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The Crucial Role of Social-Emotional Learning at Dominion Middle School

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February 15, 2024 – Social Emotional Learning (SEL) has emerged as a cornerstone of education, proving vital in shaping well-rounded learners. As students navigate the transformative middle school years at Dominion Middle School, grappling with self-discovery, adolescence, and other challenges, the importance of SEL becomes increasingly evident.

"Since the COVID-19 pandemic, we know there has been a significant increase in student's social-emotional learning needs," said Dorothystudents posing in front of banner Flanagan, principal. "As a result, we created the SEL Lab, where we implement our restorative practices program, peer mediation, and work to meet student's physical needs at home."

The SEL Lab at Dominion extends its impact far beyond the confines of the educational institution by equipping students with the tools to navigate the complexities of human interaction. These are tools to manage emotions, increase self and social awareness, help make responsible decision-making, and build relationships. 

With the help of Sarah Preibe, student support specialist, Flanagan works to learn the individual needs of students in the SEL Lab, around the school, and at home. The program at Dominion allows staff like Preibe to act as a safe space for students and will enable them to communicate their issues inside and outside the classroom.  

"I honestly think mediation and communication are the biggest thing for a child," Preibe said. "If a child does not feel heard, there is often little progress in discipline, behavior, or academics."

For students who face hunger and food challenges at home, Dominion partners with the Clintonville Resource Center to help alleviate these gaps in the community. Each week, approximately 90 students from the school receive food boxes. Additionally, the "Care Cupboard" in the SEL Lab allows students access to essential items for their households, including laundry detergent, coats, and hygiene supplies.

Assisting students with their unique needs inside the classroom is a specialty for the SEL Lab. Many students at the school and around the District need a significant amount of movement during the day to help alleviate anxiety or other upsetting emotions. In the SEL Lab, the recumbent bikes and Peloton allow them to ride and get their extra energy out to keep them in class.

"This [SEL Lab] is a safe room; it helps you focus and get caught up on grades," said eighth-grade student Rama Bah. "If you have missed days, you can come here and get more assistance with your work."

To address chronic absenteeism, when kids come back to school, students can visit the SEL Lab and get small group support. Students can access support and tutoring to catch up on missed assignments, while teachers can strengthen learning standards through targeted instruction in small group sessions.

"When difficulties arise, we create solutions through the work that's done in the SEL Lab," Flanagan said. "Allowing students to matriculate on time with their cohort and peers. We have also seen significant growth in our i-Ready, math, and literacy."

By addressing students’ social emotional learning needs, students and staff not just at Dominion but across the District can get to know each other better than ever before. With spaces like the SEL Lab, staff can better serve students and families by promoting social-emotional learning and propelling our young scholars further in their academic careers.

Power of One

Priority 1 - Whole Child FocusedPriority 2 - Equitable Opportunities for AllPriority 3 - Strong Learning Communities in Every RegionPriority 4 - Authentic EngagementPortrait Attribute 1 - AdaptabilityPortrait Attribute 2 - CommunicationPortrait Attribute 3 - CreativityPortrait Attribute 4 - Critical ThinkingPortrait Attribute 5 - Global EmpathyPortrait Attribute 6 - Technology