Why we invested our life savings to create a company focused on Social Emotional Learning

Photo: Peekapak

Let me know if you’ve ever experienced this feeling.

You look at your child or a group of children, and you wonder what kind of person they will grow up to become. Will they be kind? Will they be compassionate? Will they become benevolent leaders, movers and shakers, good-hearted citizens of the world?

You know you can’t control their outcome, but as teachers and parents, we have an opportunity today to maybe, just maybe, influence — or dare I say, safeguard — a bit of our child’s future.

How? By teaching our children character education and social-emotional learning (SEL) skills from a young age so that topics like gratitude, empathy, perseverance, and respect become not just something they hear about, but a part of who they are.

Why SEL?

Nobel Laureate, Dr. James J. Heckman, says: “Early childhood learning drives education, career and life success — with character development being the most important factor. These resources need to be made available to families.”

First, let’s take a step back. What is social-emotional learning? With social-emotional competence, students possess the ability to manage and express themselves internally and externally. These skills help them form relationships, solve problems, and adapt, learn and grow. Says Daniel Goleman in Emotional Intelligence (1995): “It’s a different way of being smart.”

In the past couple of years, there has been a rising interest in SEL in schools. Research has consistently shown that learning skills like perseverance and teamwork are critical in setting the foundation for learning and growth.

Results from a 20-year study released in July 2015 saw that children who scored high on social skills were four times as likely to graduate from college than those who scored low. Learning these essential skills helps us prepare our children to become responsible and caring adults.

But …

It’s often difficult for us to know what to teach and how to teach it. These topics are big and complex … how do we turn them into child-sized, child-friendly lessons our kids actually want to learn?

This is the very question we faced when my co-founder, Ami, and I created Peekapak. We knew we wanted to help make the world a better place (cheesy, but true!), and that we needed to start and do something … immediately! And that something was, and is, to help children become the best possible versions of themselves. Hence, we pooled our life savings to create a company and a curriculum using storytelling and interactive lessons that makes character education and SEL fun, easy and seamless for teachers, parents, and especially children that kids learn without realizing it and constantly ask for more.

How have we accomplished this?

Photo: Peekapak

1. Through engaging storytelling. We’ve created a world with original characters that are fresh, relevant and exciting. Each of our stories focuses on a different topic (empathy, gratitude, and self-regulation, amongst others) and uses vivid illustrations, humor, and lovable characters to teach.

2. Through fun classroom lessons. The learning from the stories are extended and enhanced through hands-on, playful activities led by teachers.

3. Through parent involvement. Children learn best when their parents are involved. We’ve created the curriculum and technology to enable teachers and parents to work as partners in a child’s learning by extending classroom learning into the home.

Ami and I have made it our mission to ensure that all teachers, parents and students are able to access stories and lessons that teach these important SEL topics, regardless of resources … which means that anyone can sign up for free.

Our most current unit is on empathy, a cornerstone 21st century skill in building relationships, embracing differences, gaining global perspectives, thinking critically, and communicating more effectively. In fact, did you know that research shows an impressive correlation between students’ empathetic understanding and their academic performance? (Bonner, T. D., & Aspy, D. N. (1984)). Henry Ford once said: “If there is any great secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.”

Thanks for joining us in guiding children today become compassionate and empathetic citizens of the world tomorrow.

About Peekapak

You can sign up for your free account on www.peekapak.com to view stories and lessons about empathy and other topics. Please let us know how we’re doing and how you and your children are using Peekapak. As a small company, your feedback is invaluable to us. Drop us a line any time at: hello@peekapak.com.

Bio: Angie Chan is Co-founder at Peekapak, a free social-emotional learning platform for teachers and parents.