This month, at the National Association of Therapeutic Schools and Programs (NATSAP) conference in La Jolla, California, Academic Director Martin Naffziger and Executive Director Heather Tracy delivered a presentation on how to design a program that intentionally develops Executive Functioning skills.
Because Executive Functioning is such an essential and elemental set of processes which help determine success in so many areas, NSA works holistically with students who struggle so that these skills are intentionally strengthened and consistently applied in academic work, community life, therapeutic interventions, and the development of key life skills. This daunting task cannot be accomplished by a lone therapist, a favorite teacher, or a passionate mentor alone, as this approach would isolate skill development to only one type of task – homework completion, flexibility in changing plans, or incorporating feedback.
Martin and Heather’s presentation outlined how a program can develop an integrated approach to strengthening Executive Functioning skills. This approach begins with an intentional, systemic structuring of how students – and the professionals with whom they work – are guided in problem-analysis, goal-setting and management of steps, daily time management, self-monitoring, and more – so that the very programmatic steps students engage in build Executive Functioning skills by applying them throughout the day, every day.
The presentation provided concrete techniques and structures – using our one-of-a-kind program as examples – which allow teachers, therapists, experiential educators to collaborate in developing an integrated, whole-program approach to building Executive Functioning skills.
When we consider that students will need to, after transition, apply these skills in every facet of their adult lives, no approach but an integrated one can succeed.
NSA’s January Health term is an intensive, three-week series of workshops and classes that focus on a holistic view of healthy young adulthood.
The first two weeks of the term consist of a collaborative effort -- with all staff from each department facilitating rich learning experiences based on our new student assessment system, which details characteristics of a healthy Self, healthy Community and healthy Future.
The Personal Growth department’s therapists and case managers engaged the students in workshops and hands-on activities relating to Identity, healthy Relationships, and Executive Functioning in the teenage brain.
The Experiential Education mentors conducted courses on Physical Health, Nutrition and Mindfulness.
And the Academic Department’s teachers worked with students in Career Exploration and Application Skills using Initiative workshops where students wrote themselves into their personal Hero Journeys, and in Resilience activities.
To celebrate the two weeks, the departments collaborated with our resident Master of Games, Matthew, to learn about and realize the importance of play in our lives. Students dueled it out in lip-sync contests (teachers set the bar with The Who’s Baba O’Riley), inventing games, and in an epic competition of capture-the-flag!
The third week of the Health Term has students and staff working with members of the Wilderness Medicine Institute to earn professional certifications in Wilderness Advanced First Aid (WAFA).
New Summit Academy is continually working to innovate and provide the best possible experiences for all of our students, parents, staff and educational partners. Each year, the Academic, EE and Personal Growth departments all set goals for improving our program. 2015 was a fantastic year for the New Summit Academy community – with achievements including:
2016 is looking to be a banner year for us as well, and as we develop our goals – guided by our organizational values – we would like to thank our community of students, families, educational consultants, faculty and staff, homestay families and the community of Atenas for the support and dedication they have provided to make New Summit Academy the amazing program it is today.
by Dr. Heather Tracy, EdD
One reflection that resonated with several parents during this Thanksgiving's parent workshop was the idea of redefining "success." I encourage to you think about these questions and analyze how you have communicated (either implicitly or explicitly) your own definition of success to yourself, your son, your family and your friends.
If we all stick to one definition of success that is defined FOR us by society or our communities... then where is the room for unique talents and strengths? We cannot ALL be "successful" according to the mainstream's competitive definition. It is not even rationally possible if we all attempt the same goal within the same parameters. Someone has to "lose" and we don't all get a trophy. However, we all have something to contribute in our own way.
Part of NSA's philosophical foundation is based on Howard Gardner's Theory of Multiple Intelligences. This theory posits that we all have 8-9 aptitudes for learning, but we all exhibit those aptitudes at different levels...which is what makes us unique and different. We can all learn in various ways, but our strengths and challenges create a unique learning profile and approach that is not often validated or harnessed in traditional classrooms or work settings. Part of what NSA does is help students understand their unique profile so that they can better engage in learning and envision their own unique way of contributing to truth, goodness, and beauty to produce meaningful contributions to their lives, communities, and the world at large.
So... What is success to you? What is success to your son? What CAN success be? What forms does it take? How do we readjust our definitions of success so that we all, like a group of puzzle pieces, can have our own unique shapes and colors can collaborate to create and contribute to one "whole"?
Blog authors may be students, staff, parents or colleagues. We're all-inclusive! Just enjoy!