The Secretary of Education isn’t the only one who thinks so. Behind the growing movement for social and emotional learning.
In a dimmed classroom in Spanish Harlem’s P.S. 112, thirteen kindergarteners were on a journey through the Woods of Wonder. With teacher Tom Roepke they crossed over a bridge made of blocks to reach their base camp—the classroom’s carpeted corner. As the traffic of FDR Drive rushed by outside the window, its sound mixing with a soft flute on the CD player, Roepke asked quietly if anyone saw anything interesting.
“I saw lots of seashells,” whispered one boy.
“I saw a reindeer and an owl,” said another. “They had black fur and they had super eyes that see in the dark and they could even see me in the dark. I put something on the floor and he ate it and he was happy.”
“You fed the owl and he was happy,” said Roepke. “I bet he’s going to remember you! What did you see, Sophie?”
“I saw a little bird that was blue and had a flat beak and sharp claws.”
“I saw a purple salamander,” Sophie’s neighbor offered.
“I’ve been hoping to see one of those!” Roepke exclaimed. “Every time I go in those woods. I haven’t seen one yet. You are so lucky.”
Soon enough it was time to build a cellophane campfire. The children each contributed a piece of kindling to the pile and blew it into flame, which Roepke provided with the flicker of a flashlight beneath the orange cellophane. After the students had toasted imaginary marshmallows and stretched out to sleep under the stars, the night watchman reported a passing bear.
“He just spotted it in the woods over there,” Roepke told the class. “It’s not coming over here. We’re safe.”