from Kindergarten. She said students focus and engage during meetings. Second grade teacher Lindy Thompson notes that morning meetings in the classroom take about 15 minutes, and “I think 100% it’s worth it.”

“The content is related to what they are going through in their lives,” Lenz wrote. “I especially enjoy hearing about the interactions between older and younger students. The advice the children give each other and the ways they can help each other solve problems is the final teachable moment to facilitate, and it happens every day thanks to this new programme.”

Discussions help identify many factors in a student’s life as they try to learn. The staff also received training in adverse childhood experiences and used the MindUP approach over the past few years. Making these efforts before the pandemic spread has helped students and families in these difficult times, Rutten said.

How will social-emotional learning continue?

Along with the morning meetings, the Step Two curriculum is a once-weekly 30-45 minute lesson along with short elective activities during the week. The syllabus includes text that teachers can use based on their grade level.

“The second step lessons each week allow us to have deeper conversations about managing emotions/emotions. It is good that there are some similarities between the degrees so that we all have a common language,” Thompson wrote.

Board members noted their interest in using lessons for future 5th graders as they transition into middle/high school. The Step Two curriculum is available from kindergarten to fifth grade. Fifth and sixth graders also have principals.

“I think our work in equity is closely related to becoming a trauma informed school, and I look forward to continuing those conversations as well,” Thompson wrote. “We’ve had some questions being raised about homework policies, attendance awards, fundraising, and other equity issues. I think as a region we’ve made great strides by adding our morning meeting and step two approach, but we’d also like to see some of the actions that have been taken with these other conversations.”


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