School Staff and Parents Find New Ways to Foster Social and Emotional Learning Among Students
When the Manhattan Beach Unified School District (MBUSD) began planning its second annual Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) Week, which took place in March, plenty of ideas crossed the minds of not just those who work for the district but parents as well. The first SEL Week, in 2022, was such a success that this time the excitement within the community—especially from parents—was incredible.
Planning for this year began back in October. Between 10 and 25 volunteers helped at each of the eight schools for the 2023 event.
“All of the school sites make sure the kids have a trusted adult they can go to if they have a problem or are upset. For one child it could be anyone from the custodian or groundskeeper. It is all about who makes the children feel safe. For so many of the kids, it’s seeing that smiling face and then modeling those behaviors,” says Kerry Augero, director of student services for the district. “We are so blessed with so many who offer support. That giving nature makes such an impact. It continues to build up our students.”
District SEL cochair Wimberly Meyer saw firsthand the effect the COVID-19 pandemic had on children, and she wanted to do something to help. A mother of two kids who are in elementary school, Wimberly noticed how their social interactions changed.
“Seeing how they were affected really had an impact on me. Just like you want to eat well, get a good night’s sleep and brush your teeth, you also want to have good mental hygiene,” says Wimberly. “If you can incorporate this into the kids’ lives—even if it is just for 30 seconds or calming the mind for five minutes—it makes a difference. The other pieces and parts of your life will be affected by that.”
SEL reflects the critical role of positive relationships and emotional connections in the learning process and helps students develop a range of skills they need for school and life—all in the name of creating a culture of care. At the elementary schools, some of the activities included writing in a gratitude journal, painting river rocks with kindness messages and images, and heart face paintings.
At Manhattan Beach Middle School, students participated in yoga, listened to speakers who have dealt with adversity and had a scavenger hunt. At Mira Costa High School, students took a “No Place for Hate” pledge, listened to a cyber safety speaker and had Fun Friday Music in Mustang Mall. People at all schools wore green on March 10 for Mental Health Awareness month.
“For the elementary school kids, we want to give them the right words and traits. Then as they get older, we will begin to see that growth even more. We are all eager to see that change and are already finding great success,” says Kerry.
She says the high school has many activities, and the clubs are student-driven. “Students are having their voices heard, and it’s what they need and want. That’s the same thing with the middle school. They create that safe space at lunch.”
While not much time has passed since SEL Week, Kerry is already thinking about ideas for SEL Week 2024. She continually considers the students and how MBUSD can support them for the long haul.
“It is always about reflection. Plenty of things work, but it’s all about adjusting and how we can make things even better next year,” says Kerry. “We’ll bring the committee back together, collaborate to make sure the week is age-appropriate and consider how we can make SEL Week feel even more like a community activity.”