Officially Launching Do Something Extraordinary!

Three years ago, Jess, Director of Cairn Guidance, experienced her own call to action. During the summer of 2013, she successfully completed a 23-year-old dream of bicycling 4,197 miles across the country. Solo. In her keynote address, Jess shares the extraordinary journey of preparing and fulfilling a major life goal, and relates her experience to key lessons that empower leaders to create positive change within the public health, sports and education sectors. Jess is able to customize her keynote to benefit diverse audiences, and breathes life into her narrative by sharing photos and videos that incorporate the balance of work and play. She motivates her audiences to create personal calls to action, and has her participants up and moving throughout the hour-long presentation to provide an atmosphere that welcomes movement, connection,
and change. 

In sharing her story, Jess hopes to inspire give a voice to audience members’ own personally and professionally journeys, daring them to do something extraordinary to create lasting change. 

Follow us @DSE_Today
To learn more, visit

College Student Creative Expression of Reproductive Topics, Including Abortion

By Samantha Lowe

During my graduate studies at Morehead State I was given the opportunity to further my research and analyze student's perceptions of birth control (birth control was not defined and included all forms of contraceptives) and abortion. This further analysis was presented at the Wilma Grote Symposium for the Advancement of Women at Morehead State University.

With recent political events, such as the magnificent Global Women's March, I felt it was time to revisit this subsection of my research.  What are young Appalachians' views on women's reproductive health? And does holding a politically conservative or liberal point of view influence opinions?

Metaphors for the selected reproductive health items: “Having an abortion is like” and “Taking birth control is like” were coded for use of negative, neutral or positive language. Negative language included violent imagery, while positive language included normalizing the event. Stimuli coded by 6 independent undergraduate students was checked for agreement by inter-rater reliability statistics.

Surprisingly, holding a conservative or liberal perspective had no effect on the amount of violent imagery used to respond to our abortion stimuli. While this may seem shocking as the two parties appear as opposites on this issue; it is the regions lacking sex education programs that lead young adults to see abortions as inherently violent, rather than the medical procedure that they are. The vast majority of participants responded with “murder” to our “having an abortion is like” stimuli, taking this into consideration it is possible that for the Appalachian region the word “murder” could potentially be classified as a Frozen Metaphor (Frozen Metaphor: has been so imbedded in common language that it now viewed as literal language). Below is a table of student responses.

Wait. Systems change, from a board game??

By Liz Thorne, VP of Policy and Programs, Cairn Guidance

I don’t like board games. Even when I was young, not interested. I had friends who would play Monopoly for hours, DAYS even, and I just could not buy in. And Yahtzee. Just shaking dice in a cup and rolling them? How boring!

I had heard about the Systems Thinking Systems Changing™ Simulation from Jess for years.  Affectionately referred to as the “Systems Game.” I heard stories of her facilitating groups of hundreds of participants through the process, and stories of participants that would recall their experience from the process at a conference years later. How could a board game teach participants about the complexities of systems change? I was skeptical.

A couple weeks ago I had the opportunity to participate in the Systems Game for the first time. In just under 4 hours and through my team’s simulated 3-year grant, we tried to implement a new school initiative in our community. We ran into barriers and made the mistakes that are so often cited in grant reports and peer-reviewed journals. We met resistance in the community that wasn’t expected. We tried to implement before we had gotten everybody on board. We didn’t link our activities to our long-range vision. At the end of our first virtual year, my team thought, “we are never going to get anything done.” How often have we uttered that at the end of a year of grant funding??

Participating in the Systems Game reiterated for me the importance of relationship building. This was a recurring theme in a recent grant application we just submitted focused on systems change in schools. It’s a one-year grant and our main focus? Building relationships and gaining community-buy in. Connecting the work of the grant with the vision of the community and connecting that to what schools are held accountable for.

We are looking forward to facilitating the Systems Thinking Systems Changing™ for grantees of the Family and Youth Services Bureau (FYSB) Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention Programs in Savannah, Georgia next week. The participants will participate in a two-day version that allows plenty of time for processing, reflection and action planning for their projects back in their communities. 

Building a National Cadre of Trainers!

Middle School educators! We are partnering with the Dove Self Esteem Project to build a national cadre of health/PE teachers, school nurses and school counselors that work at the middle school level and are interested in helping promote this FREE body confidence curriculum. 

Our goal is to reach 1.5 million youth with this program in 2017. In order to do that, we are building capacity by selecting Ambassadors from many regions of the US in order to reach more educators. To read more about the expectations, stipend and application process, go here. We are accepting applications through February 15 2017. 

Upcoming HECAT Training of Trainers in Washington DC

After a much- needed vacation this upcoming week, I will be facilitating a Health Education Curriculum Analysis Tool training for the DC Office of the State Superintendent of Education. Twenty lead educators supporting school health/health education will participate in a two-day training of trainers (ToT) to equip them with the skills and knowledge to effectively train, teach, and utilize the tool to write lessons, units, develop a scope and sequence, analyze current curricula programs, align program to health education standards and determine feasibility of implementation of programs. 

