Through the challenges of the pandemic, the world’s educational community has learned how vital social emotional strength is to a child’s success. Distinguished researchers at the Collaborative for Social, Academic, and Emotional Learning define social-emotional learning 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.”
SEL cannot be viewed as just an add-on, but must be intentionally and thoughtfully integrated to provide a key foundation of success in all levels of school and, eventually, the workplace. Marin Primary & Middle School in Larkspur, California, has understood this truth since the school’s founding 45 years ago. Through outdoor education and STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and math) initiatives, students from preschool through eighth grade engage in active, hands-on learning that empowers their growing minds and yields a lasting understanding.
Outdoor education and STEAM not only teach content and knowledge, but almost always require students to stretch outside of their comfort zones, to work in teams, to collaborate, to accept and bounce back from failure, and to combine strengths to find solutions. All these skills come under the larger umbrella of SEL.
An abundance of research suggests that young children benefit from spending more time outdoors, finding both stimulation and calmness to enhance intellectual and personal well-being. In response, Tree School was launched this year as a way to extend our preschool program outdoors, allowing preschoolers to embark on a morning of outdoor, nature-based learning adventures.
In the older grades, MP&MS’s extensive outdoor education program uses our campus and the vast natural and cultural resources of the Bay Area to expand on the curriculum. Overnight field trips and the on-campus David Heath Outdoor Education Center & Garden integrate classroom learning with teamwork and community building.
Across divisions, facilitating the integration of STEAM is key to instilling confidence and critical thinking. Our forward-looking curriculum is both innovative and transformative, with dedicated space and time for students to explore using the most advanced tools and resources. From coding, to robotics, to computer science, providing an immersive academic experience of 21st century learning brings the real world into the classroom.
MP&MS has maintained a 45-year tradition of investing in these programs that develop character through courage, inspire curiosity and foster a connected community. By celebrating, supporting and growing these programs, we instill in our students a passion for inquiry and empathy. As they lean into a growth mindset and challenge themselves to expand what they thought possible, academic and personal learning becomes exponentially more impactful.
MP&MS is proud of our legacy of outdoor education, our pioneering work to integrate SEL into the curriculum and our implementation of STEAM initiatives. To learn more about the school, or to apply, visit the Marin Primary & Middle School website.