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Class of 2024
Educational Studies
My passion in educational psychology is driven by my desire to help the forces that are pushing for social and emotional learning (SEL) to be integrated into U.S. public school curriculum. Connecting with my younger self I imagine the impact such an education (SEL) could have had on my experience...


Sponsoring Department
Summer 2022

Classical music hums in the background of a spacious, art decorated, toy covered, carpet
filled room. As the sunlight seeps through the window, children play freely. Free to how they
play, what they play with and whom they play with; there's a lot to be learned within so much
opportunity to experience and explore.

Danish children from the ages of 0-5 spend most of their time in early childhood carefree
playing with the presence of an observing pedagogue. Pedagogues play a much different role
than a teacher in early childhood education. These educators help children develop the tools for
being a human being rather than a student. Pedagogues are professional social facilitators and
emotional guiders. A foundational aspect of their job is understanding the complexities of the
children and their personal, social, and cultural needs. One may think that there is not much work
to be done when allowing children to play freely, but pedagogues are always working.
Specifically, pedagogues are frequently putting out little fires of conflict between and within
children. And when they're not guiding children during their free-play, pedagogues are studying
the social dynamics and social needs of each child, so that they can better understand the
perspective of each child.

Micro-interactions that inspire acknowledgment, trust, and community lay foundational
pieces for the child's social and emotional development. The consistency of guiding children is
crucial in helping them develop good social and emotional goals. Throughout my time spent in
Danish kindergartens, interviewing pedagogues, and observing kindergarten activities, I have
frequently observed acknowledging, trust and community building micro-interaction, may it be
resolving a conflict about sharing toys, playing nicely, or including others. Pedagogues guide
children to resolution by asking questions that are acknowledging the children's perspective
while guiding them to find resolutions among themselves. This social and emotional guidance
sets the children on a path to being more resilient and more competent within their social

In the U.S., early childhood education takes a very different shape. Specifically, the role
of the educator is fundamentally different. American early childhood educators take on the role
of teaching kindergartners. When we speak about developing the child's competencies in the
U.S., we may only think about improving the child's reading, writing, or mathematical abilities.
Yet, in Scandinavia, the role of the educator in early childhood education is to develop the
human being of a child not the student. This focus on human development is what pulled me to
Denmark to study early childhood education. I asked myself questions such as "Are Danish
children better equipped to take on the stressful challenges life brings to them as they grow up?"
and "Are children better able to communicate and understand their emotions because of early
childhood care in Denmark?" Hesitant to find the answers to these questions myself through
extensive qualitative research in one semester, I set off to conduct interviews on how exactly this
social and emotional learning is being conducted.

I interviewed four pedagogues from kindergartens around Copenhagen, Denmark. My
interviews yielded important first-person perspectives of how this social and emotional
development is being transmitted to children. One pedagogue said:

“When the kids are playing or they have a conflict, we go in and talk to them and help them learn
not just to cry but to use their words, talk about it, if you're sad, tell the other kid about how you
feel. We also read a lot about emotions, and we use examples. We teach them how to see it
[emotion] on other people.”

It is evident to me that emotional and social competence is not intrinsically gained but
rather learned as almost every other aspect of human development is. Pedagogues play a crucial
role in helping children develop these competencies by setting the stage and showing children
how to act out their social and emotional skills. Importantly, I feel that American early childhood
care lacks something very fundamental, and that's helping children understand what it is to be

Through the research I conducted while in Denmark, I hope to be setting myself up to
study child development in graduate school, where I plan to get the ball rolling in my passion to
integrate social and emotional learning in public education in the U.S.