Urban School Wellness Coalition

This week, Jamie Sparks and I co-facilitated two sessions of the Urban School Wellness Coalition convened by Action for Healthy Kids. This Coalition, comprised of thirty large urban districts came together in Denver to network, share stories, gain knowledge around Wellness Policies, the WellSATEvery Students Succeed Act (ESSA), Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child (WSCC) and observe WSCC in action at a local school!

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Jamie and I spent about 90 minutes Tuesday afternoon on ESSA. We introduced the federal legislation, including key Titles for those unfamiliar with it, shared Cairn Guidance's State ESSA Analysis, and allowed district participants time to review their states' analysis to determine opportunities and challenges within their districts as they move ahead. Yesterday, we spent the morning on WSCC- introducing the framework, sharing effective practices around the school health approach, systems thinking; systems changing, creating buy-in and addressing resistance and brought participants through a variety of engaging activities in order for districts to essentially begin to see how ESSA and WSCC, advocacy, support, implementation are feasible and achievable at home!

We created and share our ESSA/WSCC Symbaloo page- a page that showcases the most current, helpful resources in the school health field. Feel free to share with your colleagues.

We were honored to have the chance to network, socialize, share, train education leaders around the country this week- what a fabulous group truly dedicated to shifting the norms of how we define school success in the United States. 

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Since 2013, the Urban School Wellness Coalition brings together urban district health and wellness leaders to facilitate discussion around mutually important issues, provide opportunities to share information, network with peers, coordinate joint efforts, and inform urban educational leaders on the importance of student health as a driver of academic success.
— Action for Healthy Kids

Next week... SHAPE America, in Boston!

Next week, 5500+ health educators, physical educators, dance educators will be coming together for SHAPE America's annual convention, held in Boston this year. It's not only SHAPE's biggest annual event, but it's March Madness & St Patrick's Day. Let the craziness begin. 5500+ fellow educators creating, learning, facilitating, presenting, sharing, networking and advocating for the whole child. 

The Cairn Guidance team will be there in full force... we will be exhibiting for the Dove Self Esteem Project, booth #519, so come see us for free give aways! We are also thrilled to be sponsoring the General Session on Wednesday morning-

“Creating a Kinder and Braver World”
Maya Enista Smith will discuss Born This Way Foundation’s (founded by Lady Gaga) commitment to supporting the wellness of young people, and empowering them to create a kinder and braver world.  Working together with SHAPE America members, the foundation wants to see a world of people whose decisions and conversations are driven by kindness, acceptance and compassion.

We are presenting the following sessions:
Tuesday, 8am-noon - Systems Changing; Systems Changing simulation: In an engaging skill-building team session, participants will be confronted with realistic decisions and experiences, be compelled to consider new ways of looking at their goals and their work, be challenged to review what they consider legitimate indicators of success, try proven methods for making system-wide changes in their school setting related to their health education, physical education or school health initiative/program, distill their experience into action-oriented learnings and have fun! 
Wednesday, 3:30-5:30pm - Facilitating Role Plays in the Health Education Classroom: Role Playing is an effective skills-based learning strategy in the health education classroom, as it aligns to most of the National Health Education Standards. This session will guide participants through a variety of activities to increase their comfort and confidence facilitating role plays as well as give ideas on how to overcome challenges. Scoring rubrics will be shared aligned to role plays if using as an assessment tool in the classroom.
Thursday, 3-4:15pm - Enhancing Assessment in Health Education: an update and history of the Health Education Assessment Project and how SHAPE America is updating/revising and supporting this resource for teachers.

We have some other commitments- we are sponsoring the health education track and will be doing a 20 minute Dove Self Esteem Demo on Wednesday from 2-2:20 in the Exhibit Hall.

Can't wait to connect with colleagues, friends, cadre members, clients and partners in Boston! 

 

 

 

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. 

What Last Week's Election Means to Our Work

Liz Thorne is new to Cairn Guidance as the VP of Policy and Programs. She will be regularly posting on this blog.

I started writing my introductory post many times over the last several weeks. Then, after last Tuesday, I had to start over. Don’t worry—this isn’t another politically charged exposition that has been flooding your inbox and social media feed. But it would be disingenuous of me to ignore the fact that a lot of folks across this country are worried about what the future might hold for them and their families, as evidenced by the increase in calls to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and other crisis lines around the country after the election. But this week has also crystalized the importance of our work at Cairn Guidance, and why I am so honored to join Jess and Samantha in the mission of creating healthy school environments where students, staff and communities can reach their full potential. I keep coming back to the following actions:

We need to focus on systems change strategies so all youth can reach their full potential. In public health, we talk a lot about the social determinants of health.  The ways in which social forces, like trauma and systemic racism,  “get under our skin” to create disparities in health and other outcomes (like graduation rates, suspension and expulsion, incarceration, etc.).  The American Public Health Association has been leading a national conversation on ways to dismantle systemic racism. We have to put it on the agenda; identify how the system (policies, procedures, etc) impact populations; and facilitate the conversation to address the problems and move forward. Cairn Guidance has been a leader in facilitating the Systems Thinking, Systems Changing™ and supporting communities to work through the systems change process.

Relationships matter. We know from youth development science that having a connection to a supportive adult can help buffer youth against risk and is associated with better health and better education outcomes. This can be a parent, mentor, coach, teacher or community member. We need to equip teachers and school staff with the resources, skills and supports to create school environments that show every student matters.

Building soft skills. Critical thinking. Empathy. Communication. Working in a team. Seeing both sides of an issue. Typically referred to as soft skills, these are the critical skills young people need for employment, but also engagement as citizens. You see it in schools as students advocating for school policy change based on an experiential learning opportunity like action research; involvement in mentorship programs or community service; or learning to negotiate condom use in health education. These are the skills necessary to build an engaged and aware citizenry.

