Community Workshops with April Duncan

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This week, we wrapped up our parent workshop series with April Duncan, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and Registered Play Therapist here in St. Louis. It was great to be able to connect with so many of our families during this series, and we hope that you found the presentations engaging and informative—we are glad to be able to share these community events with you, despite our current restrictions on in-person gatherings. Recordings of each workshop will be made available in the myNewCity video library (log-in required) in the coming days.

Below is a summary (from our counselor, Missey) of April's work with our community over the last few months:

  • Workshop #1: Supporting Parents and Youth through COVID-19 Part I
    Over the last year, the pandemic has caused a great deal of uncertainty for us all, and children may be struggling with their mental health as a result of this environment. This first workshop explored signs of anxiety and depression in children and resources to help parents and children. 
  • Workshop #2: Supporting Parents and Youth through COVID-19 Part II        
    The second part of this workshop acknowledged the distress in caregivers due the COVID-19 pandemic. Parents identified distress in themselves, as well as techniques to help with self-regulation so that they could be better equipped to respond to their children’s needs. 
  • Workshop #3: Racial Justice and Social Activism for Kids 101 
    Current racial justice movement and civil unrest has called for anti-racism and social activism in children and adults. In the third workshop, participants explored how to have these tough conversations with young children through teens, along with ways to support anti-bias behavior in children. 
  • Workshop #4: Attachment Play Therapy to Enhance the Parent-Child Relationship
    Children need healthy attachments to feel loved and supported. During this workshop, participants were introduced to the theory behind attachment and the importance of healthy connections between parents and their children. The group also discussed the value of play, and were taught about fun play interventions to enhance connections with children from toddlers to teens.

April also led activities with our students to build and enhance racial literacy: 

  • In 4/5s and Kindergarten, students were given a paper with hearts on it that were in different skin tones after listening to the audiobook, "We're All the Same, We're All Different." Each child was encouraged to use their pencils to draw a line to match the hearts together, and then to circle the hearts that match the skin color of their classmates. The activity was wrapped up with April talking about how even though we may look different, we should all treat each other with respect and kindness no matter what we look like on the outside. If time allowed, some classes played the “Same/Different” game—April named different things (e.g. my favorite sport is soccer) and if the student agreed with the statement, they stood up. It was a fun way for the children to learn new things about each other and to find common interests among their peers. 
  • 1st and 2nd Graders also listened to “We’re All the Same, We’re All Different,” then participated in a guided activity. Each student received a worksheet showing various people from all walks of life, which they completed while following April’s prompts (for example, use a green marker to circle people who have the same hair color). There were also “trick questions” like “use a blue marker to circle people who like pizza,” which led to discussions about how we even though we may have common features, we can’t make assumptions about people just by looking at them; we have to talk to them and get to know them to understand who they are. 
  • 3rd through 6th Grade students worked together in small groups to create community sand trays that were inclusive, non-judgmental, and allowed everyone's voice to be heard. Rich discussions were held afterwards when the groups explained their trays to the entire class.

1st Graders participate in a guided activity emphasizing that we cannot make assumptions about people just by looking at them—we need to get to know them to understand who they are.

Finally, April spent time working with faculty around the issues of trauma and racial literacy. During a recent faculty professional development day, we explored the history of racial trauma in general and the signs of distress to be aware of when engaging Black youth—both in-person and in a virtual setting. Teachers also learned play therapy techniques to engage Black children and families in the healing process.

Many thanks to April for leading these discussions and activities, to our school counselor Missey for initiating the workshop series, and to all of you who have joined us for these opportunities.