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Resources and Tools
for School Years Health Program

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Page Summary

Halton Region has produced and collected a range of resources to help educators and school communities promote, establish and sustain healthy schools.

School Health Newsletter Inserts

Halton Region has assembled a collection of great tips and advice that may be used in school newsletters or on school websites. We address a range of common topics related to promoting healthy schools.

Asthma

Body Image & Self Esteem

Bullying

Growth & Development

Home-School Connections

Mental Health & Emotional Well-Being

Nutrition

Parenting & Schools

Safety & Injury Prevention

Stress

Substance Use & Abuse

Transition to Adolescence

Parent Corner

Use the Parent Corner website content on your school’s website! This best-practice content is intended for parents - helping them build and maintain a positive relationship with their children.

Feel free to place the information and resources listed below onto your school website.

The HaltonParents blog connects you to parenting and health information via public health professionals.

HaltonParents is a free service provided by Halton Region.

Halton Region supports the following parenting actions that help build and maintain a positive relationship with your child.

1. Be connected

It doesn’t have to be complicated! Being connected is about developing and maintaining positive relationships with your child.  Having meals together or sharing in a family tradition is an easy way to stay connected.  Being interested in the day to day life of your child makes it simpler to maintain a positive relationship and to be there when your child is looking for support and guidance.

2. Stay involved

A great way to build stronger connections with your kids is to be involved.  This will make it easier to talk to them, build trusting relationships and discuss expectations for home and school lives.  This will also lead to kids being more likely to take part in social activities, improve their decision making skills, and bring about greater success in school.

3. Continue to monitor

What is happening in the life of your child? Monitoring means knowing your child’s whereabouts, what activities they are doing, with whom, and when and how will they be getting home when they are not under direct parental supervision.  

Monitoring is about knowing what’s going on in the life of your child and preparing for new experiences.

4. Provide support

We all need support, but especially during the child and adolescent years.  Acceptance, love, warmth, responding to their needs and communicating in sensitive ways will show children you are there for them.  Your child needs to have that sense of security in knowing that you are available and that you’ll love them – no matter what.  This helps to build resiliency and good problem solving skills.

5. Be a good role model

What are your children learning from you? It’s all about being a good example through your behaviours, actions and practices in everyday life with your child. What you do as parents/ caregivers shows your child how you want them to behave. As parents, we hope they’re picking up good habits and learning how to be caring, responsible people. 

Resources

A collection of resources to help educators promote, establish and sustain healthy schools

Guides for Educators

Guide to parent engagement

Parents who play an active role in their child’s learning and development enhance their child’s overall success and well-being. Research shows that parent engagement is directly linked to many positive outcomes for children, including:

  • better behaviour
  • improved social skills
  • staying in school longer
  • increase in academic achievement

While engagement emphasizes a shared responsibility between parents and school staff, parent involvement focuses on strengthening and assisting school programs and priorities.

Schools can involve parents in many ways. The Epstein's framework describes 6 types of involvement that strengthen both school-based and home-based activities.

Ontario's Vision of Parent Engagement

Ontario's Vision of Parent Engagement recognizes that parent involvement is multi-dimensional and that parents have an important role to play in student success and healthy growth and development. For more Ministry of Education tools on how to engage parents using school councils and committees visit the following websites:

Did you know?

  • Parents are more involved in grade school than in high school.
  • Mothers are more involved than fathers.
  • Parents who are viewed as “hard to reach” often see the school as “hard to reach”
  • Parents felt they might be seen as trouble makers if they talked too much
  • Parent engagement can be done in many ways both at home and school in addition to volunteering and committee work
  • Learning at home has the biggest impact on student achievement
 

Benefits for children and youth

  • Increases student achievement
  • Fosters positive learning outcomes
  • Improves student behaviour
  • Enhances social skills
  • Decreases unhealthy behaviours such as tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use
  • Fosters a positive attitude about both school and home to support resilience and achievement
  • Improves transition into high school for youth

Benefits for parents

  • Parents find it easier to help their child learn
  • Confidence in parenting skills increases when they are more involved
  • Parents are connected to other parents since social support networks are created
  • Parents have a better understanding of the responsibilities of teachers, principals, school structure, school culture and curriculum

Benefits for schools

  • Teachers and principals are better supported and enjoy positive relationships with parents
  • Trust is built between teachers, students and parents
  • Staff have a better understanding and appreciation for family cultures/diversity

Parent engagement increases student achievement and fosters positive learning outcomes. Three key activities support creating readiness.

