SEL Spotlight

Partner Spotlight: Westridge Elementary

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Mrs. Della Paolera
Mrs. Della Paolera keeps kids active at Westridge Elementary.

Westridge Elementary, located in Lake Oswego, Oregon, is on a mission to increase weekly physical education minutes this year. To do this, the school has added large-group activity time right after lunch and before recess.

Since the start of the year, they have been using a number of resources to engage up to 200 students at a time in various activities. Physical Education Specialist Melissa Della Paolera first signed up on edumotion.com for a free membership and tried out the SEL Journeys “dance of the month” with her students. It was a hit, and it became clear that an upgrade to the full program would be a very worthwhile investment.  

“As I was searching for activities, I came across SEL Journeys and I loved the idea of combining SEL education with learning about different cultures through dance,” Della Paolera says. “I can also use SEL Journeys in my regular PE classes, which is awesome.” 

Scaffolding Learning

For the large group activities, Della Paolera primarily uses “Just Move” mode with students and works the program into her rotation of activities about once per week. The students typically work on the solo routine for 2-3 weeks, and then at the end of the month they add the friendship step and try the whole thing with partners. 

“What a great way to work on partner moves with a low pressure dance they already know!” Della Paolera says. 

She also appreciates that the program offers a great deal of flexibility, allowing her to use its many features in a variety of ways. 

“I like how I can choose what SEL content to incorporate,” she says. “I find the friendship/partner dancing with moves the students already know is very helpful to have increased participation and engagement.”

Expanding Cultural Horizons

Westridge is always searching for ways to share new cultural experiences with its students, and was thrilled to find a solution that does this while boosting physical activity time and developing social and emotional skills.

From the moment she learned about SEL Journeys, Della Paolera says she loved the idea of combining SEL with learning about different cultures through dance.

Engaging All Learners

With such a large group of students, there are inevitably a wide range of skill and comfort levels. Della Paolera notes that SEL Journeys is presented in a way that engages a very diverse group of learners. 

“I am happy so many kids are able to access the activities,” she says. “It brings me joy to see kids joining in, enjoying movement, laughing and smiling, all while they try out moves from cultures around the world.”

The mission of Westridge Elementary is to provide a safe and inclusive learning environment that cultivates empathy, creates challenging opportunities, and fosters lifelong learning. 

Della Paolera and her colleagues agree that SEL Journeys strongly aligns with their mission and provides a wonderful way for students to develop healthy habits that will help them thrive in school and in life. 

Like this post? Join EduMotion for a bi-monthly SEL Spotlight newsletter and Dance of the Month membership!

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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