Young people need role models. That means that educators, families, and policymakers must show what it looks like to have empathy, to solve problems collaboratively, and to insist on perspective-taking. These skills are the core of social and emotional learning, which is the lifelong process of learning how to understand ourselves, connect with others, achieve our goals, and support our communities. This is what we at the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) stand for and stand behind as a central tenet of pre-K-12 education.

We long for more engaged, responsible citizens. How about asking ourselves what skills create that outcome? When and where would the next generation learn those skills?

Students learn to engage civically by analyzing how issues in the world affect their lives. They figure out how they can make a difference, and they learn how to work with others to create solutions. This is what social and emotional competency looks like. For example, they ask themselves, “What is happening in the world around me that I want to change?  What are the problems that matter to me, my family, and my friends, and how can I be part of the solution?”

The connection between social emotional learning and civic solutions is not lost on young people.

We can scale the effect of social and emotional learning on civic engagement in two simple ways:

  • Help students apply social and emotional learning skills against manageable goals – When students look at the problems their communities are facing, it can often feel overwhelming. But by leaning on social and emotional competencies such as the CASEL 5 (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making), we can show them that they have the necessary skills and help them set manageable goals and actions to deploy them.
  • Develop authentic relationships – We know that civic learning happens in relationships. As educators, we can provide frequent opportunities for students to practice building relationships that connect them to the broader community in meaningful ways.

Read the full article about civic participation and social-emotional learning by Karen Niemi at EdSource.