Assess: What is your school's current level of engagement?

Take a minute to reflect on your school’s current level of parent engagement. How many of the following does your school offer?

  • Parents are welcomed, respected, and valued by the school community as partners in their children’s learning and development.
  • Parents have a full range of choices about how to support student success. 
    Parents have opportunities to be involved. 
  • Parents are engaged through ongoing communication and dialogue with other educational partners to support a positive learning environment at home and at school.
  • Parents are provided with the information and tools necessary to participate in school life. 

Getting started: How to make parent engagement “come alive”

For parent engagement to thrive at your school, there are several things you can do. The Planning Parent Engagement Toolkit(external link) is a practical resource that can provide useful exercises and proven techniques to begin this process. To embed parent engagement in whole school planning you need to:

  • Provide training and resources for all school staff
  • Build positive relationships with families
  • Involve community partners
  • Use multiple communication techniques
  • Enhance school policies for parent engagement
  • Develop a recruitment strategy and offer incentives such as job references or paid positions

It is important to create an inviting school environment where parents feel safe and welcome. To help facilitate this:

  • Invite staff/students to greet parents as they enter the school.
  • Offer parents a cup of coffee/tea and a place to sit when they arrive.
  • Talk with parents. Ask them to share their stories and actively listen.
  • Offer Asset Building training to all school staff
  • Use signage that is welcoming and culturally representative to visitors, for example:
Instead of Try a more welcoming message
Staff parking only Parents parking here
No food or drinks in the auditorium Welcome to our lounge
Visitors please report to the office Welcome guests. Please sign in at office.


Increasing parent engagement: barriers and strategies for success

It is important to identify and remove barriers to parent engagement. Below are ideas to help overcome those barriers and increase parent engagement, which in turn increases the success of your students.

  • Lack of time for school staff and parents
    • Be flexible with meeting times and locations by offering times during the day and in the evening and close to where parents live (not always at the school)
  • Parent voice
    • Ask parents for their feedback and use it to plan
    • Ask parents to participate in ways that are meaningful for them
    • Build collaborative relationships and provide opportunities for parents to gain knowledge, skills and tools to support student learning
    • Survey parents via written forms, with in-person meetings and focus groups to determine their needs
    • Inform families of opportunities to get involved
  • Effective communications
    • Ask parents about the best ways to communicate with them
    • Personalize communication tools and methods based on groups of parents (for example, grade-specific)
    • Encourage teachers to initiate contact with parents early in the school year and frequently throughout the year
    • Share information about the benefits of parent involvement in schools and at home
    • Create a web page for parents that highlights the importance of their involvement
    • Reach out to families to identify unique barriers and problem solve together to find ways to address them
  • Multicultural/diversity
    • Reach out to ethnically diverse families and ask them about the best ways to communicate with them
    • Partner with Halton Multicultural Centre or other organizations that are already working with ethnically diverse groups of parents
    • Invite families to bring a traditional dish or wear traditional clothing
    • Recognize and celebrate all cultures at your school
    • Provide language translation on your web pages or communications home
  • Need for child care to attend school events
    • Arrange for grade 7 and 8 students to provide child care at school events
    • Hold events that include entire families so that no child care is needed
    • Connect with YMCA or local community groups to identify available child-care services
  • Recognition
    • Acknowledge contributions and volunteers by providing positive feedback, such as a personalized ‘Thank You’ card, reference letter, or an annual celebration.

Below, find a number of activities which promote parent engagement.

Communicating with parents

Using a variety of communications methods can help improve communications. Consider:

  • Print such as postcards, calendars, daily logs/agendas
  • Media such as email, text messaging, automated or personal phone calls
  • Face-to-face such as parent seminars or meetings

Translating information into different languages and pointing parents to existing resources available in multiple languages increases the number of parents you can reach.