I know there will be challenges, but I also know that there is amazing work being done across the country. I am thrilled to support and elevate that in my role at Cairn Guidance.

Cairn Guidance Work Updates

We have just been notified that we will be presenting two sessions in Bend Oregon at the School Employee Wellness Conference in March for OEA Choice TrustJess will share her information on creating sustainable staff wellness programs as well as moderate a panel of school health champions sharing they staff wellness success stories. 

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RMC Health Board Meeting and Healthy School Leadership Retreat

It has been a fantastic week in Vail, Colorado! I feel incredibly fortunate to be on the Board of Directors of RMC Health, a non-profit that serves those working to improve the mental, physical, social and emotional health of children and youth. We had a great Board meeting that included both a business meeting and some strategic planning for the future. 

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Oregon Community Foundation; Studio to School Grants

A few months ago, my former employee, Maesie Speer, currently the Program Associate for Grants and Programs at the Oregon Community Foundation, asked me if I'd be willing to share the Systems Thinking Systems Changing simulation with her staff in hopes that they would see the value of facilitating the simulation for recipients of their Studio to School grant. Her colleagues were really excited about it and last Friday, I facilitated the game with 100 participants in Eugene Oregon at the Shedd Institute

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No more cupcakes for birthday parties?

What do you mean I can't task a student do laps around the track when he/she misbehaves?
I can't hold my annual cookie dough fundraiser for our football and band uniforms?
What do you mean I can't take away recess when a student hasn't completed their work?

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Supporting Sustainability

This past Saturday, I helped coordinate, facilitate and keynote an event with Prince Georges County Public Schools (PGCPS), the 19th largest school district in the country. We were fortunate to have three essential organizations represented.

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What Have We Been Up To?

Here is an update about what Cairn Guidance has been up to recently. We are so excited to be working in school health, community health and within the content areas of: tele-medicine, after-school programming for youth, school health policies, facilitation, keynoting, bicycle and pedestrian-friendly streets, sustainability, curriculum, systems thinking, suicide prevention, mental health promotion, and obesity prevention! 

Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky- Jess is a part time project officer for the Foundation, overseeing sub-grantee projects around Kentucky. These projects are funded through the federal Social Innovation Fund (SIF) and focus on a variety of community health issues. Through the Foundation, Jess was invited to the White House this upcoming Friday for a SIF reception displaying some of the innovative projects being implemented around the country. She is honored to have been invited to participate in this great event!

Prince Georges County Public Schools (PGCPS)- We have just completed a review of PGCPS District Wellness Policy and all other related school health policies, including Bullying/Harassment, Crisis, Recess, Competitive Foods and HIV policies. We are also helping to facilitate a Health and Wellness Team Conference on September 27 for over 100 participants across their school system, representing school nurses, health education teachers, physical education teachers, cafeteria managers and school administrators. I will be keynoting the day to energize participants and helping facilitate school health related information, best practices and sustainability of their school health work. Both the Alliance for a Healthier Generation and ASCD will be present to help support the district’s commitment to being “Great By Choice” and choosing to invest more in health promotion, disease prevention, quality health care while in school for their students, health screenings for their staff and increased family engagement in school health and wellness committees in order to improve academic achievement for ALL students attending their public schools.

American School Health Association (ASHA)- ASHA is in Portland Oct 9-11! Jess will be facilitating the first-timer’s session at ASHA this year, on Friday morning. She is also presenting a workshop on “Creating Lasting School Health Programs,” focused on how to create sustainable school health initiatives. 

Alaska Department of Education- Jess will be traveling up to Anchorage in October to facilitate the Systems Thinking; Systems Changing Simulation for districts in Alaska working on chronic disease and school health, some CDC 1305/Quad Grant-selected districts.  Jess is excited that this trip falls right after ASHA’s conference in Portland and will allow a couple of days in Seward AK to ‘play’!

Alta Planning/Grand Rapids MI Transportation Project- Cairn Guidance is working with Alta Planning to create a safer, healthier city. We are working on a project funded by the transportation to create a more bicycle/pedestrian friendly city. Cairn’s role will be to create adult-learning modules to promote safe bicycling and walking around the city, during all times throughout the year. We are mentioned in this article on the project.

EVEN- EVEN is an initiative Cairn is helping launch around mental health. The project includes a High School suicide prevention project and will be expanding to address mental health within communities, specifically military and their families, K-12 schools and in work settings addressing employee wellness. More to come on this project!

HYPE Project- Eat Smart, Move More South Carolina partnered with the University of South Carolina Arnold School of Public Health and South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control to create the Healthy Young People Empowerment (HYPE) Project. It was created through funding from the Federal Community Transformation Grant Program as a part of the Healthy South Carolina Initiative.

The purpose of the HYPE Project is to motivate and engage youth in policy, systems, and environmental obesity change efforts throughout South Carolina. The HYPE Project will build the skills of youth so that they can become a greater voice in their communities. The HYPE Project activities focus on healthy eating and active living; however, youth are encouraged to use the skills they learn to be lifelong champions of positive change.

Cairn Guidance is reviewing HYPE’s student and facilitator guides in order to strengthen the program. Using their pilot and evaluation feedback and reviewing the program through the lens of the Health Education Analysis Tool, we will provide additions and revisions as needed.

Southern Obesity Summit- Jess will be keynoting this conference on Tuesday, October 7 in Louisville. Her “Do Something Extraordinary” keynote will motivate and energize participants to continue to fight obesity in their communities and set personal wellness goals to take care of their own health.