Middle School

Why Do Middle School Students Need Social and Emotional Learning?

Middle schoolers are transitioning from childhood to adolescence, this transition can be a confusing time and can have effects on their emotions and behaviors. This phase is marked by the onset of puberty, which usually makes teens unpredictable and moody. During adolescence, teens are discovering who they are and how they fit into society. You may notice adolescents acting in ways you have never seen before, this is merely their process of identifying who they are as an individual and where/how they fit into the “bigger picture.” They also tend to pull away from their parents and begin to care more about gaining acceptance from their peers.

During this tumultuous time, it is important for teens to learn skills that will help them in their self­-discovery process and their social interactions so they can be successful. Durlak, Weissberg, et al. (2011) conducted a meta­-analysis of 213 studies of social and emotional learning (SEL) in schools. Their report shows that students who receive quality SEL programming demonstrated:

  • better academic performance
  • improved attitudes and behaviors
  • fewer negative behaviors
  • reduced emotional distress


LST is the evidence-­based curriculum we use in the middle schools. LifeSkills® Training is a substance abuse prevention program which focuses on the psychological and social factors which cause individuals to engage in risky behaviors (ie., substance abuse, violence, etc.). The curriculum consists of 18 lessons which focus on engaging adolescents to provide them with the confidence and skills necessary to handle various challenging situations.

Community Building Sessions™ is a program which helps in developing a positive classroom community where students feel they belong, are significant members of the group, and build connections with peers.

What it looks like in practice

Our Community Building Sessions™ program was implemented as part of the summer STEP program in Hillsborough County for the second year. Both the teachers and students have testified to the positive results Community Building Sessions™ have had on their class.

In the 2015/2016 school year, Frameworks programming will be in every middle school in Hillsborough County. This fall elective teachers will be conducting 10­-days of Community Building Sessions™ with their 6th-grade students. Come the spring, the elective teachers will all 18 lessons from the LifeSkills® Training curriculum to their 6th-grade students. This project will be a cumulative roll­-out so that by the 2017/2018 school year Social and Emotional Learning will be implemented school­-wide in every middle school in Hillsborough County.