Newsletters, the school’s website and social media channels are proven methods for reaching parents. Some tips to maximize the communications impact include:

Tips for newsletters:

  • At the beginning of the school year, create a calendar of topics and submission deadlines for the year
  • Invite parents who have expertise on a topic to be a guest writer
  • Dedicate a spot in the newsletter for parent communication and use the same spot consistently
  • Invite parent volunteers to translate the newsletter into relevant languages
  • Place a link to the newsletter on the school’s website
  • Request regular feedback from parents about the content, format, readability and relevance

Tips for the school website – Parent’s Corner

  • Have a regular space dedicated for parent information (for example, Parent’s Corner) and use this space to communicate about school events, to showcase students’ work (such as art projects or short stories) and to display parenting or health information videos and tips
  • Post parent surveys on the website
  • Include a link to the HaltonParents.ca which has parenting articles, blogs, and videos

Tips for social media

  • Review board-wide social media guidelines as a first step
  • Invite parents with expertise in social media to help with writing, maintaining or monitoring
  • Ask parents what interests them to guide the information being created and posted
  • Recruit youth to support the school’s social media initiative
  • Invite parents to connect with HaltonParents.caTwitter or Facebook for parenting information

Giving parents a voice

Giving parents opportunities to be heard helps school staff to understand community issues from a parent perspective and engages parents in decision making about important issues that impact their families

Parent feedback can be used to gain insight and is useful for gauging:

  • Satisfaction with classroom teaching strategies and extracurricular programs
  • Level of current family engagement at home and at school
  • Priority community issues; and
  • Need for specific family services, programs or events.

Tips for gathering parent feedback:

  • Ensure that an ethnically diverse group of parents contribute feedback
  • Use a variety of methods to collect parents’ feedback, including:
    • Focus groups held in, or outside of school
    • Community forum
    • Social media - blogs or Facebook

Tips for parent surveys:

  • Be clear about the purpose of the survey and have parents help to develop the survey questions
  • Pilot test the questions with a small group of parents before sending it out
  • Consider the most convenient time and method for parents to receive the survey
  • Assure parents that action is possible if they identify changes that they would like to see implemented

Hosting parent sessions and events

Get parents involved in planning activities that will:

  • meet the needs and interests of families attending your school
  • increase their involvement with their child and their child’s learning

Tips for hosting events:

  • Involve parents and students in planning events and workshops
  • Plan events around activities (family fitness night, literacy night, curriculum night, musicals/plays, sports events) and/or meals/refreshments (BBQs, dinner, coffee)
  • Look for a variety of funding opportunities to support the event:
  • Consider convenient dates, times and locations to encourage parent attendance
  • Host an event off-site at a safe and welcoming community location other than the school to increase accessibility and community connections
  • Use video conferencing where possible: have the option for parents to participate from home via video link if they are not able to attend

How to plan coffee talks for your school

Purpose of a coffee chat:
  • Create opportunities for parents to connect and socialize
  • Help connect parents to volunteer opportunities within the school
  • Bring more caring adults into the building
  • Provide information and enhance learning on a given topic
 
Steps:
  1. Getting started
    Tips to recruit a parent coordinator
    • Approach school council
    • Post a job “call out” for an expression of interest
    • Send email to all parents
    • Use the school board telephone system “synrevoice”
    • Personally invite parents that you have existing relationships with
    • For Secondary Schools: Use Grade 8 parent nights to advertise opportunities
  2. Assessment – What do parents want to know about?
    • Obtain information about the needs of your parents (common issues, hot topics, community related issues)
    • Collect information in a parent wide school survey
  3. Provide a list of popular topics
    • Create a list of topics and seek out speakers from local community organizations at ‘low cost or no cost’
  4. Set a consistent time and day for meetings throughout the year
    • Decide together with parents, the best time of the day to offer the event (during the school day, in the evening, or both)
    • Provide a sample agenda that can be used to structure each session
Time Agenda Item
9:45 Join us for coffee and talk with other parents
10:00 Speaker presents topic highlights
10:20 Interactive discussion and sharing
10:40 Questions and further sharing
10:50 Principal updates
11:00 Wrap-up and thank you for coming
  1. Evaluation and planning for the next year
    • Use a standard evaluation to assess how each topic/presentation was received
    • Create a schedule of topics and speakers in the spring to prepare for the upcoming school year. Remember to invite grade 8 parents from feeder schools to get involved in planning for these events.

