The Covid-19 pandemic shifted the education landscape and, in many cases, will have lasting impacts on students and schools in the coming 21/22 school year. The need for social emotional learning (SEL) will be prevalent as students return to classrooms and navigate the social dynamics with peers at school after a year of social distancing and in many ways isolation. Entrepreneurship education is an avenue for students to gain key SEL skills and engage in their learning as they begin the school year.  

SEL is commonly broken into 5 core competencies as described by The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL).   

  1. Understand and manage emotions. 
  2. Achieve positive goals. 
  3. Show empathy for others. 
  4. Establish and maintain positive relationships. 
  5. Make responsible decision. 

Teachers can help students succeed in and outside of the classroom by intentionally incorporating SEL in their lessons. These examples show how you can integrate SEL and entrepreneurship education activities.  

1. Understand and Manage Emotions: Emotions of an Entrepreneur 

The road to starting a business and entrepreneurship is dynamic with many highs and lows. Entrepreneurs engage in some level of risk that can amplify emotions depending on the outcomes of the venture along the startup journey. As students move through the early stage of starting a business, they will likely experience a range of emotions from excitement to disappointment. Students should be prompted to check-in and be aware of what they are feeling throughout the stages of their startup journey.  

Activity #1: Self-reflection. Plan for self-reflection activities at frequent intervals throughout the class to help students become more aware of their emotions and brainstorm ways to manage them when necessary. A good reminder for students is to manage their expectation throughout the journey to mitigate disappointment. 

2. Achieve Positive Goals: Setting personal and business goals 

The nature of starting a business lends itself well to setting out on a path to achieve well defined goals. Goals also might need to evolve or change and that’s okay, as long as the change is made consciously by the student through an informed decision.  

Activity #2: At the start of the course of students define the goals for their business and at least one personal goal. An example of a personal goal might be to learn more marketing skills or work on refining their communication skills. Have students go back to their goals and evaluate their progress periodically.  

3. Show Empathy for Others: Empathy interviews 

Empathy interviews are a way that students can learn more about their future customers and the solution they are providing through their product or service. An empathy interview is for students to spend time listening to a potential customers problem and taking detailed notes during the conversation.  

Activity #3: Students conduct 5-10 empathy interviews with potential customers that are experiencing a similar problem solved by the students’ venture. Remind students that the goal is for them to actively listen and ask open ended questions to collect as much information as possible.  

4. Establish and Maintain Positive Relationships: Joint venture and customer relationships 

Give students the opportunity to join forces and work together as a team or find a mentor to support them on their startup journey. Working together as a team helps students cultivate collaborative skills and navigate group decision making. Students who work with a mentor will gain experience of how to build positive relationships with senior and experienced members of a team, which is helpful for working after high school. 

Activity #4: Have students reflect on positive relationships in their lives and write down 3 examples of actions they took to help improve or continue nurturing the relationship.

5. Make Responsible Decisions: Business strategy and financing  

As students plan and start their business there are a multitude of decisions, they must make that provide them with opportunities to practice responsible decision making. Responsible decision making encompasses decisions informed by ethical standards, safety concerns, and a consideration of the well-being of oneself and others (CASEL, 2020). 

Activity #5: Have students outline key ethical standards for their business, along with any safety protocols and requirements. Students can create these documents for the internal management of their company and relating to future staff and as they relate to the production or offering of their product or service.