Nurturing Social Emotional Learning Through STEM
Nurturing Social Emotional Learning Through STEM

Nurturing Social Emotional Learning Through STEM

Updated: December 2023 Dec. 2023
4 minutes read

There is a growing demand for Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in the classroom, and for good reason as extensive data supports the evidence and importance of SEL for long-term success. But we also see a growing demand for STEM and Computer Science in the classroom, too, as gaps in STEM and technical ability continue to exist.  

The various needs in the classroom, while necessary and important, can feel like a lot to balance. If you ask a teacher, they often feel like they are being pulled in many directions, trying to cover all of their bases – meeting the requirements set forth by:  

  • Federal and state legislation 
  • The school district 
  • Evaluation standards 
  • Alignments 
  • Meeting students where they are, with what they need 
  • Making parents happy 
  • Plus, still bringing their own originality and flare to their teaching and programming.  

The needs put onto teachers can feel daunting. Let’s be real, there are too many. Principals and district administrators also feel this pain as they strive to look for ways to create balance for their teachers.  

So, the real question is, where is there overlap? Where can we approach curriculum and teaching with interdisciplinary subject matter. Are there opportunities to create interconnectedness between teaching important technical skills with SEL?  

So what exactly do these academic buzzwords mean? Previously known as “soft skills” or limited only to “EQ”, Social Emotional Learning or SEL is now more broadly defined as the process through the lifelong and continuous development of skills that allow us to develop healthy identities and beliefs about ourselves, manage our emotions, demonstrate care and empathy, create and maintain positive relationships, and contribute to society with constructive and positive behaviors. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL), focuses on five core components of SEL: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness. All five are critical for success in and out of both school and the workplace. 

The reality is intersectionality, overlap, and interconnectedness exist among almost everything. Who we are as individuals and the way our identities inform our experiences are complex. The interconnection provides limitless possibilities and is the reality of the complexity of how we teach and create equity, and how students learn.  

The same is true for the overlap between how SEL & technical aptitude exists in the classroom and how it exists in the workforce.  

In the workforce, no job is 100% hard skills or what we formerly called “soft skills”. If you ask an employer or recruiter today what they seek in an employee, you will likely hear a myriad of responses that focus on the desire for prior experience, technical skills, and/or academic achievement. But, time and time again surveys indicate that social and emotional learning and intelligence are typically held in equally high regard. These types of imperative skills include teamwork and collaborative ability, critical thinking, ethical and social responsibility, emotional awareness and empathy, and effective communication.  

Maximizing STEM curriculum and intertwining it with Social Emotional Learning prepares students for the real world. 

Technology is an ever-growing part of our lives, and how students interact with it can have a huge impact on social emotional learning (SEL). As students advance in their STEM education, it is imperative to understand and help enhance student attitudes toward computing, both as it relates to the relevance of engineering, math and science but also the value that STEM can bring to help people achieve important goals and solve important problems in the world.

As students learn and gain knowledge and proficiency in STEM, they can further enhance their self-image and identity with STEM. Additionally, being able to understand differing viewpoints and different cultures allows one to be a much more successful scientist, engineer, mathematician, and computer programmer. 

Learn why it’s important to infuse SEL in various content areas of learning.  

Through a variety of interactive and immersive activities, students can learn and practice a variety of SEL skills, such as empathy, self-awareness, and communication. Coding activities allow students to practice decision-making, problem-solving, and persistence.  

Through games and missions, students explore the ways STEM applies to real-life. Take for example our Hour of Code activity brought by our Code Farm curriculum, where students learn how digital robotics coding impacts real-life farming practices.

These practices have real world application to how food is efficiently harvested to feed our communities. In the activity students are immersed into a 3D game-world where they get to “Plant a Garden” using the programming language Blockly. Students learn to steer virtual robots through tasks such as collecting fruit, avoiding obstacles, and planting a garden of their very own. By participating in guided classroom activities and discussions, students will practice skills such as collaboration, communication, emotional awareness, and problem-solving. 

By incorporating gamified learning and computer coding into the classroom, educators can create a fun and engaging learning environment for students to practice and develop social emotional skills. As educators are constantly reviving lessons to be more effective and engaging, bringing SEL and STEM together is an important way to demonstrate that we don’t live in a vacuum and that there is much intersection between technical aptitude and understanding the needs of the human experience.  

Written by:
Sierra Combelic
Written by:
Sierra Combelic