The UConn Collaboratory on School and Child Health (CSCH) was excited to partner with co-sponsors UConn and the UConn Foundation to host the first Science Salon of the 2018 series. The event, “How Schools Succeed by Nurturing the Whole Child,” took place on the evening of Thursday, Nov. 9, at the Lyceum in Hartford, Connnecticut. Approximately 50 people took part in the exciting discussion about how teachers, researchers, and schools in the state are helping the whole child be healthy, resilient, and ready to learn.
Desi Nesmith, Chief School Turnaround Officer with the Connecticut Department of Education and Neag School alum, moderated the panel, which included CSCH Co-Director Sandy Chafouleas; CSCH Steering Committee member Lindsay DiStefano; and UConn alum Althea Brooks, Executive Director of the Bridge to Success Community Partnership in Waterbury, Connecticut.
After brief introductions, panelists discussed their work and current status of understanding about the social, emotional and physical needs of children. Mr. Nesmith then led an animated discussion about what can constitute a “whole child” approach, and the many things that can impact a child’s learning. The scope of discussion and audience questions was broad but panelists specifically touched on the areas of community involvement and family engagement; physical literacy and brain breaks; and trauma-informed school practices.
- Althea Brooks reminded audience members that we have to be willing to understand the cultural context in which the school and families are situated and discussed the importance of community involvement.
- Lindsay DiStefano, Associate Professor in the College of Agriculture, Health, and Natural Resources, emphasized the need for physical literacy. She described her work on brain breaks, and talked about the evidence that shows that even a five-minute break can help students learn.
- Sandy Chafouleas, Board of Trustees Distinguished Professor in the Neag School of Education, dismissed the notion that students experience trauma only in urban areas. She stressed that trauma is everywhere and discussed the necessity of recognizing the school as a potential hub for identifying students in need and connecting to various supports. “As a school community we have to realize that we are one of the first lines of defense. You only go to the pediatrician once a year but you go to school roughly 180 days a year.”