Providing volunteer opportunities

Parents volunteering for school activities fosters positive relationships between youth and adults, creates a welcoming environment and a sense of community. Parents can be offered different ways to become involved, such as:

Tips for increasing parent volunteering

  • Be strategic in how you ask parents to become involved:
    • Ask early in the year
    • Make the request small and simple
    • Ask parents whose children are new to the school
    • Ask parents about interest, passions, skills
  • Acknowledge volunteer contributions through notes of thanks and recognition
  • Spread the workload among parents
  • Align volunteering opportunities with parents’ skill sets, expertise and interests

Parent-teacher interviews

Parent-teacher interviews are a great opportunity to engage parents and discuss ways for them to become involved at your school.

Parent-teacher interviews

Parent-teacher interviews are a great opportunity to engage parents and discuss ways for them to become involved at your school.

Tips for parent-teacher interviews

  • Advise parents ahead of time when they will be receiving reports on their child’s progress
  • Consider sending parents information on how they can prepare for the parent-teacher interview
  • Encourage staff and parents to share ideas on how they can work together to help the child/youth meet their goals
  • Advise parents ahead of time when they will be receiving reports on their child’s progress
  • Consider sending parents information on how they can prepare for the parent-teacher interview
  • Encourage staff and parents to share ideas on how they can work together to help the child/youth meet their goals

Parent-teacher interviews provide an opportunity for the parents to build a bridge between the home and school. Collaborative relationships between teachers and parents help to improve students’ chances for success.

Harris and Goodall, 2007 People for Education

Resources

To help prepare parents for the interview, consider sending home:

For more information or consultation:

Guide to asset building in school

Key Points:

  • All kids need Assets
  • Relationships are key
  • Everyone has strengths
  • We need to work together to build assets

Developmental Assets are traits, values and experiences that all young people need to be healthy, successful and reach their full potential.

These building blocks, or Developmental Assets®, are grounded in research on child and adolescent development, risk prevention and resiliency. The more assets young people have, the more likely they are to thrive, make healthy choices, and avoid harmful behaviours.

About Developmental Assets®

The positive power of assets is seen across all cultural and socioeconomic groups in youth around the world. There are 40 Developmental Assets® that are divided into two categories – external and internal.

External assets include the first 4 asset categories that make up Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets®. These are the external structures, relationships, and activities that create a positive environment for young people, such as:

  • Support
  • Empowerment
  • Boundaries and expectations
  • Constructive use of time

Internal assets include the second 4 asset categories that make up Search Institute’s 40 Developmental Assets®. These are the internal values, skills, and beliefs that young people need to fully engage with and function in the world around them, such as:

  • Commitment to Learning
  • Positive Values
  • Social Competencies
  • Positive Identity

Note: This guide has been adapted from the Our Kids Network Asset Building Toolkit to reflect the strategies that can be used to build assets within the school community.

Asset building has the power to promote positive behaviours and attitudes. Young people with high levels of Developmental Assets® are more likely to:

  • Succeed in school
  • Value diversity
  • Maintain good health
  • Demonstrate leadership

Protect youth from high-risk behaviours. The more Developmental Assets® young people have, the less likely they are to engage in risky behaviours such as:

  • Substance use
  • Gambling
  • Violence
  • Sexual activity

Asset building is about connecting with our children and teens as they make the transition into adulthood. Relationships are key! It is important to be intentional because most young people are not experiencing enough of these assets. While there are 40 assets, researchers have found that on average, young people report having only 20.

Note: This guide has been adapted from the Our Kids Network Asset Building Toolkit to reflect the strategies that can be used to build assets within the school community.

We can help our children and teens grow up successfully by encouraging them to connect with other caring and responsible adults who can be their mentors, guides, and role models as they make the transition toward adulthood. Relationships are the key!

You are probably already building assets in your school without being aware of it. Asset building is incorporated within the work that school staff do every day – the key is to be intentional!

