Social and Emotional LearninG TOOLKIT

Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) is a student-centered approach that emphasizes:

  • students’ strengths

  • experiential, hands-on learning and skill development

  • youth voice and partnership in the learning process

  • positive, caring, and sustained relationships with mentors

Commonly used in school and after-school settings, SEL programming offers strategies and techniques helpful to other youth work professionals. Many of these strategies align with the features of effective youth development settings identified by the National Research Council. We use Social-Emotional Wellness (SEW) as a more holistic term recognizing the complementary relationship between social-emotional health and physical health.

The Social and Emotional Learning Toolkit offers web-based resources to help youth work professionals provide opportunities for social and emotional learning. Resources include manuals, activities, fact sheets, videos, and websites. The Toolkit was assembled by the Risk and Thriving in Adolescence Program Work Team, a collaboration of Cornell University, Cornell Cooperative Extension, New York State 4-H Youth Development, and external stakeholders.

A strong model of social-emotional learning benchmark rubrics can be found through our regional BOCES here, modeled after the leading organization of social-emotional learning, CASEL.

Note: the rubric speaks to stages of youth development. As always, youth development varies across individuals and groups, so these are guides and not perfect measures.


NEW! Guiding Questions for Educators: Promoting Equity Using SEL
We are a platform for all youth to come together & be heard in a safe, positive environment. We focus on mental health & wellness, harnessing peer connections as a source of strength. Our online content lies in video responses & blog posts by youth, for youth.

Social-Emotional Toolkit (MN Extension)
This toolkit includes activities, templates and tools organized around four ways to help support staff and youth in SEL. It is designed primarily for those working with youth in middle school, but with small changes the activities can be used for other age groups too. 

Who Am I? Identity Formation in Adolescence (Rachel Sumner, Cornell University, Act for Youth)

National Center on Safe Supportive Learning Environments

Self-Guided Training

Your Thoughts Matter: Navigating Mental Health (Ohio St. Extension)
What does mental health really mean? How many people are affected by mental health issues such as anxiety and depression? Be part of the solution by learning the answers to those questions and more. Intended for advanced-level youth who are interested in learning more about mental health, why it is important to overall well-being, and steps that promote understanding and action. This project is not intended as a resource for those in crisis. If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, please seek adult or professional help immediately.

Resources to Support Yoga in 4-H*

Healthy Living: Yoga for Kids (U. or Arkansas Extension)

Sample Yoga Project Sheet (U. of California, Ag and Natural Resources)

What it Takes to Teach Yoga to Teens and Tweens (from Best Practices for Yoga in Schools)

*All programming must be led by a certified yoga instructor. Please contact P.W. Wood or Nigel Gannon if you have any questions.

Resources to Support Mindfulness in 4-H

Cornell University: Let’s Meditate

California 4-H Mindfulness Resource Recommendations

Sample Mindfulness Practices: see the Mindfulness Workshop resources highlighted in the righthand column of this page.

Additional Resources supporting youth mental health


Youth Mental Health First Aid is designed to teach parents, family members, caregivers, teachers, school staff, peers, neighbors, health and human services workers, and other caring citizens how to help an adolescent (age 12-18) who is experiencing a mental health or addictions challenge or is in crisis. Youth Mental Health First Aid is primarily designed for adults who regularly interact with young people. The course introduces common mental health challenges for youth, reviews typical adolescent development, and teaches a 5-step action plan for how to help young people in both crisis and non-crisis situations. Topics covered include anxiety, depression, substance use, disorders in which psychosis may occur, disruptive behavior disorders (including AD/HD), and eating disorders. Please contact Nigel Gannon ( if you would like to discuss a training. Each training is 8.5 hours.

Be the 1 to Make a Difference Graphic

Each day in May a prominent individual will speak to his or her younger self about growing up with a mental health or learning disorder. #MyYoungerSelf shares messages of hope and courage as part of the Child Mind Institute’s Speak Up for Kids public education campaign. It’s time to end the stigma. Help us Speak Up by sharing these stories.

The Change Direction initiative is a collection of concerned citizens, nonprofit leaders, and leaders from the private sector who have come together to change the culture in America about mental health, mental illness, and wellness. This initiative was inspired by the discussion at the White House National Conference on Mental Health in 2013, which came on the heels of the Newtown, Conn. tragedy.

The goal of OK2TALK is to create a community for teens and young adults struggling with mental health problems and encourage them to talk about what they’re experiencing by sharing their personal stories of recovery, tragedy, struggle or hope. Anyone can add their voice by sharing creative content such as poetry, inspirational quotes, photos, videos, song lyrics and messages of support in a safe, moderated space. We hope this is the first step towards getting help and feeling better. Submission Guidelines

Other Strong Resources

Mental Health First Aid Blog

Your Life Your Voice

Born This Way Foundation

Active Minds: Let’s Change the Conversation About Mental Health

Time to Change: Let’s End Mental Health Discrimination

This is My Brave

The Trevor Support Center


The Greater Good Science Center studies the psychology, sociology, and neuroscience of well-being and teaches skills that foster a thriving, resilient, and compassionate society. Based at the University of California, Berkeley, one of the world’s leading institutions of research and higher education, the GGSC is unique in its commitment to both science and practice: Not only do we sponsor groundbreaking scientific research into social and emotional well-being, we help people apply this research to their personal and professional lives. More Information


For all the attention paid to weight and its health effects in medical settings, the social and emotional side is often neglected….“Weight is now one of the most frequent reasons kids are teased or bullied”…. In addition to the well-documented effects on children’s mental health and self esteem… research has shown very harmful effects on children’s eating behavior, and increased risk that they will stay sedentary and gain weight.

-Rebecca Puhl, Clinical Psychologist, University of Connecticut; Lead Author, Policy Statement for the American Academy of Pediatrics

Cornell Health

Info Series

Fact Sheet Library