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Student Video Contest is a Great Project for SEL

Having a foundation in SEL (social-emotional learning) means your students can set and achieve goals, manage their emotions, and succeed within a team. These, and other social-emotional skills, are central to the World of 8 Billion video project. So if you’re looking for a unique way for middle and high schoolers to engage with SEL, look no further.

How Does the Video Project Align with SEL?

1. SEL Core Competency: Social Awareness

Part of social awareness is identifying diverse social norms, including unjust ones, and also demonstrating empathy and compassion. As we challenge students to look at problems like gender equality, climate change, and waste, it is imperative they harbor social awareness. No matter which global topic a student selects, it is most certainly playing out uniquely in various parts of the world and by different groups. For example, how do people in other parts of the world experience gender equality? How do people of other socioeconomic levels, or of another race, experience gender equality? And what would it be like to live those other experiences?

Understanding the influences of organizations and systems on behavior will also be a part of students’ SEL competencies with the project. Can they see how the topic is influenced by economic or social systems? Are they able to determine what groups are pushing their topic of choice in different directions? Students will need to unpack the larger influences that have brought these global challenges to a head.

As students consider possible solutions, they’ll be recognizing situational demands and opportunities. What solutions are realistic in today’s climate? What are the costs of implementing this solution? Who else is working on this problem and are there ways to build off their work or create other synergies?

2. SEL Core Competency: Self-Awareness

The video project offers student choice: they select their own topic and also choose the solution they want to research and recommend. These choices provide an opportunity for students to develop their interests and a sense of purpose. Do any of these topics, or subtopics, align with their interests or passions? Then, as they dive deeper into the challenging topics of the project, challenges that perhaps aren’t directly related to them, students will also be examining prejudices and biases within themselves. They’ll need to ask themselves: how does my place in the world and my experiences color the challenge at hand?

3. SEL Core Competency: Relationship Skills

When creating their video, student filmmakers must consider how a problem relates to different people in different ways. They’ll need to demonstrate cultural competency. As they develop a solution to their global problem, and determine if it’s sustainable, they’ll want to ask themselves: Who will benefit most from this solution? Who is left out of this solution? Does this solution respect the beliefs and lived experiences of those it’s trying to help?

If your students are working in small groups to complete the video project, there are even more ways for relationship skills to come into play. Just a few of the skills needed for a successful group project include: communicating effectively, practicing teamwork and collaborative problem-solving, and showing leadership in groups.

4. SEL Core Competency: Responsible Decision-Making

How often are your students able to proactively work for the greater good? When do they have the opportunity to positively impact their world? The World of 8 Billion video project can empower your students to be a change-maker and see how their voices and actions make a difference. When choosing the subtheme for their video, students will demonstrate curiosity and open-mindedness, and through their research on the global challenge and population growth, they’ll learn how to make a reasoned judgment after analyzing information, data and facts.

Further areas of responsible decision-making are key to the video’s sustainable solution. These skills include: identifying solutions for social problems, anticipating and evaluating the consequences of one’s actions, and evaluating personal, interpersonal, community and institutional impacts. Watch as your students make ethical decisions and show their care and compassion for other people and the natural world through their videos.

5. SEL Core Competency: Self-Management

With so much room for creativity, the video project is ideal for students to practice and exhibit self-discipline and self-motivation. Especially if being done over the course of several weeks, as is often the case with the video project, students will need to keep themselves energized. They’ll also need to keep themselves organized, utilizing another SEL skill – using planning and organizational skills. The Video Project Organizer is a wonderful resource to help your students stay on task, stay on schedule, and work collaboratively. The Organizer also serves as a platform for communication and structure, whether your students are working solo or as part of a team, and can be useful when they are setting personal and collective goals. Ask your students to reflect on the process of making the video. Are they taking initiative? Are they setting goals and meeting them? Have they needed to change their organization strategy as the project evolved?

One Project, All Five SEL Competencies

Hopefully, this post gave you ideas for how the video project can be an entry point to social emotional learning.

Image credits: Group of students talking (ID 170383128 ©Kadettmann,