The topic of social and emotional learning (SEL) has received a great deal of attention in recent years. The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines SEL as the process through which children and adults understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions. SEL skills are critical at all stages of the developmental spectrum, especially during early childhood as children are just beginning to learn how to navigate the complicated process of interacting with the social world.
In an effort to promote coordinated, high quality SEL programming and supports for the young children and families of Bridgeport, a number of local stakeholders came together in the summer of 2018 to launch the Bridgeport Early Childhood SEL Initiative (BECSELI). This initiative is led by Dr. Craig Bailey at the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence, with the generous support of the Tauck Family Foundation. Along with Bridgeport YMCA and the Bridgeport School Readiness Council, several of PEER’s member organizations serve on the BECSELI Steering Committee, including ABCD, Inc., All Our Kin, Bridgeport Child Advocacy Coalition (BCAC) at LifeBridge, Bridgeport Prospers, Bridgeport Public Schools, and Cooperative Education Services (C.E.S.). PEER is contributing to BECSELI as a Steering Committee member and an evaluation partner.
The goals of BECSELI are to:
- Enhance the social and emotional learning (SEL) of young children and the adults in their lives within the Bridgeport early childhood community,
- Strengthen the link between SEL in Bridgeport early childhood settings and Bridgeport Public Schools,
- Use SEL as a catalyst to share resources by creating and facilitating a community-wide professional development network of providers and stakeholders, and
- Use SEL as a catalyst to build a community-wide assessment framework ultimately bridging systems within early childhood and between early childhood and the public-school system.
As part of this initiative, Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence is providing RULER training for center-based and home-based early childhood educators. RULER was developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence as an evidence-based approach to SEL that strengthens the emotional intelligence of children, educators, and families in preschool through high school. Preschool RULER was piloted at Children’s Learning Centers of Fairfield County. It has been implemented in center-based and home-based early childhood settings in Norwalk and in preschool classrooms within Bridgeport Public Schools.
BECSELI’s first year (2018-2019) focuses on establishing the initiative, hosting Leadership Development Institutes for a cohort of leaders from center-based early childhood programs, and providing RULER training for a cohort of home-based early childhood educators. Next year (2019-2020), BECSELI will support these cohorts as they begin to implement RULER in their centers and homes. Additional cohorts will launch in future years.
As an evaluation partner, PEER is supporting a study that explores links between the initiative and improvements on classroom climate, SEL implementation, educators’ social and emotional skills, and educators’ general well-being. PEER and Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence are working together to administer educator surveys that relate to these indicators, which will allow the Steering Committee to examine whether these indicators change over time as the initiative continues. PEER is pleased to be part of the SEL movement in Bridgeport as it continues to grow!