Social Emotional Learning

Ferndale Schools, like our communities, are diverse. When we interview alumni, the most frequently cited aspect of their education that helped them succeed is the range of human experience and perspective among their peers. Our students are multicultural and multilingual, coming from diverse social and economic backgrounds. This is increasingly representative of the real world. Serving this diverse student body means adapting our educational model to a spectrum of students with different ways of engaging in learning, different levels of academic performance, and different motivations for behaving positively. One of the most useful tools we have developed for overcoming these challenges is our Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) framework. SEL provides a foundation for safe and positive learning, and enhances every student’s ability to succeed in school, in a career, and in life.

Educating the Whole Child

SEL is rooted in our “whole child” philosophy. What does it mean to educate the whole child? It starts with recognition that learning is about more than reading, writing, and arithmetic. Ferndale Schools teachers and administrators are dedicated to educating and nurturing the entire child so each student grows into a purposeful, lifelong learner. Our talented educators have developed a guiding framework that is integrated into the classroom every day which teaches social and emotional development skills, and the benefits are clear: academic achievement increases, students feel more confident, and teachers have more time to teach.

Happy Elementary Classrooms


Our K-5 Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) framework teaches children to acknowledge, understand, and regulate their emotions so that they know how to respond to life’s daily ups and downs. Each students learns that every brain has both an “emotional” and a “thinking” response to challenges and problems. They learn how their emotions trigger their brain to work before they are in control. Then, they are taught skills to manage these emotions, including how to set achievable goals and how to show empathy for themselves and others. This helps them to build supportive relationships and make responsible decisions. And the curriculum is spiraling, meaning that the different aspects are reinforced through circular repetition. As each student begins to better understand and integrate the principles and procedures, they are presented with new opportunities to use those skills and to teach their classmates how to use them as well. K-5 teachers at our upper and lower elementary schools use the SEL framework to guide their classroom through techniques and activities that strengthen their relationships and behavior. The result is a stronger sense of community and a place where all children can and want to learn.

Making an Impact in Secondary Classrooms

Socialization and relationship building continue to be key areas of children’s lives as they transition into adolescence. At the secondary level, we have designed a curriculum to support this stage of development, including Impact Hour. Impact Hour is a daily class where students learn ‘soft skills.’ Soft skills are those desirable qualities that apply across a variety of jobs and life situations— traits such as integrity, communication, courtesy, responsibility, professionalism,flexibility, and teamwork. In order to support college or career readiness, our students strengthen these skills while learning to manage time better and meet deadlines. They also are encouraged to develop strategies to deal with setbacks and build on their ability to get along with each other. Students develop soft skills and begin to understand their importance through socialization, learning core values, attitudes, and actions with their teachers and peers. By adding this important curriculum element for our secondary students, we are empowering them with essential practices needed for success after graduation.

Leading the Country

Ferndale Schools has been at the forefront of the SEL movement for years and has been recognized by both the State of Michigan and national organizations for its SEL curriculum. The American Institute of Research has also visited Ferndale to learn about our approach as it supports districts throughout the country in their own efforts to match our success. Many of our neighboring school districts have also requested training from our staff in the Ferndale SEL curriculum. This interest is a testament to the incredible work done by our staff in their continued focus on educating the whole child.