From the first day students step on campus, they feel it: the caring way in which they are welcomed, how students relate to each other, the respect and nurturing that teachers give students and their ideas, and the unique connectedness of our community.


We believe that EQ matters as much as IQ. Nueva’s internationally recognized social-emotional learning program has been fundamental to our commitment to nurture the whole child since the school’s inception. Our values of care for self, care for others, and care for the community are the foundation of our culture.

We formally teach SEL skills at every grade level beginning in prekindergarten, with curriculum evolving appropriately. And with all teachers trained in SEL, best practices are embedded everywhere, in and out of the classroom. All community members develop their SEL acuities, evident in their self-awareness, caring, and interactions.


What Is Social-Emotional Learning?

SEL teaches students to understand themselves and others, to manage their emotions productively, to empathize with others, to forge healthy relationships, to work toward and achieve goals, to make responsible decisions, and to develop resilience, confidence, and well-being.

Why Is SEL Essential?

As a pioneer in the burgeoning field of SEL, Nueva has long served as a model for how SEL can function at its best to support students’ learning, growth, and well-being. Exciting research proves SEL’s myriad benefits: students who receive quality SEL instruction demonstrate higher academic achievement, have better mental health outcomes, and are more successful as adults.  

SEL Competencies

Our SEL program supports students' learning and growth through the development of these five competencies.

SEL on Campus

  • SEL is deeply integrated by classroom teachers starting in pre-kindergarten and kindergarten.  
  • SEL specialists begin delivering weekly classes to all students starting in first grade.  
  • At the Upper School, SEL becomes Science of Mind, with the added components of psychology and neuroscience.
  • In addition to classroom teaching, SEL specialists engage in responsive work with students one-on-one and in small groups.
  • Best practices are embedded in all aspects of student life: 

SEL Beyond the Classroom

  • All teachers are trained in SEL by Nueva’s in-house SEL and Science of Mind specialists, as well as by the Institute for SEL, a leading SEL consultancy founded by former Nueva SEL teachers.
  • SEL curriculum and the trips program are tightly interwoven to ensure that students are equipped with necessary skills, support, and resources as they progress to increasingly independent experiences.  Supported by teachers and chaperones, students exercise their SEL skills to care for themselves and their classmates and to adapt to unfamiliar real-world environments with respect, compassion, and resilience.
  • Parents also benefit from educational opportunities, including regular learning events with renowned experts through the Common Ground Speaker Series and the Innovative Learning Conference and through smaller private events that connect parents with each other and faculty for learning and partnership.

Lee Holtzman '00

Nueva Faculty Member

“When I was a student at the Nueva Middle School, our SEL classes centered around practicing healthy communication. We learned and practiced the difference between passive, aggressive, and assertive language, and dissected what makes a good conversation. These were some of the most useful lessons of my life.”  

SEL Is Deeply Rooted at Nueva

The development of social-emotional acuity in our students is one of Nueva’s founding commitments; as a result, our experience runs deep. More than fifty years ago, SEL began as “Self-Science” before the field of social-emotional learning and its terminology existed. In its earliest form, Self-Science focused on the development of students’ personal awareness, sensitivity to and support of others, and respect and care for the environment.

These principles became part of the lives of Nueva’s first students, based upon important research initiated by our founder, Karen Stone McCown. Before launching Nueva, Ms. Stone McCown assembled 17 Nobel laureates to ask them about their vision for the perfect learning environment. They envisioned a school that incorporated a focus on students’ emotional lives to help them think, act, and learn long after graduation. Consequently, Self-Science, and later social-emotional learning, became one of the first programs of its kind and an essential ingredient of a Nueva education.


Social-Emotional Learning Resources