What is RULER in Out-of-School Time?

RULER in Out-of-School Time (OST) is an approach to social and emotional learning that is adapted from The Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence’s evidence-based approach known as RULER. RULER in OST strengthens the emotional intelligence skills of staff and young people participating in afterschool programs, camps, clubs, sports, or other spaces outside the school day.

Any program can use these resources, with no fee associated, thanks to generous support from
The Wallace Foundation.

Social and Emotional Learning in
Out-of-School Time

The Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning (CASEL) defines social and emotional learning as “the process through which children and adults acquire and effectively apply the knowledge, attitudes, and skills necessary to understand and manage emotions, set and achieve positive goals, feel and show empathy for others, establish and maintain positive relationships, and make responsible decisions.”

Integrating social and emotional learning (SEL) into out-of-school time settings improves the culture and climate of programs and benefits the emotional well-being of both adults and youth. When OST staff shift their own mindsets to recognize and understand the impact of their emotions and the emotions of others, they can have a greater influence in the lives of the youth they serve.

Learn more about the benefits of social and emotional learning

A 2019 survey conducted by the National Afterschool Association (NAA) suggests that even though programs and organizations value and implement social and emotional learning, many individuals who are part of those programs do not feel that they can speak knowledgeably about it. In our own focus group work, we have found that OST staff are in need of more effective, relevant, and engaging training in order to help the youth with whom they work.

Supporting social and emotional development does not happen by accident. RULER in OST resources can help staff and youth develop the skills necessary to recognize, understand, label, express and regulate their emotions to help them reach their goals. Experiences and intentional practice using RULER tools and skills are essential to achieving positive youth outcomes. This includes both creating warm and inclusive program climates and designing experiences that develop specific skills. These practices encourage youth engagement in expanded learning opportunities and set the stage for long-term impact on youth wellbeing.

RULER in OST Overview

RULER in OST consists of 7 staff development videos plus reflections and activities for each. The series teaches the skills and tools of emotional intelligence and other topics relevant to working with youth.

We understand training staff and implementing new approaches in OST settings can be difficult. Thus, RULER in OST implementation is flexible. Content can be completed independently by staff at their own pace or integrated into staff meetings over time.

Incorporationg RULER in OST
Into Your Program

RULER in OST was developed with input from OST leaders and staff from various geographic areas to ensure that language, imagery, and situations speak to a diverse audience. From frequent staff turnover to limited staff development time, OST settings have unique challenges. RULER OST is structured so that as staff come and go, and schedules become more demanding, there is a way to ensure that both staff and youth prioritize their emotional well-being.

RULER in OST makes onboarding new staff and ongoing training sustainable. The instructional videos are 5 to 8 minutes each and can be viewed during staff meetings or independently. Each video also includes activities and reflections.

RULER in OST leverages core routines to provide daily consistency for staff and youth. Practicing routines supports the program’s common language around emotions. Youth attend OST programs on different days or seasons. A sequenced curriculum can be ineffective when attendance can vary. RULER OST leverages routines to overcome challenges presented by inconsistent attendance to create a common language around emotions.

Depending on the program, staff might be working with a youth that ranges in age. RULER in OST addresses this challenge with helpful adaptations and the opportunity to work with older youths so they can serve as role models to younger children.

Ready to Get Started?

RULER in OST videos and resources are available at no cost. Any organized program that works with youth outside of school time (e.g., afterschool programs, camps, clubs, sports, parks, recreation programs, etc.) will be able to take advantage of RULER in OST.


Please visit our FAQ page to learn more about RULER in OST.
If you’d like to get in touch with us, please email ruler.ost@yale.edu.