SEL & Summer Camp – Part 5

We’re at the end of our amazing and informative interview with Jennifer S. Miller – author and illustrator of the Confident Parents, Confident Kids blog – on incorporating social and emotional learning in summer camps. This last question sums up SEL in school districts and gives a few resources to reference.

LN:  Nationwide, is SEL being incorporated in school districts like it should be?

JSM:  Yes and no. Nationwide, there are numerous models of schools, districts, and states that are working thoughtfully to integrate what we know about advancing children’s academic, social, and emotional development into their curriculum, policies, and practices. Yet, this is not a passing educational trend. In order for our educational systems to genuinely meet the needs of children, social and emotional learning is essential – not a nice-to-have or add-on. These skills are fundamental to our children’s success. And so, every school, not a chosen, progressive few, need to have the advantage of learning about and advancing their agenda on the best ways to incorporate social and emotional learning into what they do. For example, in my area, it is the private, high tuition schools that integrate social and emotional learning in a focused way and not the public schools. This has to change. In fact, when schools do become intentional and focused on SEL, it not only contributes to child well-being, but also to teacher, staff, and family well-being so that the entire school community benefits.

To learn more about model school districts, check out the CASEL Collaborating Districts.

To understand more about how SEL is fundamental to learning, check out the videos by Edutopia and the Aspen Institute entitled, “How Learning Happens.”

If you are a parent who wants to raise the conversation about social and emotional learning (SEL) in your child’s school, check out the “How Learning Happens: Family and Caregiver Conversation Tool.”

SEL & Summer Camp – Part 4

It’s day four of our interview series with social and emotional learning expert, Jennifer S. Miller. Here’s what she had to say about incorporating SEL in topic focused camps:

LN:  There are general summer camps and camps that focus on specialized topics (i.e. STEM, art, music, dance, sports, etc.). Is it important for the specialized camps to consider SEL concepts? If so, what are some tips as to how these camps should go about incorporating SEL in their programs?

JSM:  All camps whether general or specialized will better serve youth if they look at specific ways to integrate social and emotional learning (SEL) into their everyday operations. For example, consider how you can create a daily routine of helping campers build trusting relationships with one another and the staff, in enjoyable ways?

Illustration from Confident Parents, Confident Kids

Check out the cooperative games listed on the Confident Parents, Confident Kids’ site. I also love the book Adventures In Peacemaking by William Kriedler for simple, fun, easy-to-implement cooperative games that promote skills. Another great resource is 99 Activities and Greeting by Melissa Corea-Connelly.

Also, all camps know that they will need to help children manage their big emotions as they go through their days. Prepare a plan for those big feelings?

For staff members, check out the Emotional Safety Plan, a one-page template for creating your own plan for calming down in those challenging moments. Additionally, staff can benefit significantly from reviewing the ages and stages/developmental milestones their campers are working on. Check out the NBC Parent Toolkit for age/stage information across academic, social and emotional and physical development areas. In addition, there are helpful pamphlets that offer ages/stages information by grade level – check out Yardsticks Guides.


Jennifer S. Miller, SEL expert and author of Confident Parents, Confident Kids blog.

SEL & Summer Camp – Part 3

Happy Wednesday, everyone. We’re on Part 3 of our interview series with Jennifer S. Miller, social and emotional learning (SEL) expert. An extremely informed and knowledgeable resource for the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), Ms. Miller outlines SAFE, an effective SEL approach that camps can utilize when incorporating social skills efforts.

LN:  I saw something on CASEL’s site about effective approaches to SEL. They mentioned the acronym SAFE. Can you speak a little more about this approach and how it can be incorporated in summer programs?

JSM:  Yes! SAFE is the four elements required for an effective social and emotional learning approach. They are:

  • Sequenced: Connected and coordinated activities to foster skills development. In other words, programs build social and emotional learning activities and experiences that are developmentally appropriate. Scaffold children’s current knowledge to build upon their strengths and introduce new skill building opportunities through modeling, practicing, and creating positive, caring environments for learning.
  • Active: Active forms of learning to help students master new skills and attitudes. As staff decide upon activities – how can they consider specific social and emotional goals for those activities? For example, instead of doing a solitary craft, have children engage in a collaborative craft? Perhaps they plan and craft a paper animal as a team with staff members’ guidance on how each child can play an important role. Summer camp offers numerous opportunities for campers to actively build social and emotional skills, if staff become intentional about them. Also, reflecting on the relationships, the feelings involved, and the goals set and worked toward, can offer an opportunity to boost the social and emotional lessons of any activity.
  • Focused: A component that emphasizes developing personal and social skills. Summer programs have the opportunity to set focused goals on social and emotional skill building. Think about…
  • Explicit: Target specific social and emotional skills. If summer program staff become intentional about building specific skills in planned activities, they can become explicit about targeting learning outcomes. For example, staff might plan a self-awareness activity in which a child works with another to trace his body and in addition to drawing how he looks, he can label various interests and personality traits.

LN:  What is the difference between character-building and SEL?

JSM:  Social and emotional learning (SEL) is character-building in that it prepares children with all of the vital skills they need to be kind to themselves and others and make responsible choices. Character-building is not social and emotional learning – though, in my mind, it can mean one instance of enduring a difficult situation and coming through it stronger. They do interplay with one another since character-building can be about resiliency and people are only resilient if they develop social and emotional skills. I think of social and emotional learning (SEL) as more comprehensive and intentional. It doesn’t just happen because of life circumstances. We, as caring educators and parents, have to become focused and intentional about offering our children many opportunities in a supportive environment to cultivate the skills that will help them become confident, caring, contributing, and responsible adults.


Jennifer S. Miller, author of the Confident Parents, Confident Kids blog also complied the Top 10 Books for Parents, a great SEL resource.