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Professional Development

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Tips to Incorporate SEL in Afterschool Programs

Afterschool programs across the nation are experiencing the many benefits of integrating social emotional learning (SEL) into their schedules—including improved communication, reduced bullying, and stronger peer relationships.

Although afterschool programs tend to be less structured than the traditional K-6 classroom environment, they still present an opportunity to teach young students important life skills and character development.

Program leaders are increasingly interested in SEL curriculum that is sustainable and easy to implement within the limited time constraints of an afterschool program. They are also looking for tools that help them educate their young staff regarding social emotional intelligence. Many have found Sanford Harmony to be the solution. Harmony is a flexible, research-based curriculum offered at no cost to afterschool programs.

Here are some tenets of Sanford Harmony that work well when incorporating SEL into afterschool programs.

Meet Up: Hold a community meeting at the same time every day, during which students gather in a group to discuss any given topic. Participants are given an opportunity to practice speaking and listening skills, and gain a better understanding of each other. This can be carried out as either a whole group, or smaller groups based on grade level if the afterschool program has a lot of students.

Buddy Up: Assign each student a weekly "buddy" to participate in fun activities or interesting conversations together. Pair older students with younger students—with peers who may not otherwise interact. Since afterschool programs are a mix of diverse students, this is an optimal time to foster empathy and compassion for diverse members of the community.

Quick Connection Cards: The Harmony Quick Connection Cards are useful when teachers or staff are looking for a way to provide students with some structure. Cards contain thought-provoking questions or activities for students to partake in as buddies or as a whole group. Activities are fun but with a social emotional learning component, like promoting team building and communication.

Games: Harmony games are fun for buddies or for small groups to play while learning more about their differences and even unexpected similarities. The games offer an opportunity for students to process challenging social situations in a safe and fun environment. By partnering or grouping diverse peers, each student brings a unique perspective to activities.

Teacher and Staff Development: Sanford Harmony includes teacher toolkits that provide lesson plans to guide teachers and staff in implementation. Initial training is provided by Harmony ambassadors in available locations or online. Videos and resources are also available on our website at no cost for staff to access at any time.

To learn more, visit sanfordharmony.org.