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Social Emotional Learning and Brave Spaces in a STEM Classroom

Session 4
Andrea Poulsen, Stefanie Bingham — FirstHand at University City Science Center

FirstHand is a program of the University City Science Center that offers free informal STEM education to Philadelphia students through real-world, hands-on experiences that connect middle and high school students to careers in Philadelphia. In 2021, we began visioning how the FirstHand program could best incorporate evidence-based SEL (Social Emotional Learning) strategies to support student growth. In this discussion, we will detail our successes in implementing SEL activities, and speak about the positive student outcomes when combined with STEM learning. Recent, relevant feedback gathered from student focus groups will be shared, including student quotes that describe the FirstHand Lab as a safe place where students are free to be themselves and how the program sparks an interest in science that students may not have known was there.

While learning about FirstHand SEL practices, including Brave Spaces, session attendees will have the opportunity to experience activities themselves and discuss how these strategies could be best implemented in the context of their own classroom.

Conversational Practice

Participants will join us for a Brave Spaces conversation to discuss a student-created question related to building positive teacher-student relationships. Brave Spaces is an activity that University City Science Center uses both as SEL time for FirstHand students, as well as a DEI initiative to build community with our staff. We aim to foster a safe, affirming, and inclusive environment where all voices are heard and respected. The fishbowl formation provides two concentric circles: those who wish to speak may join the inner circle and active listeners sit in the outer circle. Over the course of the conversation, participants switch positions/roles, and there is no pressure to speak if folks do not want to. Our goal is for attendees to experience SEL activities as a participant and share ideas for implementation in new contexts.

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