Updated: May 7
It is great to inspire openness and Imagination by the beauty, diversity, vastness and cleverness of nature. Yet, when we try to teach children how to analyze a text about nature, some of the magic is gone. We need opportunities to read to students, or let them just read, watch related inspiring art, do a science experiment that arises from what we discovered. And them invite them to express their impressions by conversing, writing freely, drawing and coloring. All of these can be elevated into educational products that present meaningful learning.
So how do we promote social-emotional skills in such a way?
We read the children a poem about parrots flying high together viewing the world with a broad perspective, to inspire proactive behavior. Our message is to aspire to reach higher. Yet it is not enough. To nurture a growth mindset we need to promote emotion and behavior regulation, purpose, self-esteem and constructive behavior. We can do that by telling a story about a small zebra-finch that tries to be seen by bigger birds. Making friends is difficult. They can hardly see him. His way to gain their friendship is by singing – expressing his gifts.
We need to help children know what their creative gifts are. Then kids would know their value. Meaningfulness gives confidence.
I believe children whose individual gifts are nurtured have more resistance to at-risk behaviors. Maybe all those wasted behaviors we see kids and youth fall in the trap of are a way of telling us: 'We cannot find ourselves. We are overwhelmed with details and things to remember. Where are we in all of this? As educators you are the ones to speak most. Let go a bit. Introduce learning, then invite us to express insights, ideas and feelings. Emphasize how those contribute to learning the subject at hand. Simply enjoy our Eureka moments. That is all our creative confidence and self-esteem need in order to grow roots. Examine our ideas and insights to elevate them into brilliant learning products.'
By embracing such an educational approach, we also give opportunity to experience social interactions. Then the road is paved to promoting cooperative and proactive behavior.
Make sure to set the rules that the following words are out of the vocabulary: wrong, nonsense, and “what?!”. Tell students to use sentence starters: “That was interesting. I have an idea.” Or “Great idea, I’d like to add that…”. We make intersections around the word 'no', practicing diplomacy. We can always say: “Maybe. How about…”. That way we lead to better explore the learning material and model constructive behavior.
You can find such inspiring stories and art in my book Creative Children Like the Animals of the World. Check out this best children's book social emotional learning. You will also find poems about a dog and a cat. The first inspires empathy and loyalty. The second – playfulness and independence. A story about a bee eager to become a forager but first growing inside the nest is a great way to foster behavior regulation, and yes... optimism – so important. A poem with a beat of the industrious ant inspires planning, self-efficacy and self-directness.
Peacock paintings in this book ignite showing our beautiful colors – expressing and growing our creative gifts. I know a peacock might be associated with arrogance or pride. But those are interpretations made by people. A peacock presents its iridescent tail feathers to deliver social messages. One is directed to the peahen to persuade her to choose him so her offspring will be as strong as he is. The other is for predators. The tail handicaps the peacock yet helps sending the message to the peahen. But if a predator approaches, it will be difficult for the peacock to run away. His spread feathers deliver the message that he is strong, it is better to avoid attacking. The predator would look for dinner elsewhere. This is animal communication, which can stimulate interesting conversations with students about people’s social behavior. Yet there is no connection to pride nor arrogance. The peacock simply presents his beautiful self. And it works.
This SEL, PBL and STEAM book ends with a story about the chubby cub – a Native American boy. Confused? Well, he does have a real bear cub friend. Both set on a journey to bring cure to the boy’s father, the tribe’s chief. They manifest care, leadership and values (the boy) and enthusiasm and support (the bear).
Creative questions are weaved along the book. For example: Which is the most important sense? Why do trees need birds? Can it be – a rainbow of more than seven colors? The scientific facts ignite openness, imagination, curiosity, and cognitive flexibility.
This is the cover of the book.
I painted it for the bee story. Finally, she finishes her studies inside the nest, and sets to explore the world on her own as a forager. That is a great way to perceive education. isn't it? Graduates of school who are foragers have all the social-emotional skills. Their inner world is rich, they know their self-worth, and the outer world seems promising.
Feel that you need help becoming such an educator? Check out our stimulating teacher training. The Get Creative plan of the Raising Creative Thinkers Academy offers an inspirational workshop replay to help you outline how to meet your current educational challenge. What is more, you will learn more about the 5 E's method illustrated throughout this article: Explore, Experience, Examine, Elevate and Express. This strategy will help you simplify your 21st century learning efforts, using PBL to foster social emotional skills, without the students noticing they are learning.
Please like and share this article. Share a story in the comments about how such teaching has benefited your students. Serve as inspiration for others.
See you there,