The only footprints you see here are from wildlife. But underneath the snow is thousands of children's tracks, headed towards the circle in the woods. It’s in this circle that we share gratitudes, listen for birds, and seek a little bit of stillness as we settle into our day.
For the past nine years, we have created this space for children to be still - to listen, watch, smell this little patch of woods - and notice how they feel. Through experience, they learn that the natural world is a place of solace. The birds, trees, wind, sun, log rounds they sit upon, and earth they rest their feet on - become their teacher.
Experiences in the natural world is one way that social emotional learning (SEL) has been with us since the beginning. Students learn that stillness, gratitude, and nature are all gifts to soothe and reclaim a sense of center.
This January, we have been building upon our already solid foundation of SEL by taking a deeper dive inward.
This deeper dive started with students developing the sense to feel what is happening within their bodies; this sense is called interoception. Through different practices, students are being supported to listen/feel how their bodies communicate with them. Cultivating the capacity to feel what we are feeling is foundational to self-awareness.
We started with noticing, feeling, and describing the basic sensations we all have, such as hunger, thirst, the need to go to the bathroom. Body sensations are connected with these basic needs, and they can be experienced differently depending on the child.
This is a new level of awareness for some - being aware of how their body communicates. The next level of inner sensing that we have been working with this week is to link what students are feeling (body sensations) with an emotion. We will follow this by expanding their emotional vocabulary while supporting them in noticing how their bodies change with the range of emotions they experience.
As adults, the more skilled we are at sensing what is going on in our inner world, the better we can support our young people with the wide range of feelings they experience. SEL is best taught through modeling, and I am beyond grateful that our staff has outstanding social, emotional skills.
We are very excited about our SEL curriculum and supporting our students in developing social and emotional skills that will support them as they journey to adulthood and beyond.