To get started you can:

  • Assess what your school is currently doing to build developmental assets®. Use this asset-building checklist to identify areas of strength and need within your school goals, programs, and policies.
    Things to consider:
    • Do students feel welcome and engaged in the activities offered at your school?
    • Does your school share stories of positive contributions by students with board members and the community?
    • How does your school strengthen students’ leadership skills?
  • Connect with other schools to see how they have incorporated asset building with their youth, parents and staff.
  • Discuss with members of your school community about the power of assets for all young people. 
    Remember - everyone can build assets – it’s about:
    • Recognizing all kids
    • Developing positive relationships
    • Being intentional
    • Focusing on strengths
    • Being consistent
  • Look within your school community for natural asset builders who exhibit these qualities:
    • Advocate for children and youth regularly
    • Demonstrate relationship-building behaviours
    • Empower children and youth to have a voice
    • Are open to trying new things
    • Are mentors and role models
  • Develop an asset-building plan to become more intentional about sharing strategies and embedding assets into your school.
  • Start small by focusing on one or a few assets. Assets are all intertwined—as you build one asset, others will naturally follow.
 

Review local research data to determine what assets to focus on at your school:

Encourage staff to be intentional about building assets in young people by:

  • Teaching respect for cultural differences
  • Encouraging school success
  • Seeking opinions
  • Reporting positive behaviour
  • Guiding decision making

Everyone can contribute to the building of Development Assets®. Below are tools and ideas for everyone in your school community.

School staff and administrators

Make Developmental Assets part of your everyday activities by using:

  • Developmental Assets® ideas
    Implement some of these practical ideas including greeting children/youth by name every morning, establishing peer-mentoring programs, catching kids doing things right (caught-yas) and more.
  • Asset building policy statements
    Incorporate asset building policies that kids can thrive on!
  • Video clips or great group games
    Begin each staff meeting with a discussion or activity about asset building by using video clips or great group games.

Parents

Parents are an important part of your school community. Include parents and caregivers in your Developmental Asset® messaging by sharing:

Youth

You can support asset building in students by:

  • Engaging students in all program planning and decision making
    • Include several students on school committees such as SSAT and health and well-being committees
    • Allow opportunities for youth to provide ideas and influence decisions that affect students
  • Involving children and youth in asset building. Have students complete the Developmental Asset® checklist(external link) to see how many assets they have and to identify areas to build on
  • Forming a student asset team and support them to identify, plan, and implement initiatives to build assets among their peers – help them:
    • Identify their passions and how they can share them with others
    • Start a student book, art, or music club
    • Challenge students and staff to reduce screen time and increase physical activity
    • Fill peer’s buckets with positive affirmations and recognition
    • Lead peer to peer support group that address homework help, playground leadership P.A.L.S. or reading buddies
    • Organize a student volunteer program at a local senior’s center

When building assets, it is essential to reflect on how your initiatives are going. Throughout the process, it is important to:

  • Assess where your initiative is with regards to each of the seven essential goals for community-based asset-building:
    • A shared vision of positive development
    • Shared norms and beliefs
    • Connections across socializing systems
    • Everyday acts of asset building
    • Unleash the asset-building power of organizations and systems
    • Identify, affirm, and expand the reach of existing asset-building activities
    • Introduce new asset-building efforts
  • Identify specific actions to make further progress if you have not achieved all of your objectives or if you’re ready to create even more change
  • Review the twelve critical culture shifts and reflect upon whether your initiative has resulted in a positive change from:
     
    • Deficit language to asset language
    • Some youth to all youth
    • Early childhood only to the first two decades of life
    • Age segregation to intergenerational community
    • Self-interest to shared responsibility
    • A program focus to a relational focus
    • A fragmented agenda to a unifying vision
    • Conflicting signals to consistent messages
    • Efficiency to redundancy in asset building
    • Youth as objects to youth as actors
    • Shifting priorities to long-term commitment
    • Civic disengagement to public engagement
 
