School divisions receive funding for unique student programming

This October, the provincial government announced some new investments they will be making for students from Kindergarten to Grade Twelve across the province in the coming year.

Under a governmental project called the Teachers Idea Fund, $3.2 million has been approved for 162 projects in 29 school divisions.

“This funding provides teachers, staff, and school leaders with the resources to develop innovative projects that support high quality learning and positive outcomes,” reads a press release from the office of local MLA Ron Schuler.

For a program to become eligible for the funding, it must meet two criteria. First, it needs to demonstrate support for student mental health and well-being. Second, it must qualify as an innovative pilot project.

Both the Hanover School Division (HSD) and Seine River School Divisions (SRSD) will be beneficiaries of this year’s funding.

During the 2022–2023 school year, middle and high school students within the HSD will participate in career development and life exploration programs in their classrooms and at a variety of workshops.

“We will pursue several initiatives to provide students with… career exploration opportunities to improve mental health outcomes,” says HSD superintendent Shelley Amos. “This initiative will support multiple classrooms across the division and involve 75 Grade Six to Grade Twelve classrooms, 1,800 students, and 100 teachers.”

To run these programs, HSD received just over $54,000, which will cover the costs of honorariums, licensing, substitute teachers, cameras, and transportation, for a start.

The division also received an additional $70,450 to pilot a second program they call Inclusive Extracurricular Activities to Build Peer Connections.

“Our proposed study is to run three 10-week blocks of an after-school program out of the Steinbach Regional Secondary School,” says Amos. “The program will be advertised to students who have disabilities and who typically have limited access to extracurricular activities.”

The programs will target students from across the division in Grades Five to Twelve.

Themes have been developed for each block that will mimic extracurricular activities that are typical to school life. These include sports and leisure, life skills and vocation-related activities, and arts and technology. All activities will be universally accessible.

For the Seine River School Division, $60,250 is being allocated towards their middle years pilot project called Dialectical Behaviour Therapy (DBT) Skills Group.

DBT is a type of talk therapy first developed in the 1970s. Its goal is to help children focus on acceptance of their life story and the behaviours that are unique to them, as well as to provide them with the tools to affect change where they can, especially in terms of unhelpful emotional behaviours.

Targeted to students across the division from Grades Six to Eight, the program will offer instruction in four skills to help them manage unhealthy emotional responses: mindfulness, distress tolerance, interpersonal effectiveness, and emotional regulation.

“Students will develop skills to handle distress as it arises,” says SRSD assistant superintendent of Student Services Teresa Hampton. “The teachers are in attendance when the [SRSD] social work [clinicians] deliver the programming. This allows for teachers to learn the strategies and support the students in applying the strategies day to day.”

DBT Skills Group is not new to the division. They’ve already been successfully running the program as a credited course available to their high school students.

“The middle years program is one that our social workers will be creating based off of high school models,” says Hampton. “The program will be adapted to meet the developmental needs of middle school students.”

Brenda Sawatzky, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Niverville Citizen