3 Reasons You Should Be Teaching SEL in Afterschool Programs

Afterschool and out-of-school programs are more than a safe place for students to go when their parents are at work. Quality programs can reduce risky behaviors and promote healthy well-being while encouraging students to learn, create and express themselves in a flexible environment that encourages exploration.

Because of this flexible environment, afterschool and out-of-school programs are an excellent place to teach social and emotional learning (SEL). There are many ways SEL and out-of-school programs complement each other, namely through their shared goal of helping students thrive in school and throughout their lives.

Are you incorporating SEL in your afterschool program? You should be! Here are three ways they can work together.

Real-World Practice and Application

Afterschool programs tend to be less structured than traditional classrooms, and this has many benefits. Students often enjoy increased flexibility in what they learn and how they learn. Afterschool and out-of-school programs often concentrate on a particular project or theme, giving students time and concentrated focus to achieve mastery over a particular skill. Students are also able to learn in ways that better meet their individual learning needs.

The flexibility built into afterschool programs provides an ideal environment for teaching social and emotional skills. Students can focus on a single skill and spend the time they need to master the construct. They may receive more one-on-one instruction with mentors and program staff, and they have the opportunity to develop and practice important SEL skills in real-world situations.


Strong relationship skills are important for academic, social, and emotional growth. Afterschool and out-of-school programs can tap into SEL to help students strengthen relationship skills with adults and peers.

Afterschool educators often act as mentors and play an important role in students’ academic, social, and emotional development. Afterschool programs also often center on developing strong peer relationships, which can make it easier for students to adjust to school, reduce bullying, and influence a students’ success in school and beyond. Additionally, many afterschool programs encourage students to develop important bonds and connections with the community, which increases social awareness and responsibility.

Reinforcing Out-of-School Goals and Objectives

One important benefit of SEL is that it helps students understand why learning is important. When afterschool and out-of-school programs make SEL a priority, students are more likely to be engaged and ready to learn. Staff also benefit when students are excited and eager to learn, since less of their time is spent trying to engage students and more time is spent achieving program objectives.

SEL and afterschool programs go hand-in-hand. The flexible structure of afterschool programs lends well to teaching SEL and gives students opportunities to practice skills in real-world applications. Program leaders can also leverage SEL to strengthen their programs and meet their objectives.

Want more information on how to incorporate SEL into your afterschool or out-of-school program? If you’re interested in using an SEL assessment to provide critical insight into students’ strengths and needs, contact our SEL experts today through the form below.

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