Kieve Wavus educator in residence Lily Tromanhauser spent November to April at Boothbay Region High School engaging classes in team-building, and she said she hopes to return next year. The activities follow the EASEL curriculum, which stands for Experiential Approach to Social and Emotional Learning.
Tromanhauser said that as BRHS nears the end of its third affected year from COVID, having a social emotional learning piece is more important than ever.
BRHS senior Ava Schlosser agreed. “Within the last couple years, school has lacked, like, any kind of fun. We used to be able to eat lunch together and talk but we can’t do that anymore. There was also no prom, we couldn’t go to sports games. It was strictly educational. So I felt like there wasn’t much motivating me to come to school because there wasn’t much to look forward to. Ms. T gives us a chance to get closer to the people in our class, and it’s already hard to do that.”
Katy Nein, another BRHS senior, said, “With COVID, we were only here half the time. It was really independent and super focused on school, which is great. There are certain classes where it needs to be that way. But I think we should make more time to do these activities where we can interact with kids that we don’t have sports teams with, or hang outside of school with.”
Science teacher Lauren Graham said she will definitely be using Tromanhauser’s activities to aid this issue. “We’re seeing a lack of resilience, a lack of problem solving. The skills that are built through Lily’s activities are what we should be focusing on right now. I would argue that the things we’ve been doing with her are more important than our content.”
Graham said that due to students being engaged in online school in recent years, they lack social experience and struggle to make new connections and friendships. This is especially prominent in freshman students who are thrust into a new environment and new academic expectations. “I have never witnessed such a crisis of emotional and psychological needs. I feel that often I cannot push through my content because I have kids with some serious needs. Why is the periodic table important when one of your loved ones was just arrested or something huge is going on? These kids need more help than we can offer them ourselves.”
Graham said that especially students who had their freshman year interrupted by COVID, and spent most of high school at home, didn’t get to experience the social growth spurred by the high school interactions. Graham and Tromanhauser believe building strong relationships between students and between students and teachers creates a healthier social environment where students are more receptive to learning. “This winter was a turning point. In the beginning of the year kids didn’t know each other and so they didn’t speak with each other. Due to Ms. T’s influence, they’ve begun communicating, things are changing.”