Middle School Social-Emotional Learning

Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) is a cornerstone of Nueva’s educational philosophy. As a founding principle 50 years ago, SEL underlies all aspects of the Nueva experience. In myriad ways, faculty support students in self-reflection, observation, and inquiry, helping them develop attitudes and behaviors that will serve them and their communities well into adulthood. SEL comes to life as eighth-grade students practice empathy as part of an interdisciplinary investigation of global food systems, fifth-grade students learn about social activism and write speeches for a humanities unit, and sixth-grade students discuss what to expect from their first school dance.

students sitting in groups on floor

In dedicated weekly SEL classes, the curriculum honors students’ increasing independence, orientation to their peers, and development of their personal values. Through engaging in interactive experiences, journal writing, group projects, role playing, and meaningful dialogue, students learn and practice the social and emotional skills necessary for success in relationships, academics, and life. Themes address the developmental needs of young adolescents: interpersonal relationships, communication skills, stress management, mindfulness, goal-setting, physical health, puberty education, nutrition, drugs and alcohol use prevention (starting in seventh grade), the role of technology in their lives, social justice issues, identity exploration, and other topics relevant to each grade level.

Approximately once a month, students engage in Open Session, a tried-and-true Nueva SEL experience that asks classmates to respond to student-generated issues through a supportive exchange of listening and ideas. This collaborative problem-solving process aids students in developing empathy and active listening skills, building trust, establishing and deepening connections, and addressing challenges. Students see the power of collective empathy, recognize how much they have to offer each other, support each other and feel supported, and are empowered to take thoughtful action to deal with challenges.

In each grade, the year closes with a series of classes to help prepare students for their end-of-year trips. SEL curriculum is tightly woven into our Global Citizenship initiatives 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 plan to be away from home, to care for themselves and their classmates, and to adapt to unfamiliar real-world environments with respect, compassion, and resilience.

As with SEL in the Lower School and Science of Mind in the Upper School, Middle School SEL specialists adapt course content and support students responsively as needs arise, provide consultation to teachers, and hold educational events for parents on a variety of topics relevant to parenting middle school-aged children.

Middle School SEL complements rich advisory, social justice and equity, and Design Thinking programs, weekly grade and community meetings, community-focused student groups, and the integration of related themes throughout the Middle School’s other academic and extracurricular programs.