Photo Courtesy of Megan Noonan
AHS mathematics teacher and SEE (social, emotional, and ethical) learning curriculum coordinator Megan Noonan recently traveled to New Delhi, India for the global launch of the SEE curriculum. The curriculum was crafted by the Center for Contemplative Science and Compassion-Based Ethics at Emory University in partnership with The Dalai Lama Trust and the Vana Foundation. It was implemented at Aspen High School as one of several pilot programs around the world at the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
“The way we are doing education right now is not really creating compassionate people,” Noonan said about the impetus for the curriculum.
SEE is meant to address the epidemic of depression and anxiety in teens by teaching soft skills like compassion, awareness, and ethical engagement among other things.
The program was implemented at AHS after Emory University visited Aspen in the summer of 2017 for teacher training. Throughout the 2017-2018 school year, the curriculum was planned and supported by the Leadership Team and eventually the entire faculty.
Noonan recognized the time constraints that the demanding academic schedules of many classes might pose to implementing SEE lessons every day. However, with the help of the leadership team and several committees made up of teachers, AHS merged SEE with the existing Experiential Education program. Ex-Ed already works to build compassionate relationships between students and the school had already been working to find a way to extend the reach of Ex-Ed past the week-long fall adventures all AHS students and faculty embark on.
“Ever since I’ve been [at AHS] we’ve always said we wanted Ex-Ed year round because we make these amazing bonds and then we just never see those students again. So I thought this was a great way to achieve the goal of getting Ex-Ed year round to keep the relationships we build with our students, and to keep the students together since they build such special bonds,” Noonan said.
As one of several pilot programs around the world, Noonan was invited to participate in the global launch of the curriculum at the beginning of April.
“Since we were apart of a pilot school we were invited, and Lexie Potamkin helped provide funding to bring me [to the global launch in New Delhi],” Noonan said.
Noonan participated in the conference in New Delhi as one of 1,300 educators from 37 different countries. As a member of a panel, Noonan and other teachers who had piloted the program across the world shared insight about the implementation of SEE learning and how it was working to enhance the school community.
Additionally, Noonan was able to speak one-on-one with a myriad of different educators who were interested in implementing SEE at there schools at an educational fair where she was available to answer questions.
“It was really exciting to hear about the situations [other educators] were in, and they had very specific questions about the way [AHS] did it. Everyone was really excited about our model being all about collaboration by having a committee to implement [the curriculum] and getting feedback from students and staff every time,” Noonan said. “I met people from all over: Russia, Ukraine, China, Tibet, India, and Switzerland.”
Noonan noted that AHS has robust administrative support for the program, unlike many of the other schools at the conference, and for this she is very grateful.
One of the notable attendees of the conference was His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself who has personally helped create the curriculum. He hopes SEE learning will lead the way in creating a more peaceful world.
“The 21st century will be the century of peace, the century of nonviolence, and that when problems emerge the method of facing the problems will be through non-violent means, through dialogue. The launch of this curriculum holds great promise and hope for the emergence of practical ideas and a huge wave towards making this curriculum a worldwide movement,” The Dalai Lama said at the global launch in New Delhi.
With the help of Noonan, AHS hopes to lead the way in creating a more peaceful world, which in essence is what SEE learning works to promote.