Social-Emotional Decision-Making Lab is Back at Bartle!
Posted on 01/29/2018
Rutgers Psychology Interns Working the SEL Lab!On the bottom floor of the Bartle Elementary School in Highland Park, New Jersey sits a colorfully decorated, flexible seating-filled open space called the Social-Emotional Decision-Making Lab. Passers-by will see small groups of young children sitting among two Rutgers University Psychology Department undergraduate interns. Posters adorn the walls with titles like “Stop and use Keep Calm” and “Listening Position.” 

The lab is a place where teacher or family-referred kids learn interpersonal improvement strategies such as, “Speaker Power” (students hold a visual object that shows who has the ‘power’ to speak while others are quiet listeners), “Active Listening” (students repeat or paraphrasing what others are saying), and “B.E.S.T.” (body posture, eye contact, 'say nice things,' and tone of voice). Everyone takes part in games, activities, and discussions- the learning is all about strengthening the soft skills we know kids need to become healthy partners in relationships with their peers, the adults around them, and eventually the people with whom they’ll interact when they become school district graduates. 

Any child who presents problematic interpersonal relations can be helped by the lab’s staff. A referral form prompts teachers or family members to indicate the skills they believe a child lacks, including the ability to make friends, resolve conflicts, or read their peers’ nonverbal cues. 

Children served by the social-emotional decision-making lab after weekly meetings are able to:

-Recognize and self-regulate emotions 
-Understand the reasons and circumstances for feeling a certain way
-Control impulses, aggression, and self-destructive antisocial behaviors
-Mobilize positive feelings about self, school, family and support networks
-Empathize with others
-Describe a peer’s perspective 
-Harmonize diverse feelings and viewpoints
-Display sensitivity to social cues

Let’s Focus on the Root Cause of This Violent Behavior

Security guards have been all the rage since the Parkland event. I recognize the importance of increasing presence in the halls and classrooms of our schools, but no one should deny what has been another response to the spate of school shootings (there were 20 incidents in the first 16 weeks of 2018)- the building of an assailant profile that describes individuals expressing anger and rage toward others. Yes, mental illness is partly to blame for the violence, but a breakdown in the ability to relate to other people is clearly another root cause of this problem. Building a program such as the social-emotional decision-making lab may be just one of the paths forward for those kids who lack the ability to maintain healthy relationships that can promote strong bonds and connections with others.

Learn more about the collaboration with Rutgers by clicking here.