Mapping a Vision for Social and Emotional Learning in Oakland

storymapping Jan 28, 2014

Safe, nurturing environments and excellent instruction have been found to result in higher academic achievement and better preparation for college, career and community life. (1) Based upon these findings, Oakland Unified School District (Oakland Unified) is working a seven-year plan to transform the educational experience of its students using Social and Emotional Learning principles.



Roots of a Social and Emotional Learning Journey Map

Over the course of a year The Grove provided ongoing graphic facilitation support to the Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) design team within the Oakland Unified School District. (2) Early on, the design team requested The Grove’s help in creating an SEL Journey Map. The team sought a panoramic visualization—one that would fit on a single page—to aid communications with internal and external stakeholder groups about SEL and its role in schools, the central office, and the community.



Associate Superintendent Curtiss Sarikey reflects on the process: “The Grove was involved and present as our design team was thinking about what SEL meant in Oakland. We needed vision and mission language to build our Journey Map about where we are and where we want to go. The process got us to the point of clarity where the product could emerge, co-constructed by different parts of our system. This way of working made space for people who don’t usually come together to meet and construct a common vision.”

When people step outside of their compartmentalized focus areas to take part in large-group conversations that result in this clarity of vision and purpose, the resulting artifact of the conversations helps them to stay on course with their stated visions and intentions.


SEL Ambassadors Use the Journey Map

In tandem with The Grove’s Storymapping® process, The Grove co-facilitated monthly meetings preparing team members to be SEL ambassadors to the community and the rest of the district. People from diverse locations and functions within the district participated—principals, a teacher’s union representative, after-school program staff, health services, Human Resources, Student Engagement staff, Youth Leadership, and more.

SEL ambassadors continue to use the Journey Map to share its vision and invite participation. The SEL work at Oakland Unified is creating a foundation of relationships full of listening and caring. The vision is to transform the lives of Oakland Unified’s staff, teachers, administrators and young people and their families—and by extension, the larger Oakland community.



This is Part Two of a two-part series on The Grove’s work with the Family, Schools and Community Partnership department of Oakland Unified School District. For Part One, click here.



1. Oakland is one of eight participating districts in a nationwide Collaborative District Initiative supported by the Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning, or CASEL. CASEL defines social emotional learning as “the process through which children and adults acquire the knowledge, attitudes, and skills they need to recognize and manage their emotions, demonstrate caring and concern for others, establish positive relationships, make responsible decisions, and handle challenging situations constructively.”

2. For example: “Research shows that SEL skills yield a host of benefits for students. A recent analysis of more than 200 rigorous studies of SEL indicates that students receiving high-quality SEL instruction demonstrated better academic performance (e.g., achievement scores an average of 11 percentile points higher than students who did not receive SEL instruction), improved attitudes and behaviors, fewer negative behaviors, and reduced emotional distress.” (

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