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Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is a student-centered approach that emphasizes:

  • Building on students' strengths
  • Developing skills through hands-on, experiential learning
  • Giving young people voice in the learning process
  • Supporting youth through positive relationships with adults over an extended period of time

Commonly used in school and after-school settings, SEL programming offers strategies and techniques that align with the positive youth development approach.

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as "the process through which all young people and adults acquire and apply the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to develop healthy identities, manage emotions and achieve personal and collective goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain supportive relationships, and make responsible and caring decisions." CASEL has identified core competency areas that are nurtured in SEL programming: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and decision making.

In this toolkit, we use the CASEL framework to organize instructional practices and resources that can be incorporated into any youth programming. Resources include manuals, activities, fact sheets, videos, and websites. The Toolkit was originally assembled by the Risk and Thriving in Adolescence Program Work Team, a collaboration of Cornell University, Cornell Cooperative Extension, New York State 4-H Youth Development, and stakeholders. It is updated regularly by ACT for Youth.