Why this research?
My main audience for this research is other teachers (all grade levels) and administrators. School districts need to be focused on social emotional needs of students in every subject. Post-pandemic has caused a lot of suffering for students and teachers alike! I think it's important for students to see viable ways to handle mental health issues from their leaders. If school districts and teachers embraced social emotional learning needs by using top notch SEL curriculums, everyone wins. From test scores to healthy relationships, the more exposure of social emotional learning students acquire, who knows how much more school environments may improve.
Background and Need, Rationale, etc.
The original approach to social emotional learning and its outcomes in the classroom are outdated. Society has been through a pandemic which places students at a disadvantage for human growth and development specifically in reference to mental health. Students are in a vulnerable state of emotional growth and this literature review will uncover research done pre and post pandemic. The review of literature considers resiliency, school based interventions, as well as developmentally and culturally appropriate interventions.
The problem with outdated SEL research is that academic performance is the key indicator for success in various programs. Unfortunately these studies do not take into consideration that other key performance indicators should be: reduced drug use/abuse, establishing and keeping healthy relationships, abstain or reduction in violent outbursts or behavior, coping mechanisms for stress, and the list goes on.
The digital era has entered the classroom. The education system has seen radical changes in instruction, strategies, and implementation from administration all the way down to the student. Technology has far surpassed that of previous generations as students have 1:1 devices in most classrooms. Several challenges have shaken up the classroom environment and dynamics. Screen time has increased exponentially. Does this take away from social interaction? Are students spending less time outside? Will this ultimately impact children in a deterring manner? The problem in current classrooms is that students are noticeably engaged in digital devices rather than classwork, and thus their anxieties go up, motivation down, and is there a correlation between the two? How can we get students to create tools that benefit their mental and physical health in the digital era?
School districts across the country cannot be compared or measured against one another. However, a lot of them do share similar characteristics. The focus point of this research is the disenfranchised, marginalized youth that are far too common. These students suffer from physical and mental traumas from a young age. Highlighting this population not only offers equity, but also a closer look into the population that needs it the most due to socioeconomic status. Generally speaking, those who can afford healthy meals, outdoor activities, and healthcare are more privileged in a sense, than those who cannot. The biggest need in Calistoga is a skate park, or large gym/workout facility. There is one small gym downtown and students’ do frequent the community pool. I think that the school could and should offer an outdoor enthusiasts group for teenagers to engage in hiking, meditation/yoga, biking and various other sports.
The technical challenges include but are not limited to devices in the home that students have easy access to, access to the internet, and public library. The school does provide mentorship for extra support. The community has a popular boys and girls club that students frequent. This provides wi-fi for students and every child in the district has a device. The systems that the community offers, helps with these challenges and even provides opportunities, such as employment. The need for STEM in the classroom and community is a challenge. There are only two science teachers on the main campus for high schoolers, although they do a great job at enticing students to engage in computer science, there needs to be more. The correlation between nature and the student population can be as easy as coding, creative content classes, and photography are all examples of ways to get students involved in both the digital world as well as nature.
Although there are many ways to assess the problems stated above. Every teacher should be assessing these needs in their individual classrooms at all levels. The importance of collecting data that measures a students’ motivation and mental and physical health by using nature with a balanced time for digital resources. In order to assess the student population of Calistoga on the pendulum between screen time and the outdoors can be measured in surveys and assessments. Students can begin by limiting screen time and engaging in a nature journal while being surveyed over time in: mental/emotional health and well being, giving a constant numerical measurement on attitude and overall feeling. Students can also be assessed in taking the nature journal to the digital level. Allowing for freedom writers, but also photography, a visual aide to accompany their journals by having students take pictures with their phones. Other ideas of this research should include creative outdoor applications, this allows students to engage creatively on whether they would like to focus on mental health and the outdoors, tracking screen vs. outdoor time, or something of a collaborative board/social media page on the flora and fauna of Northern California. The actual outcome of student projects is limitless, but ultimately the study will suggest how students feel in relation to using digital devices outside.
Optimism is the only way that teachers can conquer the ultimate challenge of nature versus the computer. The word nature means so many things.. Teachers not only teach subject matter and content, but also allow students to appreciate our earth and comprehend environmental justice, find healthy habits, and create believers of their learning styles. Not to mention the importance of growth and human development. But nature. In it’s own beauty our planet serves life to us, not the other way around. Will student’s still appreciate the outdoors as much as we did as children? The counterpart: the computer. From the various devices to the detrimental health benefits of sitting in front of a screen and the psychological addiction of the cell phone. Our students are still developing as humans in every cell of every being. Can we even begin to think of the complications and evolution of our species? Computers are everywhere in our environment. Electronics and digital devices are everyday basics such as hygiene. The digital world is mesmerizing and fascinating. Yet, the simple question of balance between both worlds now rests on the education system. The teacher is always the learner and continues to be as the world rotates into a world unbeknownst to even the most optimistic. How do we increase student mental and physical health awareness?
The US National Library of Medicine approved an author manuscript and in the abstract from Pediatrics magazine, the authors claims,
Our entire world is changing during these times. The correlation between screen time and obesity alone has been studied worldwide as well as various studies post COVID-19 pandemic. The study will continue to grow as society moves to a predominately digital world. Technology is not only inhibiting the brain growth and development, but we also need to study the children that are immersed in it currently. The important focus to study is the social and emotional well being of this generation specifically. The effects of a post-pandemic plight of social and emotional well being of our young adults who are still developing.
How might an educator keep and hold the attention of a student while their minds are only thinking about being online in one fashion or another? This presents itself as an opportunity for teachers to bridge the gap between the world wide web and the natural world.
Obesity is one of the best-documented outcomes of screen media exposure. Many observational studies find relationships between screen media exposure and increased risks of obesity. Randomized controlled trials of reducing screen time in community settings have reduced weight gain in children, demonstrating a cause and effect relationship. Current evidence suggests that screen media exposure leads to obesity in children and adolescents through increased eating while viewing; exposure to high-calorie, low-nutrient food and beverage marketing that influences children’s preferences, purchase requests, consumption habits; and reduced sleep duration (Robinson et al., 2017).