The Story Behind Social Emotional Learning
By Qing Hua, CEO
When we reflected on that summer’s experience, we realized that although we were successful in conventional terms, we were missing a key component for innovation—a safe, emotionally and socially connected community. When we returned to China for a second summer, we expanded to four cities with 15 teachers teaching 400 students, and we added Social Emotional Learning modules to our programs.
Every day, our camp shared a theme such as risk-taking, collaboration, growth mindset, communication, and gratitude. Besides building a community for students, another reason behind adding social emotional learning was to help teachers grow resilience. Traveling to a foreign country to teach for a few weeks sounds fun, but it is not for the faint of heart, as there is always something unexpected to deal with. For all of us to take the ride together, everyone involved in the camp had to embrace growth mindsets as learners, innovators, collaborators and parents.
The additional time spent on building Social Emotional skills proved extremely valuable. Our campers were less anxious and uptight and became more collaborative, relaxed, and creative. I can’t remember how many hugs I witnessed among teachers, students, and parents at the closing ceremony. I often “blamed” my co-founders Tracey and Andrea for giving their hearts, sweat, and wisdom to all the international camps we have organized since 2015. If it weren’t for their remarkable work and being moved by the impact we made, I probably wouldn’t have dived into making a positive difference in the world through education. Now, that has become my mission.
The Build A Robot K12 vision is to empower all kids to imagine, build, and create solutions for a diverse, inclusive, and thriving society. This means we are raising kids to be courageous and innovative. By definition, innovators will stumble and fail. For kids to innovate, it is critical that we create a safe and supportive environment for them to step out of their comfort zone, share their ideas, and work through multiple iterations of improvements. In our immersion programs, we lead kids to engage in various social emotional activities to help them build self-confidence, courage, and compassion for others.
Building social emotional skills is a lifelong journey. Over the years, we have embraced principles from the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) to grow students’ skills in Self-Awareness, Self-Management, Social Awareness, Relationship, and Responsible Decision Making. We have also used evidence-based curricula such as the Big Ideas developed by Stanford and Harvard implemented by Classdojo, Character Lab developed by Angela Duckworth.
It is encouraging to see so many schools and school districts incorporate social emotional learning into students’ learning during the pandemic. While sharing a co-working space with my 9-yr old daughter in our basement in the Fall of 2020, I overheard an exchange that made my heart sing. On Zoom her teacher said, “Today, we are going to discuss the Growth Mindset. Does anyone know what a growth mindset is?” My daughter (also a Build A Robot K12 student) replied, ”You say, ‘not yet,’ and you don’t easily give up, because your brain always grows when you try.”
Maya Angelou said:”We delight in the beauty of the butterfly, but rarely admit the changes it has gone through to achieve that beauty.” Just when the caterpillar thought she was going to die, she discovered her wings. We will fly in 2021 and onward.
If you are curious about what courses cover which social emotional topics, click here!
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Founder & CEO
Qing is passionate about fusing education, technology, industry, diversity, and human empathy to make this world a better place through education. Before starting Build a Robot K12, Qing worked in the telecommunication industry for 15 years as a senior engineer, engineering manager, and a product manager. Qing holds a MBA and a MS in Telecommunication from University of Colorado at Boulder, a MA in Communications from University of Delaware, and a BS in Electronics Engineering from Tsinghua University in Beijing, China. She currently serves on the Colorado Department of Education Gifted Education State Advisory Committee. Outside of work, Qing enjoys books, new tech, music, the outdoors, and exploring new places and cultures.