Series by Christy Ruth and Cassie Brusch
The Montgomery Virtual Program’s (MVP) mission focuses on building partnerships with our local schools and districts while researching and partnering with premier virtual education companies to provide a well-rounded virtual curriculum and program offerings for our districts. Last year, our team expanded that mission to include a focus on creating opportunities for learning and engagement for our students, families, and partners beyond just our virtual curriculum.
As we worked through the design and content of these resources, it became apparent that intentional social-emotional learning (SEL) alignment was an opportunity to foster growth in the important five SEL competency areas as defined by CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning. This post is the final post in a five-part series around our team’s mission to build resources aligned with each of those competencies.
According to CASEL, social awareness is the ability to understand the perspectives of and empathize with others, including those from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and contexts. This includes the capacity to feel compassion for others, understand broader historical and social norms for behavior in different settings, and recognize family, school, and community resources and support.
Social Awareness growth is exhibited in the ability to:
- Consider the perspectives of others
- Acknowledge strengths in others
- Demonstrate empathy and compassion
- Express gratitude
- Identify social injustice
- Understand the influences of organizations and systems on behavior
MVP Resources Aligned to
MVP Recess offers students a unique and engaging virtual experience that fosters connection, mindfulness, and community involvement while prompting social-emotional growth, especially in the competency of social awareness. Students join our team on Zoom as we begin our session with a mindful exercise or pause to promote self awareness and emotional regulation. Through SEL check-ins, students reflect on their feelings and experiences, enhancing social awareness as they recognize their own emotions and empathize with others. The interactive environment also encourages games and fun activities, like Kahoot, fostering social bonds and a sense of belonging among students.
MVP Recess goes beyond typical virtual recess activities, hosting holiday celebrations, inviting local authors for book readings, and welcoming special visitors from various fields promoting career and technical exploration. By exposing students to diverse perspectives and experiences, these events nurture social awareness. Additionally, MVP ran the Live to Give challenge, encouraging students to focus on giving back to their communities during holidays. Through sharing their giving stories using Padlet, students developed a greater understanding of the impact of their actions on others.
The virtual field trips offered during MVP Recess provide further opportunities for students to expand their social awareness. Exploring Elmwood Park Zoo, Longwood Gardens, or even visiting the moon with NASA provided students with an opportunity to learn about the wider world and the diversity it holds. MVP has partnered with industry professionals via the Nepris/Pathful connect platform, offering virtual sessions on various career fields like movie making, animation, project management, and medicine. Engaging with these professionals enables students to gain insights into different professions, supporting their social awareness by exposing them to various career possibilities and the paths to pursue them.
Opportunities for Social Awareness are fostering in:
- Mindful Exercise and SEL Check-Ins
- Games and Fun with Other Virtual Learners
- Celebrations and Special Visitors
- Live to Give Challenge
- Connecting with Industry Professionals
MVP Recess creates a well-rounded experience that nurtures social awareness, empathy, and a sense of community among students, fostering their understanding of and connection to the world around them.
MVP Family Days
Last fall, MVP extended MVP Recess to MVP Family Day which extended beyond their virtual field trips to an in-person family event. The first Family Day was held at Elmwood Park Zoo. This gathering not only strengthened the connections among students and families but also nurtured a sense of community within the MVP program.
In the upcoming school year, MVP is looking to continue partnering with local businesses to foster relationships with our families and promote social awareness in students by broadening their understanding of the world outside their school and introducing them to various professional pathways.
Opportunities for Social Awareness are fostering in:
- Connecting with Families
- Exposure to Local Communities
- Shared Experiences
By embracing new opportunities and collaborations, MVP empowers students to thrive in an ever-changing world, equipping them with valuable social skills for life beyond the school environment.
CASEL, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional learning are leaders in the field of Social-Emotional Learning with their SEL framework. The SEL framework centers around 5 competencies that offer areas of growth throughout one’s life: Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship Skills, and Responsible Decision Making. You can learn more about CASEL and SEL by visiting our OOPL SEL resources.
The Montgomery Virtual Program (MVP) resides in the Office of Organizational and Professional Learning within the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit. We partner with districts and schools in Montgomery County and beyond to provide virtual learning opportunities for their students. We are in our 7th year and have seen tremendous growth in enrollment that has remained constant, even long after pandemic school closures.