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How Successful After-School Programs Nurture Students' Social-Emotional Skills

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As schools and communities increasingly recognize the importance of students' social and emotional skills, after-school and out-of-school programs can play a key role in nurturing these attributes, a new report says.

The report, released this month by the David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality and the Susan Crown Exchange, explores eight successful programs in seven states to identify how they help build students' skills in six key areas: emotion management, empathy, teamwork, initiative, responsibility, and problem solving. The resulting framework shows what youth experiences and staff practices help contribute to success in each domain.

"Above all, cultivating social and emotional skills is about learning—at the deepest level—that we can all drive our own lives, in any direction," says the report's introduction. "To get to the right destination, we need to become deft at steering, managing speed, sensing when to be defensive, to map, to backtrack, even calling on a mechanic when something breaks. Getting more youth on this path will take a lot of practice and exercise; we are proud to present the eight programs we studied as models for this work."

While research increasingly builds support for focusing on social-emotional skills, the organizations found a lack of practical advice about how to successfully do so. The guide includes a list of key curricular features, anecdotes from successful programs, and insights researchers gathered through their observations. For example, young people tend to learn skills in sequence, mastering them more as they have chances apply them.

You can view the whole guide here.

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