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BOC > Programs & Activities > School Programs > By Program Type > At-School Programs > At School SEL Social & Emotional Learning



According to New York State Department of Education (, "Social and emotional development and learning (SEDL) has an important role to play in making schools safe and maintaining a caring school climate; facilitating students’ holistic development; and enhancing student motivation, self-expectations and high achievement."

Massachusetts Department of Education states that "the preponderance of outcomes from both research and evidence-based practice clearly indicate the positive connection between social and emotional learning, academic learning, and success in life."

And the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (2010) states in the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework that “positive social and emotional development provides a critical foundation for lifelong development and learning. In early childhood, social and emotional well-being predicts favorable social, behavioral, and academic adjustment into middle childhood and adolescence. It helps children navigate new environments, facilitates the development of supportive relationships with peers and adults, and supports their ability to participate in learning activities.

Embracing social and emotional learning as a strategy for enhancing skill development and knowledge acquisition, in addition to bettering the school environment, is paramount. Further, the life skills developed through activities that encourage social and emotional learning help individuals prepare for their future, well beyond their school years.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning ( states that "Social and emotional skills are critical to being a good student, citizen and worker; and many risky behaviors (e.g., drug use, violence, bullying and dropping out) can be prevented or reduced when multiyear, integrated efforts are used to develop students' social and emotional skills. This is best done through effective classroom instruction; student engagement in positive activities in and out of the classroom; and broad parent and community involvement in program planning, implementation and evaluation."

SEL Core Competencies

There are 5 core competencies of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL)

  • Self-Awareness
  • Self-Management
  • Social Awareness
  • Relationship Skills
  • Responsible Decision-Making

These core competencies incorporate:

  • Emotional learning
    • emotional process
    • emotional knowledge
    • emotional skill development
    • emotional regulation
    • emotional expression
    • empathy
  • Social learning
  • social navigation
    • understanding social cues
    • positive interactions
    • prosocial behavior
  • Cognitive skill development
    • cognitive regulation
    • inhibition of inappropriate response
    • attention control
    • flexibility/adapting to new environments

Berkshire Outdoor Center has embarked on several new partnerships, that have evolved after 10 years of collaboration on 8th grade program initiatives that engage students in positive leadership development activities outside of the classroom. Annually, our 8th grade groups attend on-campus leadership development programs at Berkshire Outdoor Center. Through hands on experiential activities, utilizing low and high ropes courses and 1,500 acres of forested woodlands and ponds, students from these schools develop group collaboration skills, communication skills, self-awareness and self-esteem and other requirements to become young leaders. Further, students develop relationships by bonding in a very foreign environment, spending an overnight in our rustic cabins and being immersed in an intense outdoor learning environment.

While the 8th grade retreat is an exceptional experience for students, schools has identified that these programs need to involve multiple experiences over time, and that the learning needs to be made relevant to 'real life' back at school and home. Thus, a new program has been developed as a 7th to 8th grade transition and 'feeder' to this 8th grade retreat, involving at-school programming.

7th Grade: SEL Through Experience

Part I: At-School Experiential Education



  • To establish an understanding of SEL Core Competencies and a framework for future learning
  • To introduce experiential education techniques
  • To develop instructor and advisory bond/trust; advisory peer bond/trust

Berkshire Outdoor Center instructors administer SEL-focused activities using our portable low ropes elements. Each activity is delivered in small groups (by advisory) and includes a thorough debrief of the activity. During debrief conversations, students learn new ways of relating to one another pro-socially - methods of communication and collaboration are established. Further, they become self-aware through open dialog and this builds confidence and self-esteem. Importantly, students learn techniques of goal setting and adapting to new environments. The groundwork for future activities focusing more deeply on students’ social and emotional skills and awareness is established.

Part II: At-School Goals and Relationships Journals



  • To help students develop social and emotional knowledge and skills by:
    • Learning about themselves, their interactions and their ability to shape their environment
    • Learning how to use this knowledge for the betterment of the school community and family
  • To help students recall skills learned in Part I and apply them to school and home life
  • To tie BOC experiences to school themes and existing SEL programs

Students identify how they feel at a given moment (self-awareness), how to manage how they feel (self-management), how others feel (social awareness) and how to manage how they fit in and interact with others (social awareness) and how to change the way they are interacting in order to change the way the group is progressing (responsible decision-making).

Overall Process

Following Part I, Berkshire Outdoor Center will administer nine sessions at approximately 1 month durations. Between each monthly session, teachers and school faculty will help students revisit the concepts learned weekly during advisories. Additionally, BOC and the school will adopt common ‘language’ around the components of SEL as well as the school’s themes for the month. Teachers and faculty will tie BOC SEL experiences to the themes developed by the school. The nine sessions will encompass visits between September and May (school year).

School themes may include:

  • Respect
  • Responsibility
  • Citizenship
  • Caring
  • Fairness
  • Honesty
  • Courage
  • Trustworthy
  • Perseverance

Session Format

  • There will likely be a 10 minute getting settled period
  • 5 Minute Reflection of progress since last session (Groups of 3)
  • Introduction to this month’s theme
  • Freeze Frame Activity I
  • Debrief Activity
  • Journals – completing worksheets and writing about themes designated by BOC
  • Look ahead – what are students expected to do with this knowledge? Homework Assignments
  • Logistics

  • Students divided into advisories of approximately 12 each.
  • BOC will send staff, and each staff will likely work with 2 advisories simultaneously, each with their own advisor to assist.
  • School will provide journals (blank composition books measuring 9.75” H x 7.5” W)
  • BOC will create worksheets for the at-school visits that will fit to these dimensions.
  • BOC will create “homework worksheets” that will also be added to the book.
  • School faculty can create additional worksheets that help tie the BOC and school goals
  • BOC will attempt to send the same instructor to the same advisories (consistency in relationship), although this may not always be possible.
  • BOC will provide each teacher (advisor) with a folder of all the paperwork and ideas/themes/curriculum and notes, to help provide that teacher with the tools needed to continue the learning in BOC’s absence.
  • Students will keep their journals in bins at the school and the journals will be confidentially stored.
  • At each session, teachers will be given the agenda for the next session, such that they can be prepared to discuss issues in the same themes.
  • The students are 6th graders. We will need to read a lot to them, explain vocabulary we are using.
  • Each session should include a physical, cognitive and emotional learning aspect.
  • Each session needs to be engaging, exciting and motivating.
  • Curriculum Development

    BOC and a school designee to meet regularly and discuss the program and work together to design future sessions. To have the school help develop real-school-life homework activities that are meaningful. BOC needs input on what to teach and how to realistically incorporate these lessons into daily life, to make the program realistic and effective. School to determine what the student should ‘practice daily’ This is crucial.

    8th Grade: SEL Retreat


    Students will attend an 8th grade retreat at Berkshire Outdoor Center, both as a reward for completing the SEL program, and as an opportunity to reinforce the information learned in an intense, focused overnight session. Programs will utilize our challenge courses, outdoor living skills and adventure recreation activities.

    Summer SEL Programs: At School

    There are further opportunities to extend your relationship with us through our summer leadership day camps, which are run at your school. We have several such programs in schools that focus on summer-long social and emotional learning. Read more about our Summer Leadership Day Camps here

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    748 Hamilton Road, Becket, MA 01223
    Tel: (413) 623-8991 | Fax: (413) 623-5890