  • Ask for student feedback about your existing school programs to determine whether they are enjoyable, offer meaningful involvement for youth, and build skills and relationships
  • Create a video to tell the story of your success incorporating Developmental Assets® into your school community
  • Share your success story at a student assembly or family event, or write about it in the school newsletter. Even better, involve youth in sharing the story!
  • Make your work sustainable by:
    • Committing to continuing your asset building efforts
    • Incorporating Developmental Assets® into your school improvement plan
    • Making asset-building a standing item on your staff meeting and parent council meeting agendas
    • Offering ongoing training, presentations, and resources to new staff and parents

Guide to youth engagement

Youth Engagement has been described as "Empowering all youth as valued partners in addressing, and making decisions about issues that affect them personally and/or that they believe to be important. It is about adults working with youth to create opportunities for young people to become involved and contribute to the betterment of an organization and/or community in which they live." – Pereira, 2007

Youth engagement is:

  • Listening to student ideas and be willing to try them out
  • Involving youth in work that has purpose or is meaningful to them
  • Recognizing that all youth have skills and strengths that can benefit your school or community
  • Involving youth in all stages of planning, not just toward the end
  • Giving youth access to mentors and opportunities to build skills and experiences
  • Having realistic expectations. Consider their life stage and level of experience

A common term in schools is student voice (students having a voice in their learning). Student voice is a component of youth engagement.

When working with youth, it is important to:

Involve all youth
  • Involve youth of different cultural backgrounds, level of school engagement, age, grade, gender, sexual orientation, etc. No single youth can speak for all youth.
Recognize youth as valued partners
  • Value youth perspective, skills, knowledge and experience. Recognize mutual gains for everyone. Adults have life experience that can benefit youth; youth bring fresh ideas and energy.
Involve youth in decision making
  • Share decision-making between adults and youth with youth having equal voting power with adults
Address issues youth believe to be important
  • Do not limit their involvement to just “youth issues.” Ask them what they care about and how they wish to be involved.
Create opportunities for youth
  • Continually look at ways to involve youth, get their feedback, build skills and put their ideas into action.
Give youth a sense of ownership
  • A sense of ownership, pride and responsibility increases youth engagement, sense of belonging, and success at school.
Give youth a say in matters that affect them
  • Youth should have a say in matters affecting them. Their involvement will result in better outcomes.

Engaging youth in work that is meaningful to them has many benefits for youth, adults and the community.

Why You Should Involve Youth in Decision-making

Benefits for Youth

  • Opportunity to build leadership skills and gain experience
  • Builds assets and protects against risky behaviours
  • Gain understanding about the value of youth voice in their community
  • Feel a sense of belonging and worth
  • Develop positive connections to peers and adults
  • Develops their resume
  • Provides sense of accomplishment and affirms that they can make a difference

Benefits for Adults

  • Recognize and acknowledge youth as vital contributors
  • Changes how they perceive youth (breaks down stereotypes)
  • Opportunity to enhance mentoring skills
  • Re-energizes adults by learning about youths’ fresh perspectives
  • Learn new skills from youth 
  • Gain insight into current youth culture

Benefits for Communities

  • Develops youth leaders who become active in addressing community issues
  • Increases understanding about and between generations of adults and youth

Involving youth in a meaningful way in the planning and decision making of activities at your school is an important part of youth engagement. The following is a list of tips for engaging students:

Tips for school staff meetings

  • Include youth engagement or student voice as a standing agenda item
  • Invite guest speakers who are experts in youth engagement to conduct staff training (i.e. high school students, youth peer facilitators)

Test out youth engagement activities by using them as icebreakers for staff:

Icebreaker example: Picture Guessing Game (15 minutes)

  • What you need: 
    Paper, pens, markers/crayons, coloured paper
  • What to do:
    1. Using art supplies, have everyone create something represents a strength of theirs
    2. Collect the drawings
    3. Randomly select different drawings
    4. The group tries to guess who drew the picture. Once the artist is guessed, that person explains what the meaning of the picture is. Whoever chooses correctly is the next to choose a drawing.]
  • Assign an asset category to each meeting. Have staff present examples of how they are building assets in youth using youth engagement principles in their classroom or when leading extracurricular programs.
  • Include youth participation during staff meetings by having students:
    • Provide updates on programs or events they have been involved with planning and delivering (e.g. pizza days, reading buddies, literacy nights)
    • Facilitate an icebreaker with staff that promotes collaboration. Share their expertise about social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, etc.)
    • Share local youth engagement stories with staff high schools and feeder schools
    • Present their own work to staff (e.g. short stories, poems, art work, videos)

