By Jocelyn Michelsen, MA, MPA, Senior Research Associate at Public Profit
Social-emotional learning (SEL) experts, practitioners, and funders convened on November 10th for the Nurturing SEL in Out-of-School Time Learning Forum. The forum was organized by Sand Hill Foundation, The David & Lucile Packard Foundation, and The Sobrato Family Foundation and held at the Sobrato Center for Nonprofits in Redwood Shores, California.
The Forum focused on practical lessons from two recent initiatives, the Silicon Valley Out-of-School Time (OST) Collaborative and SEL Challenge, as well as on policy and research updates from nationally recognized experts in the field. The Learning Forum was very much framed by the election results, with keynote speakers agreeing that now, more than ever, SEL is at the heart of the way forward for youth, staff, and organizations across the US.
Fresh from their experience in the Silicon Valley OST Collaborative, members shared key takeaways for both practitioners and funders from their innovative, multi-year work. The Collaborative’s collective learning, as described in the two-year evaluation report available now, reinforced that “SEL has to be the foundation of all other youth programming – not a supplement,” as one member summarized.Sharing another approach, participants from the national SEL Challenge – funded by the Susan Crown Exchange and organized by the Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality – talked about their experiences of using a collaborative structure as a springboard to implementing high-quality SEL on a national level, and about the benefits and challenges of that approach.
Participants found a strong consensus around the value of and need for SEL in out-of-school time. As Dr. Charles Smith of the Weikart Center put it, “We’re safe to ring the bell at this point – this is evidence-based work.” Both researchers and practitioners agreed about where to focus when working to achieve high-quality SEL programming: “We learned that you can’t just teach SEL, you can’t give it to somebody…you have to live it yourself. It’s about the adults, not the kids.”