DPS to implement social emotional learning at all of its schools

DENVER — Schools across the country are focusing more and more time on students’ mental health, and Denver Public Schools is no different.

The state’s largest school district will soon require each of its schools to set aside at least 20 minutes of the day for students’ social emotional learning.

At Newlon Elementary School, teachers reserve 45 minutes of the day to this kind of learning. They sit alongside students for 30 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes before the day ends.

During that time, teachers engage with students, learning more about them and talking about everything and anything they want to talk about.

“It’s an opportunity to really do some relationship building, as well as lessons around social emotional learning,” fourth grade teacher Andrea Eder said. “We ask them things as simple as, ‘how are you doing today? Are you ready to learn?’ And then we also go a little bit deeper into some of the challenges they face at the playground. What are the conflicts you have? How can we solve them? And really going through steps so that they have tools to use.”

The social emotional learning program has been in place at Newlon Elementary School for the past five years.

After the back and forth between remote and in-person learning over the past two years, Denver Public Schools vowed to implement this program at all of its schools.

“It’s teaching them emotion identification, emotion regulation,” said Ashley Wessel, Newlon Elementary School psychologist.

“I do think, you know, coming back from the pandemic, we saw that this really was a much more significant need than it had been in previous years, and so we’re really putting priority and emphasis on it now,” Wessel said.

That is exactly what Eder said she does in her classroom — putting a priority on building relationships with students and allowing them to be open with her about anything they may need. She said it allows them to share how they’re feeling and then she can help navigate them through those feelings.

District officials said the expectation is every DPS school implement at least 20 minutes of students’ day to social emotional learning by the beginning of next year.