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Thriving Not Just Surviving: Revisiting SEL to Help Children Be Successful


Recent national news agencies have reported an increase in concerns regarding the mental health of children.  In fact, a national survey indicated (Kaiser Family Foundation/CNN, 2023) 90% of all adults feel that there is a mental health crisis in the US.  Teachers know that keeping students healthy is vital to improving their academic and physical achievement.  Teacher’s also report record numbers of school aged children requiring additional mental health services.  So, what can teachers do?  With less than half of the US schools reporting adequate nurses and mental health support services, finding and or accessing support is difficult.

Experts say there is an opportunity to expand perceptions about how mental health is part of our overall physical health and wellbeing which  opens the door to a variety of ways to respond to mental health crises.  In support of the expansion of strategies to address mental health, The US Department of Education recommends the promotion of wellness for every child, student, educator, and provider.  Wellness is the act of practicing healthy habits ON A DAILY BASIS to attain better PHYSICAL and mental health outcomes, so that instead of just surviving, CHILDREN ARE THRIVING!


An initial strategy for teachers is to simply become more knowledgeable about the health and physical education standards and outcomes we want children to acquire while in school. Every state has health related standards and specific outcomes for both critical subject areas. Understanding your specific state’s physical education and health content can enhance the selection of activities and curriculum choice. In addition, ALL teachers should recognize and understand the importance of social and emotional learning content and how to embed that content into discipline specific curricula.

The National Health Education Standards (NHES) strongly support the CASEL SEL
competencies as a critical tool to help educators address mental health in schools. The SEL
competencies lead to the achievement of lifelong daily health skills. Understanding and connecting health, physical education with social emotional learning content can broaden the scope and reach of mental health interventions


Social Emotional Learning (SEL) is the process through which children develop the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage their emotions, establish positive relationships with others, and make responsible decisions.

SEL encompasses five core skills/competencies:

  • Self-awareness: 
    The ability to recognize and understand one's own emotions, thoughts, and values, and how they influence behavior.

    ACTIVITY: Recenter Reset Super Stickers®! Explore how your body moves, twists, jumps, runs, leaps and falls provides a fabulous framework to understanding one’s emotions and self. Use the “Face Your Feelings®” Super Stickers® to assess before and after exercise emotions!

    Screen Shot 2023-04-21 at 3.15.15 PM

  • Self-management:
    The ability to regulate emotions, thoughts, and behaviors in different situations, and to set and work towards personal and academic goals.

    ACTIVITY: Mindful Movement! Use any of these in our Super Stickers® or Roll-Out Activities® to work on managing and or controlling your body! Explore the phrases with each movement e.g. “I am calm” – “I am free” – “I am strong” etc.
    RR Tree Pose

  • Social awareness:
    The ability to understand and empathize with others, and to appreciate and respect diversity.

    ACTIVITY: PreK Possibilities! Use these sensory pathways to reinforce taking turns, helping others, and encouraging each other while moving! Emphasize that everyone moves differently and that’s okay! Learning to use words of encouragement can start with Pre-K!
    Screen Shot 2023-04-21 at 3.18.45 PM

  • Relationship skills: 

    The ability to communicate effectively, work cooperatively, and build and maintain positive relationships with others.

    ACTIVITY: Copy Cat! This activity is a fun way to get kids moving while facing each other.
    RR Copy Cat - Kids In Use

  • Responsible decision-making: 

    The ability to make constructive and ethical decisions based on consideration of oneself, others, and the wider community.

    ACTIVITY: Peace Path by Soul Shoppe® and Buddy Circle provide teachers a great way to demonstrate what appropriate decision making looks like in addition to teaching children how to address conflict.

Screen Shot 2023-04-21 at 3.20.11 PM

The goal of all schools should be to help children THRIVE – not just survive their educational experience.  Expanding the way the emotional well-being of students opens the door to valuing movement as a critical aspect of our daily mental health.  Ensuring that SEL skills are part of the daily fold of educational outcomes that include quality instruction, modeling, and evidence-based practice can help students find and maintain success.  Social emotional skills help children be equipped to manage their own emotions and behaviors, build positive relationships, and succeed in school and community.

Let's see what Dr. Tim Davis has to say about social emotional learning


Want to get better educated on SEL?

Sign up for our "Activating SEL" series and earn a FREE professional development certification! You could learn a lot about how to incorporated social emotional learning into your environment. Click here to get started!

Activating SEL

Download our free Mega Guide to discover hundreds of active learning techniques and strategies for improving kids’ SEL skills. You’ll also get 10% OFF our Super Stickers®️, Sensory Pathways, Stencils, and Roll-Out Activities®️

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