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April Spotlight: Community Classroom Project

Posted By Charlotte Gill, Monday, April 27, 2020

School can be really stressful -- not just for students but also for their families and educators. Community Classroom Project (CCP) offers resources to make school less challenging for those struggling with stress. It’s an initiative of the organization: Space of Mind.

 

Now, during the coronavirus crisis, CCP has gone virtual to help children manage their challenges.

 

We asked Kristen Cairns, the community outreach director at Space of Mind, to explain the initiative.

 

 

1) What is Community Classroom Project?

 

Kristen Cairns: The Community Classroom Project (CCP) is a nonprofit initiative started by Space of Mind in 2017 to extend the mission of reducing school-related stress for students,

parents, educators and schools throughout the communities in Palm Beach County where resources for this type of programming are scarce.

By bridging the gaps between families, school faculty, mental health providers and community leaders, CCP is aligning these traditionally independent support systems by strengthening communication networks and providing programs and resources to develop social, emotional, creative, and life skills for each participant.

 

2) What services/programs are you still doing now during the coronavirus?

 

Kristen Cairns: Due to Covid-19’s lockdown on in-person services, CCP has gone virtual, too. Our afterschool group is in its first year, piloting our SOMewhere To Be Club at Poinciana Elementary, a Title 1 school in Boynton Beach. We have pivoted the program to meet through Google Classroom and are working with the nine boys handpicked for the club and their guidance counselor and in-school behavior specialist to help manage their stress, attention, time management and social/emotional wellness during this time. When not virtual, the group meets weekly afterschool to help these boys, all chosen because their attention spans and behaviors make it hard for them and others to learn in the traditional setting, to develop their full leadership potential. Still in its online infancy, we are learning more about their home dynamics, which will enhance our programming upon return to the in-person environment.

 

Additionally, our Community Classroom Kitchen, the culinary initiative of the CCP, has launched a One-For-One Meal Box program that is providing fresh ingredient meal boxes to encourage families to cook together during this time of home confinement. Each box is accompanied by a recipe and a video tutorial by our chef, Blake Malatesta, who has sourced ingredients from local restaurants, food purveyors, bakeries and farms. Each week we rotate box menus, and for every box we sell, a box is then donated through the week’s featured nonprofit partner to distribute the donated boxes (and groceries when donations permit) to their families. In the project’s first month, we have fed over 100 families in need through five local nonprofits, and we are gearing up for even more! This project will continue indefinitely as a foundation of our “Family Dinner” campaign, as we believe that the more families engage together in the kitchen, the more they learn about one another.

We are still working with parents and families, offering coaching sessions to ease the strain of confinement, sudden homeschooling and family management. Our Parent Educator Resource Center (PERC) is also currently seeking funding to provide a virtual space to offer curriculum and coaching resources for ESE coordinators, teachers, guidance counselors, administrators and parents through consultations, a lending library, psycho-educational resources, as well as our catalog of workshops, advocacy training, professional development, and inspiring educational events.

 

3) What impact has your organization had in Palm Beach County?

 

Kristen Cairns: Though our organization is still fairly new, we have been able to launch programming in each of our core missions. Our SOMewhere To Be program is changing the game for the nine boys in the first-year pilot program by empowering them to understand the way their brains work, articulate their strengths and weaknesses, advocate for their needs and

build leadership skills through social, emotional and life skill development. We are working to expand this project to other Title 1 and after school programs in the fall. Through professional development programs for educators, we have launched a dialogue around the importance of understanding how students’ organizational skills, brain wiring and social/emotional competency supports their classroom learning. When a teacher understands how to reach a student in the manner in which they learn best, possibilities for development and enrichment explode! Our mission is to reduce school-related stress at the source first, which is in the classroom relationships and information processing. As more educators expand their flexibility to reach more learners on a personal level, the “backpack black hole” that creates unfinished homework (and results in lots of family dinner table fights) will diminish and students will feel happier and

more confident in the classroom, at home and out in the world.

 

4) How has your organization’s staff benefited from services at Nonprofits First?

 

Kristen Cairns: Nonprofits First has some amazing free training programs that we have taken advantage of, which has supported us as we have launched. Being a new organization, we certainly are learning from the ground up! The online grant database has also been a major help to us, especially during the coronavirus.

Learn more about Space of Mind here.

 

If you know a great story about a local nonprofit, please share it with Charlotte Gill, Nonprofits First’s director of development and business strategies. Her email is: cgill@nonprofitsfirst.org

Tags:  Education  Member Spotlight  Nonprofit; Membership  Virtual Learning 

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