3 Things Everyone Should Know About SEL and Afterschool
Friday, February 14, 2020
by: Bridget Laird

Section: From Contributors


Bridget Laird is CEO of Wings for Kids located in Charlestown, South Carolina

3 Things Everyone Should Know About SEL and Afterschool

For more than 20 years, I have grown and worked with Wings for Kids - one of the first organizations in the U.S. focused exclusively on teaching social emotional learning in afterschool. As CEO, I believe in a world where there is equity in academics, opportunity, and emotional well-being for ALL kids, regardless of their socioeconomic status. And at WINGS, we have spent the last 24 years equipping at-risk kids with the skills they need to succeed in school, stay in school, and thrive in life.
For more than 20 years, I have grown and worked with Wings for Kids — one of the first organizations in the U.S. focused exclusively on teaching social emotional learning in afterschool. As CEO, I believe in a world where there is equity in academics, opportunity, and emotional well-being for all kids, regardless of their socioeconomic status. And at WINGS, we have spent the last 24 years equipping at-risk kids with the skills they need to succeed in school, stay in school, and thrive in life.

We now know that social emotional learning (SEL) is a critical part of every kid's development. Through SEL, kids learn how to manage their emotions, set and achieve goals, overcome obstacles, and develop healthy relationships — skills necessary to succeed in school, be prepared for the workforce, and lead positive and healthy lives. Research tells us that SEL leads to positive changes in kids' lives in and out of the classroom. And Wings has the proof, as highlighted in a recent feature by The 74: “Not Many Afterschool Programs Teach Social-Emotional Learning. Wings for Kids Does, and New Gold Standard Study Finds Its Working for Low-Income Students."

Have you considered that when SEL and afterschool come together, amazing things can happen? Here are three things everyone should know about SEL in afterschool. 

1. Research tells us that SEL and afterschool are a perfect match.

An ever-growing body of research on SEL in afterschool shows that students who participate in high-quality afterschool programs that incorporate SEL see significant improvements in grades, test scores, attachment to school and positive behavior. They're also less likely to engage in bullying, aggressive behavior and drug use.

2. Afterschool allows kids to learn SEL skills in a fun, engaging way.

A traditional classroom is a great place for kids to learn long division and how to write an essay, but the creativity and flexibility of afterschool learning environments allow kids to actively engage in activities, games and conversations intentionally designed to develop SEL skills. Whether it's learning how to work together as a team during a kickball game or an art project designed to help kids express their feelings and goals, kids are able to learn and build skills while having a ton of fun.

3. SEL-focused trainings help teachers and afterschool providers become strong role models and mentors.

We know that growing up is tough, and growing up without the support you need is even tougher. Many of the kids we serve come into our programs with big challenges and stresses, and their teachers and afterschool providers are key positive adult influences in their lives. With SEL-focused training and workshops that help adults better understand and develop their own SEL skills, they can intentionally model SEL for kids, find teachable moments in everyday activities and simply be the supportive and caring adult that all kids need.

When SEL and afterschool come together, everybody wins — especially at-risk kids. For more information about Wings for Kids, our programs, research, and workshops, visit wingsforkids.org.
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