Science and Teaching for Field Instructors

Supporting Social Emotional Learning in Outdoor Science

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is an important and growing field within education. Researchers and practitioners have found that SEL is an essential part of supporting young people to thrive—in and out of the classroom. SEL helps build students’ social skills, emotional awareness, and resilience. Developing social and emotional competence can offer students more ease in their interpersonal interactions, a positive sense of identity, increased agency to call on their strengths, the ability to pursue continued growth, and improved learning. All these competencies make students better learners, supporting them to tackle complex tasks and to show up as engaged members of their communities outside of school. Developing students’ SEL competencies is also shown to increase their academic performance and chance of employment, while reducing emotional and behavioral challenges.


The development and publication of this activity was made possible by support from the Grow Outside: A Social Emotional Learning Toolkit for Residential Environmental Learning Centers. Grow Outside, convened by NatureBridge and funded by the S. D. Bechtel, Jr. Foundation, brought BEETLES together with 11 Residential Environmental Learning Centers to explore how to maximize the opportunity for SEL in the outdoors. This paper is one of the many resources that resulted. To see others, please visit

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Supporting Social Emotional Learning in Outdoor Science