Needham students, teachers, and staff knocked it out of the park this week with two programs designed to empower student voice and strengthen school culture and community.
First some context: Needham’s educators are committed to promoting the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) of each student in grades PreK-12. We believe that a learning environment which emphasizes the skills, experiences, and relationships required for children and young people to thrive and grow into competent, caring, aware, giving, and resilient adults is critical to the Needham Public Schools experience. We believe that SEL enriches and empowers young people and is fundamental to their academic and personal growth and success.
SEL has long been a critical component of our elementary curriculum, including, for example, the use of Responsive Classroom to build a classroom community and develop students’ social skills. In addition, our Physical Education & Wellness Program incorporates the domains of Emotional Wellbeing, Physical Wellbeing, Intellectual Wellbeing, Occupational/Leisure, Social and Spiritual Wellbeing into the curriculum for all students.
This past week two amazing SEL opportunities for our 7-12 students occurred at Pollard Middle School and Needham High School. I attended both programs and came away amazed at the level of creativity, energy, and opportunity for young people to learn about and engage in important and current issues and ideas that impact their lives and schools.
At Pollard Middle School, all students participated in Make Your Move Day: Know Thy Selfie! Students attended classes and workshops designed to develop relationship skills, self-awareness, responsible decision making, and self-management, all with a emphasis on the use of technology and social media. Workshop titles included, FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and Don’t be MEME. Students also worked in their advisories to unpack what they had learned and share ideas for making small changes to online and social media behaviors.
At Needham High School, students helped organize and plan for One Day, a program designed to complement this year’s all school read, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. A variety of workshops, lectures, and performances focused on the theme of Finding Power in Your Voice—a major theme in the book—provided students and teachers with opportunities to explore issues related to equity, race, social media, and substance abuse. Additionally, students led and explored workshops focused on the development of athletic leadership skills, climbing, speech and debate, history, and poetry. Musical performances by the Sons of Serendip, the creation of art and sculptures, and TED Talks rounded out the program. In many cases students developed and led the workshops, an important way in which to include their personal experiences and stories.
We believe students need opportunities to strengthen relationships, empathize with a different point of view, and build confidence and resilience. We believe the academic curriculum and classroom experiences are enriched and reinforced by vibrant SEL practices and programs that boost learning. We believe that young people grow and the broader community strengthened and enriched when we empower student voices. Thanks and congratulations to all involved who continue to develop these amazing learning experiences in the Needham Public Schools.
To learn more about the District’s SEL programs, check out our website: Social and Emotional Learning in the NPS