At their core, PE and athletics are about building good health, both physically and mentally. That’s why Social, Emotional and Ethical Learning (SEEL) is integral to both.

PE teachers teach organization skills, listening skills, leadership, stress management, goal setting, teamwork, community building and more. Lessons on empathy and respect are taught even before students get into physical skills, or are seamlessly integrated.

“This is the goal of PE, not just learning how to build a lifetime of physical activity, but learning to build the skills to support the whole child,” said Shari Smart, PE teacher in Case Middle School and water polo coach. “Even if we don’t have a separate relationship-building activity, it’s built into our curriculum.”

One such example is a warmup students do in tennis where a group of six students moves together as one with multiple balls sandwiched between their rackets, which takes communication and cooperation.

While SEEL has always been a part of the PE curriculum, Punahou in the last five years has adopted a common language around SEEL that comes from framework created by Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL). Students are really “getting it,” said Nanci Coolen, K – 8 PE Department Head and Case Middle School PE teacher. “I see students write in their reflections on class, ‘I’m being really kind to my classmates, I’m looking for someone who needs a partner, I have empathy for people who are different from me.’”

The lessons are carrying over to Punahou’s Athletics program, where over 60% of students in grades 7 – 12 play sports. The Athletics Department has partnered with Progress Through Athletics (P/ATH), a free online video library that aims to teach athletes to be better teammates. Through the partnership, Punahou is helping design SEEL lessons on identity, leadership, mindset and healthy relationships that align with Punahou’s CASEL curriculum. “We’re growing a video library so that not only Punahou students can benefit, but students worldwide can benefit and we can share a common language and skills,” said Rick Tune, interim Athletic Director and volleyball coach.

Tune believes that teaching student athletes SEEL lessons can have a ripple effect across the School. Within Athletics there is a unified motivation, so we’re trying to move all our student athletes forward, which can be a powerful force, he said. 

Students work as a team during a warmup for tennis.

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