The NAN Project is proud to offer a new program to the community, SEL Circles (Social-Emotional Learning Circles). It is a six-week, in-school, curriculum-based program made for groups of up to 15 students. The program is supported by The NAN Project’s licensed mental health clinician/school counselor, Peer Coordinators, and Peer Mentors.
SEL Circles were created due to community providers, educators, and parents noticing changes in the youth they serve–many are more anxious than prior to the pandemic, and have had trouble creating connections with their peers, and looking for programming that could be helpful.
Recent Statistics About Youth Mental Health:
Recent data supports what educators and caregivers have noticed. The CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey collects self-reported surveys from high school students across the United States every two years. The most recent data from 2021 shows that compared to 2019, more high school students are feeling sad or hopeless in a way that impairs their everyday activities (33.8% vs 38.5%), and more students seriously considered attempting suicide (17.5% vs 18.4%). Additionally, out of all US high school students surveyed in 2021, 29.3% reported their mental health was either not good most of the time or not good all of the time, and 38.5% reported they either didn’t feel close to people at their school or weren’t sure.
SEL Circles Curriculum:
SEL Circles are designed to help middle school- and high school-aged youth gain a greater understanding of the warning signs of mental health challenges, the supports that are available to them, ways to help a friend who may be struggling, and coping strategies to deal with their mental health. SEL Circles are not a substitute for or form of therapy. The goal of SEL Circles is to create a safe place where kids can gather and learn new skills related to emotional regulation, active listening, and coping strategies through a trauma-informed lens. By the end of the six week program, youth will have learned more about mental health and how to identify, communicate, and express emotions in a healthy way. The curriculum is offered in a format that is fun, educational, and appealing for students who can benefit from a little extra social-emotional support.
The topics covered in SEL Circles curriculum may include Orientation & Connection, Building Self-Esteem, Managing Reactions to Stress, Mindfulness, Active Listening, Bound
ary Setting/Managing Peer Conflict, and Reflection & Application. Educators and staff who would like to bring SEL Circles to their school will have the opportunity to discuss the needs of their students with The NAN Project’s School Counselor, Liza Tierney, and tailor the curriculum as needed.
Response From Students:
To date, The NAN Project has facilitated three cohorts of SEL Circles, at the Eliot Family Resource Center in Everett and at Galvin Middle School in Wakefield. The NAN Project staff collected survey data from SEL Circles participants on the first session and on the last session to learn more about what youth are taking away from sessions.
At Galvin Middle School before SEL Circles began, only 50% of the participants self-reported that they knew of coping skills to deal with difficult emotions. On the last day of the program, 80% of students either agreed or strongly agreed that they knew of coping skills to help with difficult emotions. There was also an increase in the pre- and post- survey data regarding the percentage of students who reported they had at least one adult they could speak to about a difficult situation (83% on the first day, compared to 100% on the last day).
When asked what they learned at SEL Circles, students said:
“Conflict doesn’t always have to be negative.”
“I learned good ways to cope with anger and stress”
On the most useful thing youth learned at SEL Circles:
“The 3 Rs [Regulation, Reflection, and Relaxation].”
“How to calm yourself and also that your [sic] not alone.”
“Learning about stress management.”
“That not being OK is OK when you ask for help.”
“I know many things to do when I am sad.”
This spring, The NAN Project is excited to be providing SEL Circles at Thurgood Marshall Middle School in Lynn and Phoenix Academy in Lawrence, in addition to continuing their partnership with Galvin Middle School. To discuss bringing SEL Circles to your school or community, email [email protected].