Maine Central Institute implements novel program to help students develop social-emotional skills

Last year, the everyday challenges that students faced became even more challenging. In addition to heightened concerns about the health and safety of themselves, their classmates, and their teachers, many students became physically and emotionally isolated amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Even before the pandemic, the awareness of Social and Emotional Learning -- commonly referred to as SEL -- was on the rise, and as Maine Central Institute returns to in-person learning this fall, the school is introducing a new program to help students develop self-awareness, self-control, and interpersonal skills.

The new curriculum, titled Character Strong, is a nationally renowned program created by educators who have hands-on experience in social-emotional learning. It offers educators in classrooms across the country an evidence-based program to help students find success in SEL. Though several schools throughout the United States have adopted SEL programs like Character Strong, it’s still relatively uncommon in Maine.

“What we’ve learned from COVID is that we are, at our core, humans, and humans are social by nature,” said Macie Batchelder, MCI School Counselor. “Over the past year and a half, we’ve been forced to isolate, separate, and stay in our own bubble, and that’s not what we are meant to do. Now, that’s creating all kinds of problems in our society, and with our students. This program will help rebuild those connections, or for some students, build them for the very first time.”

The skills that students will learn through Character Strong are vital in helping them navigate their way through school, work, and life in general. The curriculum, which will be part of the school’s weekly advisor program, begins with a warm welcome, an activity to help get them into the proper mindset for Character Strong. From there, students will move into community building using various activities, go over the course content using writing prompts and discussions, and ultimately wrap up with a challenge to implement what they’ve learned into their own lives. When they return the next week, they can discuss how that challenge went. Students are encouraged to share as much or as little as they’d like, depending on their comfortability with each subject or topic.

“Our goal is to build connections,” said Batchelder. “Last year, the country lost a lot of students academically, and because many schools were remote, we lost a lot of those connections,” added Batchelder. “I’m hoping that we can reconnect with those students and bring them back in. I’m hoping that every single student will be able to find that one adult here on campus at the school who they can turn to if they’re having a bad day, having trouble academically, or having a conflict with a friend. I’m hoping that we can accomplish that through this SEL curriculum.”

About MCI

MCI (www.MCI-school.org) is the secondary school for the towns of Pittsfield, Burnham, and Detroit. MCI enrollment includes day students from many Maine communities, and boarding students from six states and 23 countries. MCI offers accelerated and advanced placement courses in all subjects as well as 16 varsity sports teams and over 30 clubs and activities. The school is known for its award-winning arts programs that include visual, vocal, band, drama, and the world-class Bossov Ballet Theatre, which is a performing company and international pre-professional ballet school with instruction by former and current members of the Moscow Ballet.

Members of the media interested in learning more about MCI’s Character Strong curriculum may call (207) 487-5915. CONTACT US TO LEARN MORE ABOUT MCI'S WELLNESS PROGRAM HERE

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