YMCA’s Child Care Director Sue Klein presents the 2nd Step curriculum to youth through a puppet show.

YMCA’s Child Care Director Sue Klein presents the 2nd Step curriculum to youth through a puppet show.

Since 1995, when Daniel Goleman’s landmark book called Emotional Intelligence was first published, the importance of emotional intelligence in helping both children and adults to become happy and successful has become a talked-about concept.

Over the years, a number of schools throughout the country have engaged in social emotional learning (SEL) programs to teach emotional intelligence. Numerous studies have shown that the most effective of these programs use age appropriate lessons that teach students specific skills like self-awareness, self-management, empathy, and cooperation. When they are taught and applied throughout the school and the school year, these lessons shape the entire school culture and can help students to have a more enjoyable and successful school experience.

The Kearney Family YMCA Child Development Center, in cooperation with United Against Violence, powered by Buffalo County Community Partners, has offered just such SEL instruction for pre-school students during the past year using a program called Second Step. The Second Step Early Learning curriculum provides lesson plans and tools with which the Y’s teachers instruct the students in basic skills for learning like listening closely and focusing attention along with skills for working together like empathy, emotion management, friendship skills and problem solving.

“Second Step definitely gives our kids the tools they need to become aware of their emotions and how emotions relate to their behavior,” said the YMCA’s Child Care Director Sue Klein. “Once our students learn the concepts, just a little prompting from the teachers is all that is needed to help the students refocus their behavior in positive ways. It’s easy to see why teaching these skills to young students will help lead to success.”

By helping children work through emotional issues, SEL helps children succeed both socially and academically. Just like adults, children who spend the day wrestling with unresolved emotional issues have little attention for anything else. When students and teachers, together, acknowledge the need to identify and work through emotionally or social distressing situations, they can create an atmosphere where children are better ready to learn.

With support from the CHI Mission and Ministry Fund, United Against Violence powered by Buffalo County Community Partners supplies Second Step curriculum materials to several schools and community-based pre-schools in Buffalo County. Our goal is to prevent youth violence by helping young students learn to identify their emotions and manage their behaviors in peaceful and cooperative ways from the very beginning. For information and to learn about how your school can get involved, call United Against Violence at (308) 865-2290.

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