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Social Emotional Learning Through Music Improv Education

Using social emotional learning and simple music improv techniques, students can collaborate, build confidence, and express joy.

Photo of Alisa Ahmadian
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How can we build a curriculum around the promotion of joy and empathy for youth living in refugee camps? Social emotional learning is defined as "the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions "(from the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning or CASEL). The benefits of integrating SEL into classrooms and learning environments are incredibly impactful- from major improvements in academic performances, to increased empathy, decreased anxiety and emotional distress. Unfortunately, SEL curriculum is becoming increasingly rare in academic settings, though it is extremely crucial to child development. SEL curriculum could benefit youth in refugee camps, who live under intensive stress and who often live alongside new neighbors. Check out some great SEL reports from the CASEL library, including the one I've attached here. 

What are some workable strategies to bring Social Emotional Learning (SEL) programs to youth living in refugee camps around the world? My friends at Mima Music perform music improvisation courses to young people around the world. Their curriculum integrates SEL principles and playful expression to encourage cultural exchange and creation. So far, Mima has brought their workshop to 25 embasssies, and many schools and nonprofits. At the end of the program, students form new relationships, and have written and produced their very own song. What makes this model transferrable to a difficult setting like the refugee camp is the mobile nature of music improvisation- all that's needed to implement this idea is simple instruments and recording devices like a smartphone. This can be done in the outdoors with a large group- mostly, everyone needs to show up with an open attitude. Music improvisation works for students of all ages, and in any language! Everyone speaks the language of music.

Watch Mima's video to see how fun and inspiring this type of curriculum can be!


Join the conversation:

Photo of Shane Zhao

Inspiring share Alisa! In addition to music improv, what other types of activities can this approach also use to nurture the emotional welling being of refugee children? It'd be interesting to see how SEL can be adapted to different settings and learning environments. You might be interested to check out this likeminded post on how calligraphy is being used as a therapeutic activity:

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