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SEL Spotlight

Ready, Set, LAUNCH!

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5 Highlights from the SEL Journeys Debut at SHAPE America

Educators of every stripe are talking about Social and Emotional Learning (SEL), and health and physical educators are no exception. This month, we took our first step to launching SEL Journeys on a national stage by presenting and exhibiting at the annual SHAPE America national conference.

As wellness champions at their schools, these educators are eager for new ideas to add more physical activity throughout the school day. Many are on a mission to help their schools implement a Comprehensive School Physical Activity Program (CSPAP). They were excited to learn about how SEL Journeys integrates SEL, cultural learning and physical activity.

Here are 5 highlights from our time at SHAPE:

  1. Play It Forward! → The JOY CREATOR Challenge
Joy Creator Challenge at SHAPE America
We made new friends in our Joy Creator challenge!

Attendees 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.

WHAT WE LEARNED: 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.

2. SEL Journeys — A Public Tour

We had an opportunity to take participants on an SEL Journey right in the middle of the exhibit hall. We worked on Social Engagement during a virtual visit to the Dominican Republic. Here is a POSTCARD from our journey:

SEL Journeys Digital Postcard
Here’s a digital postcard from our workshop participants!

WHAT WE LEARNED: Teachers are eager to explore the world through movement and connect that to teaching cultural appreciation to students. Without fail, the “friendship step” is the moment when the journey bubbles over with joy — social engagement makes us feel connected!

3. SEL in Motion: A Framework for Integrating SEL into Physical Education

SEL Journeys Big Idea

In our SEL in Motion session, we explored the SEL Journeys framework for using Big Ideas and Reflection activities to connect SEL to active learning. We ran through an active example of two Social Emotional competencies: Impulse Control and Relationship Building. Teachers then worked in groups to consider how they can align other lessons to SEL using our model.

WHAT WE LEARNED: Our SEL Integration lesson planning tool provided an “a-ha” moment for many participants. For many teachers, integrating SEL into lessons sounds overwhelming as “one more thing” they need to be held accountable for. However, when provided a tool and framework that makes planning SEL integration easy, they feel relieved and excited to begin their own SEL Journey!

4. Dancemakers are Peacemakers

In our session on movement activities to promote peace, joy and understanding, participants engaged in creating dance steps to represent ideas of friendship, peace and joy. We were thrilled to receive feedback from multiple participants that it was “the best session of the conference”.

Dancemakers are Peacemakers

WHAT WE LEARNED: Educators are eager to embrace tools for turning movement activities into opportunities to build community in their classrooms. In particular, our JOYMAKER and PEACEMAKER wristbands are a simple tool with potential to make a big impact. We even sent some of our wristbands home with teachers from Hawaii in exchange for a can of macadamia nuts. WIN-WIN!

5. Partners are Everywhere

We had a chance to connect with members of the Action for Healthy Kids partner group as well as many others like-minded industry leaders working to foster Comprehensive School Physical Activity Programs (CSPAPs). We are eager to continue building these partnerships in the months ahead.

SEL Journeys at SHAPE America
Working with partners for a greater collective impact!

WHAT WE LEARNED: 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 physical and mental well-being of young people through movement and SEL, 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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