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Social-Emotional Learning Through Easy, Creative Projects


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EdTech Digest
Mark Gura taught in public schools in East Harlem for two decades. Afterwards, he spent 5 years as a staff and curriculum developer for the central office of the New York City Dept. of Education. He established the Department’s Office of Instructional Technology and held the position of Director for 7 years, supervising professional development citywide. Since retiring he has taught Instructional Technology courses for Fordham University and Touro College. Mark has written books and created materials for ISTE and other publishers. He was the co-producer of the popular podcasts and has spoken on Instructional Technology throughout the U.S.

Session description

The authors of ISTE's new book "Creative SEL" share the philosophy and easy-to-implement methods it conveys. Highlighted will be an approach to engage students in highly engaging projects that target standards-based learning in the five key areas of SEL, as well as examples of exciting projects.

Purpose & objective

"Creative SEL: Using Hands-on Projects to Boost Social-Emotional Learning", a recently released ISTE book, written by the presenters of this session, offers a practical yet imaginative approach to teaching and fostering important SEL understandings and skills across the pre k -12 grades. The approach draws on and pulls together the instructional strands of Project Based Learning and expressive-arts oriented activities that can be implemented across the curriculum, enriching standards-based instruction. This is done in the context of the well recognized CASEL model of SEL, using its 5 key areas as an organizing framework.
Participants will leave this session with a well defined understanding of SEL, its goals and impacts on the development of young people.
They will understand an easy to implement approach to fostering SEL in a way that students will find highly engaging, enlightening, and satisfying.
Participants will take away an understanding of how to model activities based on a handful of examples from the presenters’ book that are selected to illustrate the approach.
They will be encouraged to ask questions to facilitate their understanding of how they may make personal use of approaches and ideas presented.
The presenters will offer a generous body of resources that the participants can use to further their involvement with and implementation of Creative SEL

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- The presenters will give an overview of the session and its themes, making reference to and drawing on the way the subject is organized in the new ISTE book the session is based on. (5 – 7 minutes)
- A handful of instructional activity examples will be presented with key elements excised and highlighted. For instance, each of the 32 book activities engages students in the PBL oriented creation of an expressive learning product. A number of these will be focused on and explained with an eye toward easy replicability. Similarly, the session will emphasize individual teacher personalization of the activities in order to ensure relevance and efficacy of implementation. This will be discussed in relation to specific activity examples. (20+ minutes)
- Additionally, the presenters will discuss the research and standards the approach and activity plans draw on. (5 – 7 minutes)
- The presenters will briefly discuss the body of resources offered to participants, along with ways they can take the core concepts of the session and personalize and extend them. 5 – 7 minutes)
- There will be an opportunity for participants to ask questions and offer suggestions at the end of the session. 5 – 7 minutes)
* The session will be supported by illustrated examples of teacher created learning process resources and student work samples taken from the presenters' (authors') new ISTE book "Creative SEL" - The presenters will demonstrate the classroom application of several of these.

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Supporting research

The case for the connection between Creativity and SEL can be found in professional literature.
This connection can be seen through a variety of approaches listed below:

An obvious and popular understanding about how creativity can be fostered in the classroom is through Arts Education. And by extension it follows that Arts Education, a creativity rich area of instructional activity, is an important area in which to see a connection between Creativity and SEL.

“Fostering Social-Emotional Learning In and Through the Arts”
SOURCE: Arts Ed NJ. A unifying organization and central resource for arts education, information, policy, and advocacy in New Jersey

“There is complete integration between the four artistic processes (Creating, Performing, Responding, Connecting) and the five Social-Emotional Learning competencies (Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Responsible Decision Making, Relationship Skills)…”
“Fostering Social-Emotional Learning In and Through the Arts (Webinar Synopsis).” ARTS ED NJ, 2021,
“Arts Education & Social Emotional Learning Framework - A Synergistic Pairing”

SOURCE: Social Emotional Learning Alliance for New Jersey
“Arts Education & Social Emotional Learning Framework is designed to illuminate the intersection between arts education and social-emotional learning to allow for the intentional application of appropriate teaching and learning strategies, with the overarching goal of enhancing art education…”
‎ “Arts Education & Social Emotional Learning Framework: A Synergistic Pairing.” SEL/ARTS, SEL4NJ, 2021,
“Developing Curricula for SEL and the Arts”

SOURCE: Edutopia / The George Lucas Education Foundation
“Teachers of the arts know that observing, analyzing, and understanding art and its production and context builds many SEL competencies. Arts educators know also that building students’ SEL capacities will often increase their appreciation of and participation in the arts.…”

Elias, Maurice J. “Developing Curricula for SEL and the Arts.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, 19 Apr. 2019,
“How Creating Visual Art Contributes to SEL”

SOURCE: Edutopia / The George Lucas Education Foundation
“A teacher-student research project looked at how social and emotional learning was enhanced when students spent time making art…”

Fishman-Weaver, Kathryn “How Creating Visual Art Contributes to SELA teacher-student research project looked at how social and emotional learning was enhanced when students spent time making art.” Edutopia, George Lucas Educational Foundation, 29 Apr. 2019,
There is an established body of thought acknowledging that efforts and activities to foster the learning of Creativity, by nature, results in Social and Emotional Learning. This may be accomplished across the curriculum.
“Getting Creative With SEL”

SOURCE: Edutopia / The George Lucas Education Foundation

“…Leveraging creative expression and movement to build core social and emotional learning (SEL) competencies, however, is a relatively new concept. Creative expression can be achieved through a variety of modalities and provides opportunities to identify, process, and express emotions…”
Elias, Maurice J. and LaHayne, Sara, November 6, 2018 “Getting Creative With SEL - How to incorporate creative expression and movement in the classroom while building social and emotional learning skills” Edutopia, George Lucas Education Foundation,

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Session specifications

Social emotional learning
Grade level:
Skill level:
Curriculum/district specialists, Professional developers, Teachers
Attendee devices:
Devices not needed
Subject area:
Performing/visual arts, Social studies
ISTE Standards:
For Educators:
  • Set professional learning goals to explore and apply pedagogical approaches made possible by technology and reflect on their effectiveness.
For Students:
Knowledge Constructor
  • Students build knowledge by actively exploring real-world issues and problems, developing ideas and theories and pursuing answers and solutions.
Creative Communicator
  • Students create original works or responsibly repurpose or remix digital resources into new creations.