Tips for getting student voice

Tips for youth participation in peer-to-peer program

  • Reading Buddies: Encourage older students to help younger students with reading
  • Playground Activity Leaders in Schools (P.A.L.S.): Encourage students to participate in peer-led playground leadership programs to increase physical activity and reduce bullying amongst younger students.
  • Peer Education Programs(external): Encourage students to participate in peer-led prevention programs to assist younger youth in making healthier, informed decisions.

Tips for youth participation in school activities, clubs and committees

  • Involve youth by inviting them to identify the purpose of a school club or committee, selecting meeting times and locations and developing the agenda
  • Icebreakers(external): Make it fun! Use icebreakers and games at meetings
  • Diversity of youth voice(external): Encourage diverse youth representation by encouraging culturally diverse youth participation
  • Tell youth about the impact of their involvement and let them know how their participation resulted in positive changes
  • Invite student leaders to train younger students to take over in the following year
  • Encourage youth to invite friends to join activities, events, clubs and committees

Tips for Youth Volunteers at School Community Events

  • Utilize the strengths of youth in your planning by inviting a student artist to help design flyers for school events and asking a student with good public speaking skills to introduce a guest speaker
  • Invite students to speak at parent nights, sharing their experiences with school clubs, sports teams, and student leadership

Tips for Youth Participation in Community Initiatives

  • Encourage and invite youth to participate in coalitions/partnerships and community run events, for example, Give Respect Get Respect
  • Include youth in the early stages of planning when forming partnerships with community partners, as having their voice at the table can help ensure that initiatives and activities under development are relevant to youth

Youth Engagement ensures that young people become an integral part of the work of schools and communities and that their voices help shape the future. To get your school ready to engage youth, follow these simple steps:

Assess Readiness

  • Gaining buy-in for youth engagement is essential. Make sure school staff and parents understand that this is a priority.
  • Determine if your school is ready by using the youth adult engagement readiness assessment. This assessment can help identify areas of improvement or supports needed before starting youth engagement.
  • Take a minute to assess how you are currently involving youth. Use the following questions as your guide:
    • Do you have any youth on your school committee(s)?
    • Do youth hold positions of leadership on the committee? Are there opportunities for youth to take on leadership roles?
    • Do you seek a diversity of youth perspectives? (i.e. diverse backgrounds, views, levels of engagement, gender and age)
    • Who sets the agenda? Who decides what happens?
    • When are meetings scheduled? Is it a convenient time for youth to attend?
    • What incentives do you offer? (i.e. food, honorarium, volunteer hours, references)

Identify and Engage Champions

  • Find staff champions who are natural mentors. We call them adult allies
  • Engage staff who are positive role models and foster assets in students
  • Have these champions bring youth together to initiate the process

Create a Youth-Friendly Environment

  • Be welcoming and respectful of differences in youth perspectives, skills and knowledge
  • Create an atmosphere that is non-judgemental (i.e. avoid assumptions, generalizations)
  • Hold meetings in spaces that are convenient and where youth feel comfortable
  • Be authentic and genuine

Being an adult ally is similar to being an asset-builder.

An adult ally:

  • Recognizes that all youth have strengths and skills and actively looks for the strengths in others
  • Takes the time to build trust and connections with students
  • Looks for “sparks” – the things youth are passionate about – the “hook” that motivates them
  • Is willing to work collaboratively with students, even if it takes longer
  • Looks for teachable moments
  • Has the wisdom to let youth try out ideas even if they might fail
  • Recognizes that the process is more important than the outcome

One of the biggest considerations and barriers for adult allies to build meaningful youth engagement is time. When working with youth remember:

Understanding Youth Motivation

In June 2011, the Halton Region Health Department retained Ipsos Reid to conduct youth focus groups on youth engagement. When asked about reasons why they choose to get involved, youth responded:

10–13 Years

  • For fun
  • Help others
  • Learn new things
  • Meet new people
  • Build social skills

14–17 Years

  • Create opportunities
  • Build confidence/feel good
  • Help others
  • Try new things
  • Meet new people

Source: Ipsos Reid Survey, 2011

Motivators for becoming involved naturally differ by age. For the youngest group, the possibility of having fun is easily the greatest motivator getting involved with social issues; they often see it as another activity in their schedule, like piano lessons or soccer. For teens, creating opportunities, bettering themselves, helping others and building confidence are key motivations.

