Featured Grantee

KCKPS and KVC Hospitals Partner to Provide Trauma Informed Training to District Staff.

Laughter erupted from the group as they attempted to remember which direction to pass their items. During a round of “The Wright Family,” participants are asked to listen for the words “right,” and “left,” and then pass their items accordingly. This might seem easy, but it actually requires quite a few skills. The trainer points this out after the exercise, explaining that the participants are accessing multiple “executive functions.” These skills are housed in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain responsible for listening, following instructions, self-control, focus, and knowing your right from left. These are just a few examples of the skills we want students to be using in the classroom!

Understanding neurobiology, or the science of the brain, helps us to understand how students learn. We also know that when someone experiences traumatic events, or toxic stress, brain development is delayed or disrupted. In the past, we have expected students to walk into school, leave their problems at the door, and learn. What has been demonstrated through research, and experience, is that students do not learn in a vacuum. In fact, their home lives and early experiences shape the way that they learn. At Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools (KCKPS), educators, administrators, and support staff are learning that early adverse experiences, or trauma, can influence brain development in a way that negatively impacts learning.

This is just one of the goals for the Universal Trauma Training: to give all employees at the district a better understanding of how trauma and toxic stress impact students’ learning. Knowledge of trauma and its effects throughout the lifespan is the cornerstone of the Trauma Sensitive and Resilient Schools Initiative at KCKPS. In addition to knowledge about the impacts of trauma, the Universal training also highlights the necessity of relationships. In order to heal the negative impacts of trauma, caregivers are asked to help students build resilience, or the ability to thrive despite adversity. One of the best ways to do that is by providing, healthy, supportive, and consistent adult relationships. We know that school-based caregivers (teachers, administrators, and support staff) are situated perfectly to provide these types of relationships.

In addition to this training, teams from each school in our first cohort (13 schools) will attend the Summer Series, a week-long conference where they take a deep-dive into the science behind trauma and resilience. These teams will take their learnings back to their respective schools and work to implement Trauma Sensitive practices, creating a space for regulation, culturally competent family engagement, healthy staff/student relationships. By using these practices, KCKPS hopes to reduce suspension and expulsion rates, staff absenteeism, as well as create a culture of resilience throughout the entire district. This will set the stage for KCKPS to achieve its vision of becoming one of the top 10 school districts in the nation by preparing students for college and careers in a global society.

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Applications will be reviewed by the Wyandotte Health Foundation Board of Directors who will determine grant awards, including level of funding.