Our Motivation

Why the Work We Do Is So Important.

Our Vision

To ensure that all children are equipped with the life skills and abilities to become responsible, empathetic adults who lead enjoyable and healthy lives. The skills developed through social and emotional learning (SEL), as well as physical activity, are crucial to this outcome. Each can have a positive impact and promote a host of social, emotional, mental, physical, academic & career benefits.

The Challenge

The introduction of Common Core standards prompted most schools to focus on academics – even in many kindergarten and pre-K classrooms. The sad fact is that most schools do not have (or make) the time to teach, model and practice critical non-academic skills that help children with self and social awareness, as well as relationship skills like communication and empathy. They have also reduced the hours of physical education and recess.

Social & Emotional Learning (SEL)

The data strongly suggest that in the early years, SEL skills are more effective than academic training for producing later academic success – meaning that young children who are taught problem-solving and decision-making skills are typically smarter than others.

Ref: CASEL: Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning

Benefits of SEL:

  • Better academic performance: achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction
  • Improved attitudes and behaviors toward school: greater motivation to learn, deeper commitment to school, decreased number of classes missed, increased time devoted to schoolwork, more focused, better concentration and better classroom behavior
  • Fewer negative behaviors: decreased disruptive class behavior, noncompliance, impulsive aggression, delinquent acts, and disciplinary referrals; Less likely to engage in fighting and more tolerant of frustration
  • Reduced emotional distress: fewer reports of student depression, anxiety, stress, loneliness and withdrawal
  • Increased quality of life: Better with relationships, are less likely to engage in risky and/or antisocial behavior, more likely to lead happy and productive lives

Ref: Durlak, Weissberg et al, Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, 2008

Benefits of Physical Activity

  • Stimulates brain development and growth of nerve cells & connections
  • Improves academic achievement & behavior (higher grades & test scores)
  • Increases focus, impulse control, memory & creativity
  • Reduces symptoms of anxiety, stress and depression by 25% to 50%
  • Builds greater confidence, self-worth, satisfaction with body image & feelings of social acceptance
  • Strengthens peer relationships & bonds with parents
  • Enhances communication, teamwork, leadership & problem-solving skills
  • Decreases the risk of many diseases including Cancer, Heart Disease, Stroke, Alzheimer’s

Ref: Collaborative for Academic, Social & Emotional Learning, 2008, Markham and Greenough, 2004; Pearson-Fuhrhop et al., 2009, Aspen Institute, Project Pay

The Perfect Combination

The overlap in the benefits of SEL and physical activity, which makes for an incredibly valuable pairing. At this point, however, our schools are failing in these areas. At GAALS + PAALS, we believe it’s vital that we help develop our children as a whole  – which will give them an advantage in every area of life. 


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