Washington Evening Journal
111 North Marion Avenue
Washington, IA 52353
WINFIELD - Winfield-Mt. Union's elementary school students and faculty celebrated another successful year of social-emotional learning with a day of fun activities.
Last Friday, Kindergarten through fifth grade classes rotated through twenty minute stations that included various sports and exercise activities, lessons on healthy eating and crafts such as making sensory bottles and painting stones.
The second annual Social Emotional Learning Day was started the previous year by school counselor Katelyn McKim, and special education teachers Tyler Stevens and Lindsey Odorisio. The teachers and counselor explained the idea came after the district adopted the Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) program. In addition to PBIS, all K-5 classrooms start each day with a community circle and are given one lesson a week on social-emotional learning.
'The day was created as a celebration of that and as a way to get creative and expose students to some potential careers. We have a soccer coach and a dietitian here, and they get to learn more life skills like teamwork, emotional regulation, healthy eating and yoga,” McKim explained.
This year's activities were centered on Pixar's 'Up,” which students watched together at the end of the day.
'We try to pick a movie with a lot of social-emotional learning in it. Last year was ‘Inside Out,'” Stevens said.
McKim added the program has really focused on providing students consistency and equipping teachers, staff and paraprofessionals with common language to address behavior. The teachers and counselors have also seen students begin using skills and language taught in their lessons to self-regulate and navigate through conflicts.
'I'm hearing a lot more of, not, ‘I'm mad, I'm sad,' but ‘I'm embarrassed, I'm frustrated, I'm anxious, I'm worried.' They're really opening up on their ability to explain what they're feeling,” Odorisio said.
The special education teacher added teaching social-emotional lessons also creates a more positive classroom culture for students.
'When teachers are doing those lessons, they're really generating a positive classroom culture where everyone feels safe. That's one of primary goals of us being here is making sure the kids feel safe so that they can learn,” Odorisio added.
The teachers said the effectiveness of the lessons can be seen in student interactions. Stevens noted that he's heard students use language taught in lessons even outside of the classroom.
'The students are really expressing themselves. You can really see these kids using these tools. You see a conflict at recess and you hear the language, that's the greatest thing. They're taking these and they're utilizing it in the real world, which is great,” Stevens said.
The school counselor explained the social-emotional lessons students receive usually include a section in executive functioning and focus on four main themes: academics, understanding both their own emotions and others', problem solving and emotional regulation. The activities they set up for their Social Emotional Learning Day were geared to address those topics.
Fifth-grader Ethan Bergthold was busy making apple nachos at the healthy eating station on Friday. He was excited to be doing an activity with food again.
'My favorite thing to do last year was the bananas and yogurt. They were really yummy,” he said.
Bergthold added he enjoyed playing at the various sports stations. This year, the students played dodgeball and tag.
'I got to throw balls at people,” Bergthold said excitedly.
Second-grader Brinley Kinneberg said her favorite activity was making the sensory bottle.
'I learned that when we are sad, our emotions can be angry and mean or calm and not hurt anyone. To get calm, you can walk, take a breath or if you're at home, you can use your sensory bottle,” Kinneberg said.
Though arranging the daylong event requires a tremendous amount of work and coordination, the teachers and counselor said seeing the kids enjoy the day is the most rewarding part.
This year, students will have an opportunity to write and draw about their favorite activity or part of the day as part of a reflective session.
'Last year we got letters from fifth-graders which was really cool because you got to see everyone's different opinions. I'm excited to read what the students have to say this year,” Stevens said.