There is no denying it: For children across the country, this has been a challenging academic year. Due to the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many students are feeling understandably scared, nervous and unable to focus. For educators looking to help their students navigate these difficulties, embracing social-emotional learning (SEL) throughout the school day, as well as during afterschool programs, represents an effective solution.
According to the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), SEL is “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”
Below, we invite you to check out a few best practices that have been applied by the education experts at the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) when integrating SEL into in-person or at-home curricula.
Promote Empathy Through Invention
For invention education programs that incorporate hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) learning, we encourage teachers to have their class brainstorm ideas that can improve the lives of other people. Practicing this strategy is a great way to cultivate an empathetic mindset and can lead to some truly great ideas.
At NIHF, we have the privilege of recognizing and learning from our nation’s greatest innovators. From 2018 Inductee Mary Engle Pennington, whose work revolutionized food preservation and gave millions of Americans the ability to safely store their food, to 2004 Inductees Frederick Banting, Charles Best and James Collip, whose discovery of isolated, purified insulin continues to improve the lives of those diagnosed with diabetes, inventors continue to show that an important first step in creating something impactful is to consider how your invention can help someone else.
As the world continues to advance at an ever-increasing rate, the ability to work together as a team has never been more important. According to Benjamin Jones, a strategy professor at the Kellogg School, added complexity has led to the need for people to specialize. In his research, Jones explains how in 1903, it took only two people to design and fly the first airplane — NIHF Inductees Orville and Wilbur Wright. Today, however, it takes dozens of people to design and engineer just the engine of a modern-day airplane engine, let alone its many other components.
Whether your afterschool program takes place in person or using a distance learning format, effective SEL teaches students how to work together in ways that promote a quality outcome above all else. As research has shown that innovation often takes combining the expertise of different fields to produce groundbreaking results, when implementing group work in your program, do not be afraid to create groups with participants who have unique interests and strengths. This will not only give students practice working with those who are different from them but can also lead to surprisingly novel outcomes.
Prototyping and Goalsetting
Learning how to set and achieve positive goals is one of the most crucial aspects of effective SEL. However, for students who are afraid to make mistakes, this fear can often lead to inaction. We’ve found that an effective way to help students overcome concerns like these, in the context of invention education, is to embrace the prototyping process.
Much like how inventors continuously improve their designs over time, inviting children to follow this same philosophy in their design process will help them focus on achievable steps that can produce amazing results. This type of learning is an especially effective way of showing students that setbacks are only temporary and that sustained progress over time is a surefire way to accomplish any goal a child sets their mind on.
Learn More About NIHF’s Education Programs
All NIHF education programs embrace SEL techniques and incorporate lessons and stories from our world-changing Inductees. Our afterschool program, Club Invention®, has been redesigned to meet the needs of educators who are looking for flexible format options to provide their students with fun and engaging activities they can do at home or in person.
Stay tuned to our blog to learn more about the latest trends in STEM education.