Nicole Hensel is the Executive Director of New Era Colorado, Colorado’s largest and most effective youth civic engagement organization. She lives in Denver, Colorado.

Last Tuesday, we saw election results in Colorado like we have never seen before. The people have spoken: but more importantly, young people have spoken. Young adults ages 18–34 turned out at record levels across the country, most notably here in Colorado where young people turned out at 70% and made up 27% of the vote share (final numbers still pending). …

In this month’s thought piece, my co-founder Erin Raab describes the 5 design principles to foster human flourishing and democratic citizenship in schools. One of the 5 design principles is slack, the feeling that you have more than you need of a resource. Slack is intended to offset the effects of scarcity, or the feeling that there is never enough.

“There is never enough time in the day.” Time is commonly listed as the top constraint in schools. With an increased focus in the last decade on closing achievement gaps and “college and career ready” standards, teachers and leaders feel…

In my last blog post, I wrote about the Peace Circle, a tool that I used in my classroom to foster empathy, problem-solving, and emotional resilience. In the Peace Circle, my students practiced how to listen and act with respect to the needs and rights of their peers. You may be surprised, but Kindergarteners are apt to explore important democratic issues such as individual rights and fairness (e.g., “You broke my crayon and now I feel angry!”; or, “You were distracting me at the carpet by pulling my shoelaces, which disrupted my learning!”). …

Grit. Curiosity. Zest. Gratitude. If you walk into any school these days, you’ll likely see banners across the halls or in classrooms listing these traits or others, often referred to as social-emotional or “soft” skills.

Over the past several years, schools across the country have placed an extra emphasis on social-emotional learning in hopes of better preparing their students for successful lives. In 1994, the Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, or CASEL, began advocating for the inclusion of social-emotional learning, “…with the goal of establishing high-quality, evidence-based social and emotional learning as an essential part of preschool through…

“As a former Kindergarten teacher, I worry that too few children are getting that kind of transformational experience with reading today. My concern stems from our national conversations about why we teach reading, which shapes how we teach reading and thus students’ experiences with literacy.”

Me and my best friend/Kindergarten teammate, Ali. I also wore my Hermione robes as a teacher to school on “Favorite Book Character Day.” My students didn’t know who Hermione was so I abruptly stopped my planned lesson to teach them about the brightest witch of her age.

My parents call me a “voracious reader” — I’ve been this way for as long as I can remember. Whenever a new Harry Potter book would come out, I would lock myself in my room for two days straight, only accepting food and water, until I finished it entirely. Escaping to another world, seeing my lived experience reflected in another’s, being inspired to live with courage and fight against evil, (and not to mention, finding the strength to wear my Hermione robes to school despite persistent social ridicule)– this, to me, was the power of reading. …

Why asking the wrong questions in education can have negative impacts on both students and teachers. This post was originally published on December 3, 2017.

I hail from a family of educators. Both of my grandparents were career teachers, and my father has been a college professor for almost 40 years. However, I didn’t become a teacher because it was a family tradition. I became a teacher because I believe education is the greatest tool by which people can become empowered to lead lives worth living, and for us as a country to create a more beautiful society. …

Nicole Hensel

Believer in a more just and fair society - through education.

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