Leadership/SEL Teacher Stacia Aschoff (far right) sits with her leadership class on the stairs of North Fork Elementary School
Woodland Public Schools’ elementary schools use Social Emotional Learning (SEL) to guide students through developing a variety of life skills to help them at home, at school, and throughout their lives, including strategies for coping, ways to enhance emotional resilience, respectful conflict resolution and more.
Woodland’s elementary staff teaches SEL district-wide. “Every student at every elementary grade level receives the same lesson each week at all three of our elementary schools – Columbia, North Fork, and Yale,” said Denise Pearl, Principal for North Fork Elementary School. “The teaching team works closely to ensure each lesson is grade-appropriate for each age level and the topic remains the same for all students.”
This year, Woodland’s elementary staff chose Character Strong, a new SEL curriculum aligning social and emotional traits with lessons and activities to help elementary students develop the month’s focused trait while engaging with their classmates. For example, September’s trait is courage. Students take part in activities such as “courage charades” where groups role-play different situations that require courage such as confronting bullying or handling unfamiliar situations. For each trait, the entire teaching staff participates, too. In September, staff members find stories of courage from the news, neighbors, and friends and family to share with students during class to show courage taking place throughout the community.
Third graders in Stacia Aschoff’s Leadership Class at North Fork Elementary School take part in “courage charades,” an activity from the district’s new Social Emotional Learning curriculum
The new curriculum provides a much more thorough approach for SEL. “I’ve never seen a curriculum that’s so comprehensive – it includes a variety of lessons for students but also includes activities for staff engagement as well as a weekly podcast,” said Pearl. “The curriculum also provides reading lists for both teachers and parents to use with students with a selection of suggested books and other materials.”
SEL provides students with vital skills not only to help them in life but also academically, too. “Without a solid foundation in SEL, students do not have the skills they need to be successful in the classroom and learn what they need to academically,” said Stacia Aschoff, Leadership/SEL Teacher at North Fork Elementary School. “SEL helps students manage their emotions, teaches them anger control, helps them learn to have empathy for others, how to be accepting of all, and how to develop healthy friendships.”
Aschoff had used two other forms of SEL prior to Character Strong and finds it to provide the most robust options for students, “I am so happy with this new curriculum; it is the first that is truly geared toward our younger students and their specific social and emotional needs,” she said. “Character Strong provides amazing resources to teach each character trait: pictures, quotes, games, activities, videos and music.”
While Woodland’s staff has been teaching SEL previously, the pandemic made such lessons much more vital. “The pandemic has made this curriculum even more important as our students have had to deal with so much between remote learning and the different health guidelines,” explained Pearl. “The kids are really excited to be back in school in-person, and these lessons help them become even more successful both in and out of school.”
Watching students develop and succeed inspires and motivates Woodland’s teaching staff. “I get the chance to make a difference in a student’s life by teaching them the skills to become a successful adult,” said Ashcoff. “Just like in traditional academics, I get to watch a light bulb go off when my students develop a deeper understanding or empathy for why a classmate may act or feel a certain way while also understanding how their own actions may make others feel.”
Character Strong goes beyond the classroom, too, providing activities for staff and students to use throughout the school including the playground. For students who get into disagreements at recess, a “peace labyrinth” is a physical printout where students can stand in different places of the labyrinth which specifically guides children through effective and respectful conflict resolution.
At North Fork, the staff worked with Advanced Electric Signs, a local Woodland company, to design and create special signs to fit on the school’s stairs featuring the different traits taught in the SEL curriculum. “We are so grateful to Advanced Signs for working with us to ensure we could have all of these installed before the beginning of the school year,” said Pearl.
To learn more about Character Strong and SEL curriculum, you can visit the company’s website at www.characterstrong.com.
Learn more about how Woodland Public Schools educates our students and serves the community, by visiting our dedicated news webpage at www.woodlandschools.org/news/wsd