See inside one of Michigan’s first centers for social and emotional learning

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KALAMAZOO, MI–Kids of all ages in Kalamazoo Public Schools have new tools to help them learn.

The new Center for Social and Emotional Learning and Professional Development helps students learn about their emotions and houses sensory equipment such as rocking chairs and tools to help students focus in class.

Located in the old Oakwood Elementary building at 3140 Laird Ave., the center hosts family home evenings, classes for adult English learners, and a number of other community resources, including a food pantry.

READ MORE: Mathematics, science and emotions? New Kalamazoo center houses holistic approach to child rearing

Kalamazoo Public Schools Culture and Climate Coach Shannon Parlato spoke about the importance of social and emotional learning.

“For a diverse school district like KPS, we want to meet all of our students’ social and emotional needs because we want to make sure we’re helping the whole child,” Parlato said.

Different spaces spread around the center include special sensory chairs and lounges where families can meet and children can play. The library is filled with books that deal with emotions and focus on SEL. Teachers can borrow books from the library for classroom lessons.

The center responds to the needs that contribute to a child’s learning.

“When we have our center for social-emotional learning, we can make sure that we’re addressing mental health needs, any behavioral needs that they might have with something, like hustle and different strategies,” said Parlato. “We teach our students how to identify their feelings and emotions and help them use strategies for success.

RELATED: Kalamazoo Public Schools Opens District-Wide Social-Emotional Learning Center

The center serves as a model for what SEL tools might look like inside a classroom. But also, when teachers see a child in need, SEL staff can bring those same tools into the classroom.

According to the Michigan Department of Education, social and emotional learning encompasses self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. KPS used a $1 million grant from the Stryker Johnston Foundation in 2020 to expand SEL initiatives and grow the center.

Kalamazoo Public Schools Social and Emotional Learning Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. The SEL Center is located at 3410 Laird Ave, formerly Oakwood Elementary. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

KPS SALT Center

KPS Culture and Climate Coach Shannon Parlato demonstrates an expanding ball at the Kalamazoo Public Schools Social and Emotional Learning Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. The SEL Center is located at 3410 Laird Ave, which was formerly Oakwood Elementary. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

KPS SALT Center

A zen garden at the Kalamazoo Public Schools Social and Emotional Learning Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. The SEL Center is located at 3410 Laird Ave, which was formerly Oakwood Elementary. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

KPS SALT Center

The library at the Kalamazoo Public Schools Social and Emotional Learning Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. The SEL Center is located at 3410 Laird Ave, formerly Oakwood Elementary. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

KPS SALT Center

Kalamazoo Public Schools Social and Emotional Learning Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. The SEL Center is located at 3410 Laird Ave, formerly Oakwood Elementary. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

KPS SALT Center

Kalamazoo Public Schools Social and Emotional Learning Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. The SEL Center is located at 3410 Laird Ave, formerly Oakwood Elementary. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

KPS SALT Center

Kalamazoo Public Schools Social and Emotional Learning Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. The SEL Center is located at 3410 Laird Ave, formerly Oakwood Elementary. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

KPS SALT Center

The pantry at the Kalamazoo Public Schools Social and Emotional Learning Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. Food in the pantry is provided by the South Michigan Food Bank and Loaves and Fishes. The SEL Center is located at 3410 Laird Ave, formerly Oakwood Elementary. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

KPS SALT Center

The library at the Kalamazoo Public Schools Social and Emotional Learning Center in Kalamazoo, Michigan on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2022. The SEL Center is located at 3410 Laird Ave, formerly Oakwood Elementary. (Joel Bissell | MLive.com)Joel Bissell | MLive.com

Click here to view all interior photos of the new SEL Center.

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