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kids create change: sociocultural social emotional learning program (SCSEL)

Our sociocultural social-emotional learning program (SCSEL) utilizes culturally affirming interventions and antiracist practices to address the 5 SEL competencies outlined by the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL): 1) self-awareness, 2) self-management, 3) social awareness, 4) relationship skills, and 5) responsible decision making.
Informed by the Culturally Responsive-Sustaining Education (CSRE) framework our program is rooted in "a cultural view of learning and human development in which multiple expressions of diversity (e.g., race, socioeconomic status, gender, language, sexual orientation, religion, ability) are recognized and regarded as assets for teaching and learning."  (CSRE)
We seek to approach the standards set forth by the Illinois State Board of Education (ISBE) for Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) and Fine Arts, that promote goals and objectives that are largely white-centric, with values, approaches, and interventions that are rooted in the students' identities, cultures and experiences.  Our program fosters cognitive, emotional, compassionate, and historical empathy through art.  We aim to encourage connection through the development of a school climate based in collective care, authentic relationships, and and to promote community building using art-based experiences.
The Kids Create Change SCSEL program is customized to meet the social-emotional and socio-cultural needs of a school and classroom. We collaborate with principals and teachers to identify how we can best share our knowledge and skills to develop activities that address the school’s goals to encourage a positive school climate.  
We design and implement our programs to meet the needs of the schools and classrooms we work with.  This includes: 
  1. time and length of sessions to meet schedule constraints e.g. one-time workshops to multi-week installments/a class period or longer if held during out-of-school hours
  2. activities to complement existing classroom curriculum and/or supplement learning with out-of-classroom activities for students and their families
  3. interventions sensitive to developmental level, abilities, and social diversity of the students
  4. program implementation to compliment existing restorative justice practices

  • explore feeling identification

  • learn empathy-related vocabulary

  • discover tools for talking about and managing emotions that are both culturally informed and inclusive

  • discover creative methods to recall personal experiences that involve different emotions and sharing them with peers

  • achieve skills needed to see things from multiple perspectives

SCSEL programming in schools:



elementary school

Kids Create Change offers programs for elementary schools that create opportunities for children k-5 to engage in art making and creative collaboration that encourages social-emotional learning and sociocultural awareness.  Through art, we create third spaces where students are able to:​​

middle through high school 

Programs for middle school and high school students are centered around service-learning, community engagement and organizing, public art making and exhibition.  Students are able to:

  • explore issues around power and racial, gender, socioeconomic, and (dis)ability oppression

  • understand the potential of art as a tool for nonviolent communication and action

  • utilize art making to express identity, and exercise visibility and voice in their community

  • employ art in addressing social injustice and effecting change in the community

"Humans aren't as good as we should be in our capacity to empathize with feelings and thoughts of others, be they humans or other animals on Earth. So maybe part of our formal education should be training in empathy. Imagine how different the world would be if, in fact, that were 'reading, writing, arithmetic, empathy.'"

Neil deGrasse Tyson

what is empathy?

Empathy is the feeling that you understand and share another person's experiences and emotions.  It is being mindful of our own feelings, and being responsible for how our words and actions affect others.  Empathy is understanding that everyone has their own story; it is listening to those stories, and sharing your story as way to respect and embrace individuality and participate in diversity.  Cognitive, emotional, compassionate and historical empathy are the most powerful tools we have to create connections between people and to build community.  

At the heart of our programs is art making and creative collaboration.  We believe in the capacity of empathy through art, and the power of making art, sharing art, exhibiting art, art exchange, dialogue through art, art as inquiry, and art as social revolution.

"Empathy is the most revolutionary emotion."

Gloria Steinem

Examples of ISBE SEL Standards for Early Elementary Students addressed in this program are:

  1. Recognize and accurately label emotions and how they are linked to behavior

  2. Recognize that others may experience situations differently from oneself

  3. Use listening skills to identify the feelings and perspectives of others

  4. Describe the ways that people are similar and different

  5. Explain why unprovoked acts that hurt others are wrong

  6. Make positive choices when interacting with classmates

  7. Brainstorm ways one could contribute to their community 

Examples of ISBE SEL Standards for Middle and High School Students addressed in this program are:

  1. Describe emotions associated with personal experiences

  2. Demonstrate an ability to express hurt without withdrawal, blame, or aggression

  3. Identify personal strengths, obstacles, and goals

  4. Identify feelings and perspective of others, and explore situations where one's behavior impacts the feelings of others either positively or negatively

  5. Explain how a lack of understanding of social and cultural difference and histories can contribute to racism

  6. Demonstrate strategies for collaborating with peers, adults and others in the community

Examples of how we address these standards by de-centering the white, cisgendered, heteronormative, able-bodied experience to increase equity:

  1. Explore feelings and feeling management with a culturally- affirming lens

  2. Introduce stories and featuring BBIPOC, nonbinary, lgbtq, and differently abled people as the main characters

  3. Center visual artists, writers, musicians and performers of color and from different social backgrounds and cultures in the curriculum

  4. Co-create guidelines for the group that will foster courage in participation and non-judgement in sharing

  5. Illustrate the value in contributions of many people from different backgrounds by creating opportunities for the students to share who they are, who their family is, what their communities are, and their cultural backgrounds and histories

  6. Explore what students notice and witness in their classroom and school that seem unfair or exclusive, and use art-based activities to identify how they can help to make things more just and inclusive

Examples of how we address these standards by de-centering the white, cisgendered, heteronormative, able-bodied experience to increase equity:

  1. Utilize stories featuring BBIPOC, nonbinary, lgbtq, and differently abled people to support discussion around issues of privilege, access and power

  2. Center the work of visual artists, writers, musicians and performers of color and from different social backgrounds and cultures to explore race and racism in America

  3. Co-create guidelines for the group that will foster courage in participation and non-judgement in sharing of personal experiences

  4. Employ art-based activities that connect historic events to the challenges we face in our society today

  5. Explore the role of art in social justice movements and community development

  6. Facilitate a process for the students to identify issues they feel a connection to and explore how they might learn more about them and what they might do to address them

  7. Create opportunities for students to use art to elevate their voices and visibility in their community

2017 Art Exhibition of D65 Student Work at Gallery 901 in Evanston

  • Kindness in Action
  • Kids Create Change