Aiken County Supports the Whole Child with SEL

This article was written in partnership with Aiken County Public School District.

Kindergarten teacher Jackie Kowalchuk from Aiken County Public Schools in South Carolina noticed that “many children coming into school are currently lacking social and emotional skills. While educational systems typically  do not take time to teach these skills, I feel they are just as important for the full development of a child as let’s say reading or writing.” Jackie’s district has started to look at more comprehensive social emotional learning solutions to support all of its students as a result.

South Carolina has already taken steps to support students’ social and emotional well-being by adopting state SEL standards for PreK, and educators like Ms. Kowalchuk aren’t waiting to offer social emotional learning to older students, either.

Aiken County Public Schools (ACPSD), about 60 miles south of Columbia, the state’s capital, is the first school district in the state to begin using Move This World to support SEL. This year, two elementary schools are piloting the program, which offers an extensive library of SEL videos for PreK-12 students and educators to explicitly teach core social emotional learning skills and provide opportunities for practice. Teachers have access to an online platform with supplementary resources, like toolkits, worksheets, journal prompts, and facilitation guides to support learning.

“My initial impression is that it is very easy as a teacher to implement and work into our daily schedule,” said Jackie Kowalchuk. She has seen the need for more social emotional learning supports first-hand. In addition to reading and writing, this year her students are also learning how to understand and express emotions and build healthy relationships with their classmates and teachers. Move This World offers students opportunities to access SEL through creative expression, movement, and a variety of other modalities (kinesthetic, verbal, written, visual).

It’s the kinesthetic engagement that hooks students, providing them with strategies they can use throughout the day to understand and manage their emotions. Emotional management strategies, or “Emogers,” offer students a movement-based reminder of ways they can react to different emotions. Ms. Kowalchuk said, “My students love it and ask for the videos each day. They repeat/sing the ‘Emogers’ all day long and can answer my questions about what ‘Emogers’ they could use in a situation. They participate in the ‘Emogers’ motions and calm down motions of the closing videos. I think they really enjoy watching them so far.”

Emogers give students the ability to self-select strategies to help them respond to various emotions and calm down. When students self-regulate, teachers can spend less time redirecting behavior and more time supporting students academically. In addition to having an immediate impact, Emogers help students cultivate stress management tools that they’ll use for life.

When districts take a system-wide approach to SEL, like ACPSD is exploring this year with Move This World, they also see results like improved classroom behavior, an increased ability to manage stress and depression, and better attitudes about themselves, others, and school (CASEL). One of the most powerful effects of a system-wide SEL curriculum is that it provides a common language around emotions and a consistent framework for SEL skills. With all stakeholders on the same page, adults can better identify students who need more intensive behavior interventions, and students can better communicate their emotional needs. That’s why schools that have implemented Move This World have seen a 28% decrease in incident reports. (MBZLabs)

Ms. Kowalchuk told us, “I hope to teach [my students] the skills of identifying emotions and how to appropriately manage and control them, especially when put into challenging situations.” We can’t wait to see how social emotional learning with Move This World impacts students and teachers in Aiken County Public Schools!

If you’re interested in learning more about the work happening in ACPSD, or if you’d like to learn more about how Move This World can impact your students, get in touch with our team.

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