“An adult ally helps youth have their voice heard through meaningful engagement. With support of an adult ally, young people can be meaningfully involved in every stage of an initiative” (Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, 2007).

Want to learn more?

It is important when working with youth to reflect together on how your initiatives are going. This teaches youth the value of reflection, it also shows respect for their involvement throughout the process and may also improve your outcomes long-term.

Reflecting on the Youth Engagement Process

As an adult ally, it is important to reflect on the youth engagement process itself. Ask yourself: What went well? What would you do differently?

Consider:

  • Did youth and adults share in decision-making responsibilities?
  • Did youth input receive equal weight when making decisions as compared to adult input?
  • Were youth consulted when activities and timelines were being decided upon?
  • Were youth given leadership roles within the group? (e.g., chair meetings)
  • How did youth voice shape the direction and purpose of the initiative?
  • Were youth engagement practices held in youth-friendly spaces, at locations and during times convenient for youth?

Help students reflect by asking:

  • What went well?
  • What would you do differently?

Keep asking these questions as you work through the stages of planning and implementing your group’s ideas. There may be opportunities for teachable moments, especially when something did not go well.

Think about sustainability

  • How can your student leaders train younger students to take over next year?
  • Encourage youth to invite friends to join youth groups
  • Encourage youth to recruit at networking events

Celebrate!

We all want to feel valued. Celebrating youth involvement sends the message that you value their input, time and dedication. Hopefully this will lead to more involvement in the future!

  • Find a meaningful way to honour students’ involvement. Send a personalized thank you note, make a PA announcement, write a reference letter, or have a party for your last meeting of the year.
  • As a school, plan an event for National Youth Week (May 1-7) as a way of thanking all youth for their continued support.

Understanding Youth Development:

Understanding Youth Engagement

Models of Youth Engagement:

  • A model that shows the level of youth involvement in a program or organization
  • Can be used as a tool to identify a need to increase meaningful participation of youth
  • Highest levels of engagement are at the top of the ladder where youth and adults share decision-making
  • Lowest levels of engagement are at the bottom of the ladder where youth are non-participants

Youth Infusion Continuum

This model describes youth and adult perceptions of working together along a continuum. At the end of the continuum, it describes ideal youth-adult partnership (Youth Infusion, 2007).

Youth Engagement Continuum

Defines approaches to working with youth and/or providing services to youth. The model moves through five stages and defines these stages by how they impact youth (Listen Inc., 2003).

Youth Services Approach Youth Development Youth Leadership Civic Engagement Youth Organizing
Defines young people as clients Provides services and support, access to caring adults and safe spaces Includes components of youth development approach plus: Includes components of youth development and youth leadership plus: Includes components of youth development, youth leadership and civic engagement plus:
Provides services to address individual problems and pathologies of young people Provides opportunities for the growth and development of young people Builds in authentic youth leadership opportunities within programming and organization Engages young people in political education and awareness Builds a membership base
Programming defined around treatment and prevention Meets young people where they are Helps young people deepen historical and cultural understanding of their experiences and community issues Builds skills and capacity for power analysis and action around issues young people identify Involves youth as part of core staff and governing body
  Builds young people’s individual competencies Builds skills and capacities of young people to be decision makers and problem solvers Begins to help young people build collective identity as social change agents Engages in direct action and mobilizing
  Provides age-appropriate support Youth participate in community projects Engages young people in advocacy and negotiation Engages in alliances and coalitions
  Emphasizes positive self-identity      
  Supports youth/adult partnerships      

Source: Listen Inc., (2003). An Emerging Model for Working with Youth: Community Organizing + Youth Development = Youth Organizing. Retrieved April 20, 2011 from Pereira (2007): “Ready, Set, Engage!”

Understanding Developmental Assets©:

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