Rutgers psychology expert Maurice Elias is available to discuss how to talk about coronavirus in school using social and emotional learning.

“Children need to know that they are safe, that their school is a safe place and that if they practice good hygiene in and out of school, they can be safe as well,” said Elias, a psychology professor at the School of Arts and Sciences and director of the Social-Emotional and Character Development Lab,. “Conversations in science can address the nature of infectious diseases, how they are caught and transmitted, vaccines, etc. Conversations in social studies might address the geography of the spread of the virus and look at news articles. Discussions in math can cover infection rates, mortality rates, different outcomes for different groups and the least negative outcomes for children. Conversations in language arts might focus on stories related to the outbreak, such as those on the cruise ships, those in self-quarantine, etc. Communication during health and physical ed classes can focus on keeping oneself generally healthy and fit act as a protective process against any illness.

“Time should be spent to allow children to vent their feelings and concerns, using the Yes-No-Maybe pedagogy,” he continued. “In essence, the teaching involves posing questions like, ‘I don’t think there is any chance I can get the coronavirus, I am worried about family members who might get the coronavirus, I want to know more about the coronavirus,’ and having children respond Yes-No-Maybe to that question. Group those with similar answers to share perspectives. Then, hear summaries from all subgroups. This kind of discussion allows for all students to speak and can be followed up appropriately by teachers based on what they are hearing.”

Elias is an expert in social-emotional and character development, emotional intelligence, social competence promotion, character education, primary prevention, school-based, evidence-based intervention and socialization of identity.


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