We are looking forward to facilitating this ToT again and excited to meet new teachers in the DC area!

Follow along @cairnguidance #DCHealthEd January 31- February 1, 2017

We are hiring!

Cairn Guidance is working with the Dove (Unilever) Self Esteem Program to spread implementation of a middle school curriculum program developed to help young people develop a positive relationship with the way they look (body confidence). The Dove Confident Me Project has been implemented in over 112 countries and Cairn Guidance is charged with bringing the curriculum to young people in the United States. It is generally implemented in middle school health classes and there are two programs available- a 45-minute, single lesson or five 45-minute lessons. See for more information on the program.

The Ambassador Program will be made up of at least 20 educators/health professionals from across the United States. The Ambassadors will be responsible for presenting the program to schools and districts in their region, market the program via social media, newsletters and listservs and presenting/exhibiting at regional conferences. Ambassadors will receive an annual stipend.

The Ambassador Program Coordinator role will be hired as a consultant to Cairn Guidance, Inc. (non-employee status). The duration of the role will be February 2017-December 31, 2017 with opportunities to continue, pending funding. Pay commensurate with experience but range will be $40-60/hour. This contract is up to 850 hours for the time period listed averaging 15 hours per week. There may be potential to expand hours over time.

To read the Coordinator job description and for more information on applying to be an Ambassador go our our DSEP website page here.

Peace and Joy from Cairn Guidance


Dear School & Community Health Partners,
Happy Holidays & Happy New Year from the Cairn Guidance Team! As exciting as it is to grow our team, it means increased hours, more meetings, and of course, more stress. 2017 will be an exciting year for us as we have internally committed to participating in two team wellness events and individually, three personal balance goals.

Our team is working on how we take care of ourselves so that we can continue to be present, commit the time and energy to fulfill our mission of creating places of health and well-being where all youth are healthy, connected, educated and achieving their full potential.

We also believe that helping others is incredibly important. Below, we share three organizations that are near and dear to each of our hearts. We encourage you to check them out, donate to them or just become aware of their social cause.

American Refugee Committee Providing opportunities and expertise to refugees, displaced people and host communities. is building a global grassroots climate movement that can hold our leaders accountable to the realities of science and the principles of justice.
Representation 20/20 working to level the playing field for women candidates across the racial, political, and geographic spectrum so that our nation's rich diversity is reflected in our elected bodies.

Momentum Alliance a youth-led organization that inspires young people to realize their individual and collective power to create social change
Pixie Project a non-profit animal adoption and rescue center
Women’s Foundation of Oregon focuses on improving the lives of women and girls.

The True Colors Fund The True Colors Fund is working to end homelessness among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, creating a world in which all young people can be their true selves.
Planned Parenthood a nonprofit organization that provides reproductive health services both in the United States and globally.
The Appalachian Community Fund is a publicly supported, non-profit grant-making organization that provides resources and support to grassroots organizations working to overcome the underlying causes of poverty and injustice in Central Appalachia (East Tennessee, Eastern Kentucky, Southwest Virginia and West Virginia). 

In health,
Liz, Jess & Samantha

Metaphors for Sex Education

By Samantha Lowe

During my master’s studies at Morehead State University I oversaw the Human Sexuality Research Lab, where we focused on young adult’s ability to speak metaphorically about sexual and non-sexual stimuli. While the Human Sexuality side of the research was my passion, it was my mentor/university mother/lab director who turned me on to the educational use of metaphoric language. Below is my final research project from my Master’s studies, this research was first presented at the Midwestern Psychological Association in May of 2016 and then again as an oral presentation at Morehead State University’s Celebration of Student Scholarship.  

A Vagina is an Ugly Duckling: Metaphors for Sex Education



Metaphors have been used as teaching devices since the earliest writings of civilization, along with being used to facilitate learning of new information; metaphors can be used to communicate unobservable internal feelings and emotional states that are often difficult to describe using only literal language (Ortony, 1975). Creating a metaphor challenges the individual to look at a subject in a new light, searching for a comparison or common ground with another subject, object, or emotion. All while provoking a more extensive thought pattern associated with the subject (vehicle) of the metaphor (McClure, 1989). Metaphoric speech promotes concise and vivid communication (Fainsilber & Ortony, 1987).

Fainsilber & Ortony, (1987), outlined three hypotheses for the use of metaphoric speech:

Inexpressibility hypothesis: facilitates communication that cannot be readily expressed through literal language

Compactness hypothesis: metaphors are used for a compact means of communication

Vividness hypothesis: metaphors help capture the vividness of a phenomenal experiences that may not be expressed through literal language

Fainsilber & Ortony, (1987), found that more intense emotions lead to more metaphor production, when describing intense feeling states, people are more likely to generate striking and complex metaphors to explain how they feel. Thus, we can assume that intense subjects such as human sexuality will result in more metaphoric speech. Speaking metaphorically can create a more comfortable environment, it is because of the embedded sex negative mentality that adolescents feel intrinsically uncomfortable talking about sex in a face-to-face manner. To combat this we have taken advantage of computer based interviews, were people tend to feel less self-conscious and diminishing the chance of embarrassment (Taylor, 2003). Research on the personality profiles of liberal and conservatives found that liberals tend to score higher on measures of openness, cognitive flexibility, and integrative complexity. While conservatives tend to possess stronger needs for order, structure, and decisiveness (Carney, Jost, Gosling & Potter, 2008). Longitudinal studies of liberals and conservatives find common personality characteristics are expressed in elementary school; long before prescribing to a political affiliation (Block & Block, 2006). Future Liberals were described as energetic, emotionally expressive, gregarious, and impulsive. While future Conservatives were described as ridged, inhibited, indecisive, fearful, and over controlled.


