PARTNERS FOR YOUTH
(Elementary Assistance Project – Adventure Based Literacy)
A narrative about the Elementary Assistance Project – Adventure Based Literacy
There are many stories we can share about the impact of the adventure based literacy-elementary assistance project we have developed and piloted over the last few years. The children served in this project are some of the youngest and most at risk in our communities. They have few family supports, have experienced violence, they have families and parents struggling with addictions and almost all live in poverty.
For many they have lost hope at a very young age and for many they see no opportunities and no future beyond their current situation. Above all this project offers an opportunity for success and an opportunity to experience happiness and self-worth. We have witness profound change in some of the participants in this program and we have witnessed what can happen when, in the words of one of the parents, – “someone gives a damn”.
Education is one of the keys to overcoming poverty. Our participants spend as little as 4 hours per week in school where their peers are offered an average of 34 hours of education per week. These children fall further and further behind and the prospect for achieving academic success becomes more and more out of reach. Many of the parents struggle with literacy and so receiving additional support at home is often not an option.
Apart from the lack of appropriate education is the lack of opportunity for social interaction and the building of positive relationships. These children do not know how to play. Their time on playgrounds and their time interacting with their peers is limited and the result is a child who is alone, isolated and significantly socially impaired. There are a number of success stories about children who have participated in this program and one such story is the following:
Michael was a child in grade 3 who had spent an average of 1 hour per day in school for most of the first three (3) years of his school career. His mother was in constant conflict with his teachers and school administration and at one point the situation was so severe that an order banning her from contact with the school was put into place. He had no identifiable friends, was extremely aggressive with teachers, was self-abusive – banging his head on walls and trying to injure himself on a regular basis. His home life was poor, he was living in poverty, he was pulled between two (2) parents living apart, he lived with an abusive older brother and he had experienced abuse himself.
Michael was referred to the program by the school district and was involved for a total of 24 weeks over a two (2) year school period. His progress was nothing short of remarkable. We not only supported him but also worked to improve the relationship between the home and school resulting in collaboration, communication and above all understanding. We supported a referral to a pediatrician for a health check which resulted in uncovering an allergy to red dye and for a child who consumed a great deal of ketchup this was significant. Michael learned listening skills, conflict resolution skills, communication skills, made friends and had LOTS of fun. As his behavior and overall demeanor improved so did his time in school and his time in the classroom and on the playground. Michael achieved full school days prior to the end of the program, his academics significantly improved, he joined the school choir, he joined the drama club, and went to summer camp. His self-injuring behavior ended and he was no longer feared by staff and children at the school. During the final weeks of the program staff arrived at the school to pick him up for an outing and he asked if he could stay at school as he had a math test he did not want to miss – a huge shift and accomplishment for this young child.
For Michael the road to success is far from over but his achievements in this program, the increase in his happiness and his increased social, behavioral and academic success is an indication that he will “make it”.
Designed as a small group adventure based therapeutic program, the project is divided into a six (6) week delivery block where students attend the project two days per week for two hours each day. Four (4) blocks are offered during a typical school year and, depending on their personal level of need, students can take part in multiple blocks. In addition, there is a summer component where participants in the elementary project take part in a summer camp program from our site in North Lake – a once in a lifetime opportunity for many of these children.
Participants in this program will also have the opportunity to continue with Partners for Youth once finished elementary school. They will be encouraged to become involved in our middle school Adventure Classroom project, the summer camp program and then the leadership project once they are in high school. Students could potentially stay involved with PFY for almost a decade – an unmatched duration of intervention and support.
Increase literacy outcomes for at risk elementary learners. The additional project goal is to have academically struggling elementary children with social and behavioral issues re-integrated into a regular classroom setting after exposure and involvement in an intensive adventure based literacy social skills program.
Using the data from the grade 2 provincial assessments as well as actual project pre-assessments participants will be followed and measurable achievement outcomes will be charted.
In addition, in order to move the program beyond this pilot phase of operating there is a need to engage and participate in a specific program evaluation. This application for funding and the possibility of the impact grant will be directly used in order to provide for this significant need.
The limited class time combined with the behavior issues while actually in the class had a serious impact on literacy, numeracy and science outcomes for these children. In order to chart this project we focus on five (5) areas: literacy, behavior, attendance, overall academics and time in class. Each child is looked at in terms of these five areas and indications in the pilot phase of this project are positive for many participants in these areas.
This project began with a very detailed pilot phase which was followed by an internal evaluation process where changes were made to the format. We have evidence of the success of the project and are confident in the realistic nature of the initiative. It is time to move into a detailed evaluation process in order to confirm all indications that the program is indeed a success.
The impact of the potential investment from the Foundation cannot be understated. The continued success of this “made in New Brunswick” program lies within the need for program evaluation in order to further identify the success of the program and in order to reinforce the need for long term investment in the approach.