Middle School students observe gratitude gallery.

Social and Emotional Learning at Field

By Alice Mercer, Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator & School Counselor

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) at Field has positively impacted our students' attitudes about themselves, their social connections, and our community. Field’s Social and Emotional Learning Coordinator & School Counselor Alice Mercer shares the importance of SEL work with students.

When I was a freshman in high school, my teacher assigned a project which involved researching potential majors and career paths to inform our class choices. Most of my peers were terrified of this assignment. To them, it seemed too big and too scary to form a life path at the age of 14. 

I was not terrified. I confidently declared school counseling as my career path and never looked back. It’s not that I had my whole life figured out at 14, but I knew one thing to be true: I was passionate about helping people. 

Counseling and facilitating social-emotional learning allows me to fulfill my desire to empower students to be confident, empathetic, compassionate, and forward-thinking. I want every student to believe that they can achieve difficult things and that they are not alone when it comes to overcoming adversity.

What is social and emotional learning? 

Social and emotional learning, commonly referred to as SEL, is an important part of education and human development. SEL is the process through which young people acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions. Using evidence-based research from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), we aim to address the five core social and emotional competencies: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Responsible Decision-Making, Relationship Skills, and Social Awareness.

What does social and emotional learning look like at Field?

Our SEL curriculum aims to support the whole child by addressing a range of topics in developmentally appropriate ways that directly connect to our mission, core values, and the CASEL-5 core competencies highlighted above. 

Students engage in SEL through our Advisory program and core academic courses. Each month, our students spend time diving into a new topic through Advisory lessons, outside organization presentations, and other school-wide SEL initiatives. Some of our middle school topics include learning and expressing emotions, building and maintaining friendships, and healthy conflict-resolution skills. A few of our upper school topics include building inclusive communities, stress management and coping skills, and healthy use of technology. 

Throughout November, our middle and upper school students focused on "Gratitude." In their work exploring how expressing gratitude can impact our well-being, the middle school students chose photographs of people, places, or things they were grateful for to create a gallery wall outside their classrooms. Touring the wall with our students showed the care and reflection they put into this assignment. Students were excited to share what they were grateful for and enjoyed reading about their peers' and teachers' messages of gratitude. Practicing gratitude through this project allowed students to enhance their social awareness skills by demonstrating empathy and compassion for others and understanding and expressing gratitude.

The upper school students dove into grade-level service projects in the Field or wider DMV community. Once each grade identified the project they were most passionate about, students were asked to collaborate, organize, plan, and lead the service projects. They were also asked to connect it back to our mission and core values. This SEL initiative came to a close at an All-School Gathering before Thanksgiving break in which each grade presented their project, reflected on the experience, and highlighted the importance of gratitude and service to others. Through this hands-on learning experience, students demonstrated their problem-solving, communication, collaboration, and leadership skills. The projects ranged from collecting food and clothing donations for Martha’s Table, toiletry donations for the National Center for Children and Families, writing letters to Washington, DC City Council members on various issues impacting the community, and volunteering at A Wider Circle. 

Social Emotional Learning at Field has positively impacted our students' attitudes about themselves, their social connections, and our community. This positive impact has allowed our students to become more effective and engaged community members. The SEL curriculum provides opportunities for students to explore their authentic selves, learn about and manage their emotions, understand and empathize with others, establish and maintain healthy and supportive relationships, and make caring and informed life choices.

I look forward to watching our students grow into the best versions of themselves!