       Liberals will produce more metaphors than their conservative counterparts.

       Metaphor production will be higher in the online condition than the face-to-face condition.


Participants are randomly assigned to the online or face-to-face condition. Participants assigned to the online condition completed the interview via SurveyMonkey, in an uncontrolled environment.

Participants assigned to the face-to-face condition were interviewed by two experimenters, a transcriber and an inquirer. Participants’ responses were audibly and visually recorded by a video camera.

The method of using alternative communicative media to facilitate openness has been used since the 1950’s, in an experiment by Aronson and Mills, where women were split into two conditions and had to read an erotic passage. In the “comfortable” group, women were able to read the passage over an intercom while the “uncomfortable” group had to read the passage in person (Aronson & Mills, 1959).

Participants in both conditions completed a demographics questionnaire with self-report virginity item, Sociocultural Attitude Scale (SCAS), Reading of a persuasive speech; either promoting metaphoric or literal speech and a Metaphor Production task about sexual and non-sexual topics.

The SCAS consisted of 15 Items in Likert scale form (1= Strongly Disagree, 4= Neutral, 7=Strongly Agree). Participants who scored over 56 were categorized as Conservative; Participants who scored under 56 were categorized as Liberal. The scale had a moderate level of internal consistency, as determined by a Cronbach’s alpha of 0.727.


  • Main effect of completion F(1,306)=10.972, MSE=311.864, P=.001, with no significant results in the interview condition.
  • Significantly less metaphors were produced in the face-to-face condition.
  • Main effect of the type of persuasive speech, F(1,306)=18.013,MSE=512.003, P=.000, with the metaphoric speech facilitating more metaphor production.
  • A significant interaction was found between type of persuasive speech and virginity, F(1,306)=9.715, MSE=276,143, P=.002, with virgins being more influenced by the type of speech
  • Surprisingly, we found males (M=9.65, SD=6.48) overall produced more metaphors than females (M=7.75, SD=6.93)



Participants with prior sexual experiences spoke metaphorically despite the type of persuasive speech, indicating that metaphoric speech is the preferred way of speaking about sexual topics. Ortony (1975), insists that metaphors are an essential element of communication and consequently can be of great educational value. Future research should analyze the possible use of metaphoric speech within sex education courses as a facilitator of openness, relatability, and comfortableness. Examining the effectiveness of instructing sex education courses via internet is another potential route for future research. There is strong technology push within public schools, and the resources to enact online/homework based sex education are more readily available. Motivation to learn about this exciting subject (sex) is present, but when the adolescent is presented with conflicting ideas pertaining to their idea of human sexuality; barriers are erected and the ability to interpret other ideas as educational grinds to halt (Chapman & Werner-Wilson, 2008). Mark, A. (1988), used song lyrics as a facilitator of conversation and openness with “hard-to-reach” adolescents, accomplished by creating an environment of acceptance and familiarity while addressing difficult and controversial topics. Song lyrics incorporate many metaphors, evidence for students being more open when presented with song lyrics can buttress the idea for the incorporation of metaphors into sex education teaching methods. 


Balance During the Holidays

Last month, the Cairn Guidance team spent two days working on our new five year strategic plan. We came up with three big strategic directions, including:

  • Positioning for Growth and Sustainability;
  • Equipping Educators to Institute School Health; and
  • Building a Team Culture of Wellness and Balance.

It's an exciting time to have an exceptional team in place. We are growing in many ways! We've tripled our staff and increased the number of clients we have at any given time from an average of 8 to 14. We have diversified our geographic reach in the United States and the content we are working on has broadened.

With growth, as exciting as it is, comes more hours, increased number of proposal to write, calls, meetings, invoices, and of course, more stress. Because our team prioritized balance and wellness for ourselves, I'm excited to plan what this really means for us internally. How do we take care of ourselves so that we can continue to be present, commit the time and energy to fulfill our mission of creating places of health and well-being where all youth are healthy, connected, educated and achieving their full potential?

Next week, our team will begin to take a deep dive into the Building a Team Culture of Wellness and Balance portion of our strategic plan and set achievable goals and timelines. We'll keep you posted and encourage you to continue to take care of YOU first, even if you have a staff, clients, life partner, spouse or children! 

Happy Holidays from the Cairn Guidance Team!
Jess, Liz, and Samantha