By Crystal Mutilitis, Clinician

During the 2020-2021 school year, Carteret Middle School students’ social interactions were at an all-time low. Whether they were participating in the full-time virtual learning or hybrid model, students had limited access to engage with their peers in person. Most interactions took place on-screen or through Zoom chats. During a “normal” school year, The PATH program would have run various groups and clubs as well as led school-wide activities to promote socialization, peer leadership, and healthy relationships. However, due to the nature of the school year, most activities were held virtually.

After a year and a half of limited in-person interactions, PATH counselors were ecstatic to learn they would have the opportunity to participate in CMS’s Summer Learning Academy in-person over the month of July. From July 6th-29th, an average of 18-29 middle school students attended the summer program Monday-Thursday from 9 a.m. – 2:30 p.m. with a focus on academic enrichment and recreational activities. Each morning PATH counselors led students through a 45-minute social emotional learning activity to start the day.

Social emotional learning (SEL) is defined as the process of developing self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills that are crucial for school and life success. We break SEL into five categories including: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision making, relationship skills, and social awareness. With each lesson, students learned about themselves, their peers, and how to interact with one another in a positive way. One social awareness activity at the beginning of the month had students participate in social bingo in which they were tasked with finding and talking with peers who matched a description on their bingo card (ex. Has a younger sister). Additional activities included students designing positive affirmation boxes and discussing the power of positivity in their own lives, learning about SMART goals and creating vision boards, and taking part in various art activities.

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