Committee for Children Blog

Students Learn Critical Life Skills

students working on laptops

When Chicago Public Schools faced the closure of 49 schools, district leaders turned to the Second Step® family of social-emotional learning (SEL) programs to help students manage strong emotions, build resilience, and maintain positive relationships through a time of significant change.

In these short videos, leaders from Chicago Public Schools share their experiences with Second Step programs.  

Why choose Second Step programs?

Chicago Public Schools chose the Second Step family of programs because of its robust curriculum, ease of use, and recommendations from leading SEL organizations like the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). “The scenarios are relatable for all age groups, and streaming lesson media allows educators to use smart technology in the classroom for seamless instruction,” says Adam King, the district’s elementary school SEL support manager.

What skills and concepts do students learn through the programs?

“Students learn how to be part of a community, from developing self-management and building relationship skills to learning how to disagree respectfully and advocate for themselves in the face of conflict,” SEL specialist Lorena Arevalo says. Second Step programs also introduce the idea that intense emotions can make it difficult to recognize other peoples’ feelings and offer tools to help, like reading body language.

How do Second Step programs affect school climate?

“The programs can make a strong impact on culture, helping school become a place where students feel safe to learn and educators feel ready to teach,” says Dr. Sara Hass, principal at Brighton Park Elementary. Sharing a common social-emotional language in a school community can help students feel more comfortable expressing their needs, and using the Second Step family of programs schoolwide shows students that they’re supported by the adults around them.

How can Second Step programs make a positive impact on the school journey?

When students are able to manage their stress and emotions and feel like they belong, they’re more likely to come to school ready to focus on learning. “Providing students with language and skills in areas like regulating emotion and resolving conflict early on is crucial,” says Arevalo. “When children learn these skills at a younger age, they’re better equipped to handle challenges as they progress through their school journey.”      

How do the Second Step® Bullying Prevention Unit and Second Step® Child Protection Unit enhance student learning?

The Second Step Bullying Prevention Unit helps students recognize bullying behavior and teaches them how to be effective upstanders who can help stop bullying. The Second Step Child Protection Unit creates space for conversations around sexual abuse and gives students and educators language to have those discussions. “Both units serve as a reminder to students that their school community can be a support system,” says Nancy Fernandez, a counselor at Brighton Park Elementary. “Students can be more academically successful after getting the help they need.”

How can Second Step programs positively impact families and communities?

Using an SEL program in school can empower students to bring those skills and concepts home, and when families get involved, these lessons are further reinforced. “If SEL were implemented with fidelity across the country it would have a positive impact on generations to come, and we would see more inclusiveness and compassion,” Arevalo says.