In a classroom of seventh graders at Branciforte Middle School earlier this month, students spent about 40 minutes learning about major and minor conflicts and what makes them escalate.
It wasn’t a health class or an English class, but rather an entirely separate lesson from the social emotional learning curriculum, widely known as SEL. The Santa Cruz students were focused on a section about managing relationships and social conflict.
Supporters of SEL say these skills are especially important right now given the impacts of COVID-19 on mental well-being. In October, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared a national emergency in child and adolescent mental health due to the stress of the pandemic and the struggle for racial justice. Seeing mental health challenges exacerbated by COVID-19, local and national education officials are ramping up efforts to expand and improve SEL programs.