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Avatar: The Last Airbender and Social Emotional Learning (SEL)
By: Grey Anstiss
Photo by Flickr user Net Sama WSPN’s Brasen Chi
celebrates the 15th anniversary of “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”
When it comes to Social Emotional Learning (SEL), there are five main points to understand:

  • Self-Management 
  • Self-Awareness
  • Social Awareness 
  • Relationship Skills, and
  • Responsible Decision-Making 

Avatar: The Last Airbender, is about a world where people are born with the ability to manipulate the one of the four elements (water, earth, fire, and air) and how every century, there is a person who has the ability to manipulate all four. That is the Avatar. We follow the Avatar, Aang, in his journey to restore peace to his world, along with his friends. It is available on Netflix, and they still sell DVD’s of the series at stores like Target. The producers of Avatar: The Last Airbender used it as a great tool to teach Social Emotional Learning (SEL). While the show was targeted towards youth, it is loved by many generations, and can still be a great learning tool for children, as well as adults. It is important to teach SEL to children as they grow into adults, to make sure they are healthy and happy, although it is never too late to teach your older kids or to learn for yourself. When it comes to the main points of SEL, Avatar hits all of them.

Self-Management: “Katara”, the waterbender, is a great example to show how not to let emotions affect the journey to her goals. With the death of her mother on her mind, and the lack of mentorship from water benders, you can easily see how she lets her emotions get the best of her. But, by building resiliency and learning to cope with these emotions, she ends up making a successful journey to being a stronger water bender.

Self-Awareness: “Sokka”, Katara’s brother, is a wonderful example of self-awareness, as he is the only person in their “gang” who doesn’t have the power to manipulate (bend) elements. This makes Sokka feel inferior for much of the show, and when he finally realizes that he has talents and skills too, he flourishes.
Social Awareness: The Fire Lord’s son, “Zuko”, exemplifies how having a lack of social awareness can really affect your wellbeing and character, as his lack of empathy and cold demeanor causes a lot of trouble for him when it comes to his goals and his relationships. Once he truly looks at himself and notices how he has to work on being a better person, he really blossoms, and goes from an enemy to a friend. Showing how people can change for the better, and how his past actions were not in the best interest of him, or his friends. 

Relationship Skills: When we meet the blind earthbender, “Toph”, in the show, we instantly see how alone she is. She is very powerful and talented when it comes to using her powers, but she doesn’t make friends easily, and avoids relationships with really anyone. But, no matter how powerful you are, working in a team will almost always help. Once she is able to overcome her discomfort with teamwork, she is able to become a much better bender, and a much warmer and happier person. 

Responsible Decision-Making: The main character, “Aang”, has extremely important goals and choices, as the fate of the world sits on his shoulders. He often has to be able to make decisions quickly, as things are thrown at him rapidly and he only has so little time to master all 4 elements. In the beginning, Aang makes almost all of his decisions without a second thought, causing massive problems in the long run, or even sometimes short-term. Once he matures and learns better, planning becomes a massive asset when it comes to saving the world.

While Avatar: The Last Airbender might not be the only series showing social emotional learning, it is a great option to add to your family’s watch list to open up conversations about social and emotional wellbeing.
Learn more from our team:

News and Events
Scoop of Advice: Prevent Marijuana and Vaping Among Teens
November 11th, 2020, 6 – 7 PM (English)
November 12th, 2020, 6 – 7 PM (Spanish)

National Drug Take-Back Day
October 24th, 2020, 10 AM – 2 PM

Drop off any unused prescription drugs to a drug drop-off site near you.

Recovery Art Festival
December 5th, 2020, 1 PM – 3 PM
November 6th, 2020, 8 PM (Submission Deadline)

We are looking for artwork made by people with lived experience of recovery from addictive behaviors, such as: substance use, self-harm, gambling, and more.

For a listing of all of our events please visit: cpydcoalition.org/events
We're hiring! Apply online at: kennethyoung.org/careers
Community Resources
Need someone to talk to?
Call the Illinois #Call4Calm Helpline to get connected with a trained mental health professional. Text "TALK" or "HABLAR" to 552020.
To directly connect with Kenneth Young Center, call (847) 524-8800.
Looking for recovery resources?
For help finding harm reduction, substance use treatment, and recovery resources across Illinois, contact the Illinois Helpline for Opioids and Other Substances by calling 1-833-2FINDHELP (1-833-234-6343), texting "HELP" to 833234, or visiting: www.helplineIL.org.
Please note, our team is continuing our great work remotely as a precautionary response to COVID-19. It is best to reach us via email during regular business hours at this time.

Funding provided to the Kenneth Young Center by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), the Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) and the Illinois Department of Public Health (IDPH), and Schaumburg Township.