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SEL Lunch Bunch at Lincoln Elementary School

During the height of COVID and school shutdowns, attending school in person was prohibited and greatly affected students across the nation. School closures, hybrid classes, and social distancing disrupted students’ natural development, and Communities in School staff knew they needed to step in. Shortly after the pandemic began, 29% of students' mental or emotional health decreased. In October 2020, a more recent study showed that 31% of students' mental or emotional health was worse than ever before. Children needed additional opportunities to learn and practice communication, problem-solving, and self-affirmation skills.

Thankfully, with the help of the Caron Foundation, a non-profit organization created to support the family members of people with substance abuse, we were able to develop the social-emotional learning (SEL) program at Lincoln Elementary School. Six students were able to participate in the SEL Lunch Bunch with the goal of engaging their natural curiosity for social-emotional wellness.

The program began in January of 2022 when the Communities in School on-site coordinator, Gena Holmes, proposed the program to a group of fourth-grade students. Each student was carefully chosen by a teacher, administrator, or counselor to participate in the eight-week program. For fourth-grade students, learning these vital skills will help them prepare for their academic futures and decrease the chance of emotional distress. The SEL Lunch Bunch takes place once a week during lunch block to avoid conflicts with class or recess time. Students take all safety protocols to engage and learn safely. The main goal is to help students develop and practice social-emotional learning skills that may have become deficient during the COVID-19 pandemic and reduce the impact on the students' in-person learning.

All students who participated in the program enjoyed learning how to identify their emotions. The sessions would often seem too short and always left the kids wanting more time to learn and talk. The calming techniques the students learned are an effective way to respond when feeling strong emotions. The students would recommend bringing the program back again for students next year.



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