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SEL Spotlight

5 Take-Aways from the 2019 SEL Exchange

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The much-anticipated inaugural CASEL conference, SEL Exchange 2019, offered a packed agenda of thoughtful programming with one recurring theme: SEL is more than just a program or curriculum, it’s a pervasive way of building an educational environment. In this post, we share 5 highlights from our time at the CASEL Conference.

As both a presenter and exhibitor, EduMotion had the opportunity to experience the SEL Exchange from several different perspectives. We hope these takeaways offer a peek inside the conference for the many SEL practitioners and advocates who were unable to attend.

EduMotion Slide
EduMotion shared its message of kindness – joy – dance at the Founders dinner.
Looking Back, Looking Forward

The CASEL Founders Dinner offered a nice balance of retrospection and forward-thinking perspectives. The lineup of speakers reflected the journey the SEL movement has taken over the last 25 years, including a conversation with many notable founders. Attendees were also provided the opportunity to engage in active SEL thanks to an opening activity from Linda Lantieri that got the room buzzing with thoughtful conversations.

THE TAKE-AWAY: While the SEL movement sometimes feels like an education fad, the truth is that it’s been built brick-by-brick over many years of thoughtful research and practice. While the movement now seems to be having a big “moment”, the strong foundation offers promise that SEL is here to stay in a world that needs it now more than ever.

Super Views at the Providers Council 

A pre-conference session for SEL providers included an insightful panel of superintendents, district leaders, and SEL advocates. During this portion of the session, the superintendents shared insightful views on equity and sustainability for SEL providers.

THE TAKE-AWAY: Equity needs to start with courageous conversations at the district and school staff level. And when it comes to sustainability, teachers need to “own” the material. Flexible programs that allow teachers to adjust program content to meet their students’ needs helps to address both equity and sustainability.

Beyond Magical Thinking

In our breakout session on the promise of arts education and social and emotional development, EduMotion had a blast engaging attendees in a dance-based activity. Within minutes, participants had explored non-verbal communication, self-expression, social awareness and relationship building. And best of all, the room was packed with smiles, energy and deep engagement. After the opening activity, participants were very curious to hear researchers from Ingenuity Inc and the UChicago Consortium on School Research discuss their theory of action on the role that the arts can play in the social and emotional development of students and the culture of schools.

THE TAKE-AWAY: Participants were readily engaged and able to find meaning in the arts activity and research shared. The pervasive question for practitioners is how to build a better evidence base for the arts as a powerful strategy for social and emotional development.

Playing It Forward in Town Hall
casel conference booth
EduMotion in Town Hall

Attendees who visited us in the “town hall” were eager to take our “Joy Creator” challenge, which involved completing 5 tasks designed to spread kindness and joy at the conference. Those who completed the challenge shared that they met new people, had interesting conversations and felt more engaged. They also were inspired to take the concept of the game back to the classroom and use it as a way to motivate students to spread kindness and joy at school.

THE TAKE-AWAY: No matter your age, a TACTILE REMINDER and specific MOTIVATION can help us all be more intentional in engaging with others in kind and respectful ways.

Connecting the Dots

In reflecting on the parts of the conference that EduMotion was able to participate in, we notice a common theme: SEL is the sum total of educators at all levels embracing the need to support their students’ social and emotional development consistently and pervasively. This needs to include adult SEL, as well as flexible programs and strategies that teachers can put in their toolbox so that they can equitably meet the needs of ALL students.

THE TAKE-AWAY: Collective impact is the answer. No one solution can transform schools everywhere, but if we all work together towards the common goal of improving the well-being of young people through various SEL strategies, we really can make a difference.


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Margot Toppen

Margot Toppen

Margot Toppen is a visionary educator who works at the intersection of SEL, arts, and physical education.

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