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SEL - What is it?

If you work in the education industry, or any industry that comes in contact with educational organizations, you may have heard the term SEL thrown around at an ever-increasing rate. If you're like me, with most acronyms I hear and don't initially recognize, I'll nod along thinking boy it sounds like I should know what this is... and then if I'm lucky and remember to do so, I'll look it up later. Due to the sheer importance of SEL (after all, it is a foundation for our educational principles), I'm here to provide a short, hopefully easily digestible, explanation of what SEL is and why it's so important.

SEL: Social Emotional Learning

CASEL - The Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning defined SEL over two decades ago and is now the leading organization on the topic. Check out for all the information.

Social Emotional Learning is centered around 5 core competencies, and the idea is that these competencies can in fact be taught in schools through the use of a variety of unique educational programming approaches (such as adventure education!). These principles are:

  1. Self-Awareness

  2. Self-Management

  3. Social Awareness

  4. Relationship Skills

  5. Responsible Decision Making

The main idea is essentially that, in order to create well-rounded dynamic youth, students should be taught more than just how to do long division, where to place an Oxford comma or the dates of the Civil War (although these are all extremely important). They should also be taught how to build relationships, how to trust themselves and others, how to be aware of their surroundings, how to relate, how to self-reflect and how to critical think their way through even the most difficult situations. And while there are a variety of tactics, including classroom strategies, to incorporate these principles into education, what better way to build confidence and develop skills than by trusting a classmate to belay you as you climb a 50ft rock face? Or by learning to work as a group out in the backcountry with a heavy backpack on your back?

We may be biased, but we're pretty sure adventure education and the outdoors is the absolute best way to encourage Social Emotional Learning for students. And who knows, maybe we'll foster a heated discussion about the efficacy of the Oxford comma mid-climb, you know, just to cover all the important stuff.

Check out our school web page to learn more about how we interact with SEL and if you're looking for more information from the most reputable source, head to to read up on everything SEL and more.

As always, Happy Trekking,


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