Confident kids take charge when it counts
Dr Deb Anderson, Monash University
Published in The Age Education section: June 9, 2013 – 11:50PM
When Andrea Lemon met Ramen* in a West Heidelberg classroom, he was marching to the beat of his own drum. The boy had been through a lot in his short life, having witnessed his parents die when he was five.
Now eight, Ramen was struggling to connect at school. He spent half his time beneath his desk or sitting with his back to the class, playing with toys. “One of the first times Kids Thrive came in to run a workshop,” Dr Lemon says, “he climbed out the window.”
But nine months later at the school’s end-of-year concert, as the curtain fell on the mix of ceremony, celebration and self-control, it was Ramen who spied a chance to reach out to grown-ups.
“He realised we hadn’t organised a farewell at the door,” says Dr Lemon, co-founder and creative director of Banyule Kids Thrive, the arts and community cultural development organisation behind the concert.
Her heart skipped a beat, she says. “Ramen led the charge to get some other kids with him on the door, to thank people for coming.”
Ramen was one of 63 children in the Banyule Kids Thrive 2012 pilot program, which worked with children from all walks of life in grades one to three.
What he did was quite a feat for any anxious child, Dr Lemon says – all the more so given his family history. “His father died of a drug overdose, and the next day his mother suicided,” she says. “What happens for a lot of kids who have been through trauma is they won’t take risks. They think, ‘If I can’t do it, I’m going to fail.’ And they can’t afford to fail.”
In an area of Melbourne whose sense of community is strong but whose social profile tends to be measured in terms of disadvantage, the Kids Thrive organisation is trying to make a big difference in little people’s lives.
It’s the brainchild of Dr Lemon and the co-founder, singer-composer Andrea Rieniets. Among other things, Dr Lemon was once the artistic director of Melbourne’s Women’s Circus; Ms Rieniets has performed across Australia at places such as WOMADelaide and the Famous Spiegeltent.
In their experience, artists working in communities with deeply entrenched social issues were often expected to be all things to all people. Building on 30 years of experience in the arts and working in communities, they turned their creative attention to the kids – and a new model.
They saw the chance to partner artists with specialists in children’s health, education, welfare and social justice, to create a range of arts-based programs to benefit children, especially those who might be at risk. For Banyule Kids Thrive, they teamed up with family support agencies such as Berry Street, the Children’s Protection Society and Banyule Community Health, which lead social and emotional learning activities while the artists engage children creatively.
They have also teamed up with school teachers, launching the pilot program last year in West Heidelberg, where the team delivers weekly one-hour sessions to build resilience, social skills, empathy and emotional regulation in students aged six to eight.
It’s about boosting confidence and “positive risk-taking”, Ms Rieniets says. “They’re being asked to try things they have never tried before, in a safe way.
That might be as small as making eye contact with the workshop leader on their way in and out of the classroom, which she says can be a huge hurdle for an anxious child. “Then we do rhythm, movement and mindfulness,” she says. “We call that ‘calming the thoughts and feelings’. That really heightens their awareness about self-regulation: I have thoughts and I have feelings and I can guide them.”
They might guide the community, too. Kids Thrive is about “child-led change”; these kids take their new confidence and skills into the general classroom and the schoolyard – and then home.
That’s where the skills could become even more powerful, says Dave Glazebrook. He got involved with the program when he was chief executive of the Children’s Protection Society last year.
For children going home to a stressed household, he says, their behaviour can be the last straw. But being able to recognise stress and calm down can take the pressure off, preventing conflict.
“You don’t have to go home and fight; you can put on a happy face and do different things,” Mr Glazebrook says.
He says the community services sector needs to understand the broad benefits of the arts in engaging children and families. “When you’re dealing with kids who have issues or are at-risk of issues, you can’t always do everything just by counselling. Kids engage in different ways.”
On that note, VicHealth has conducted extensive studies into the long-term benefits of the arts. Its 2010-13 plan, “Building Health through Arts”, backs several actions that, among other things, aim to build self-esteem, self-confidence, social engagement and belonging.
An independent evaluation of the Kids Thrive pilot program signals the team is breaking new ground. The report by Debbie King Consulting surveyed teachers involved in the program, who said nearly 90 per cent of the children had gained confidence. Most had also improved their communication and teamwork skills, three-quarters developed greater empathy for others, and 80 per cent raised their literacy levels.
Paul Muling, principal of one of the schools involved, St Pius X Primary, says the workshops benefited students and helped teachers try new things. “It helps them to engage with the children in a less formal way, using the creative arts,” he says. “They’ve got to step out of their comfort zone and perform with the kids.”
Another benefit, he says, is it allowed Catholic and government schools to work together. “These children across the three schools have similar issues – many come from challenging family backgrounds. It’s not about competing against each other; it’s about working together for these kids.”
Meantime, he says the Kids Thrive concerts have had a big impact on families. The concerts are where the children get to practise their new social skills, and share songs they have written to express their feelings.
“We’ve probably had an 80 per cent turnout of families coming to see their kids perform in concerts,” he says. That’s a breakthrough for some families who haven’t engaged well with school, or for grown-ups who don’t have fond memories of their own school years. “They’re so proud of the kids.”
Ms Rieniets says her arts practice evolved in the past year too. “I feel more like a facilitator of joy – that my whole purpose in the workshops and on stage is to warm up the kids and warm up the kids’ relationship with the grown-ups.”
She says support workers involved in the program have been invaluable in aiding the children, and now see a common goal: helping family members “tune in” to each other. “Even when there’s trauma or grief, we can see a transformation happening,” she says – and thinks of Ramen.
“He was this little kid who was displaying some terrible anxiety … who actually had some really fantastic social skills,” she says. “What we learnt from that is: trust the kids. Just give them lots of little opportunities to build their confidence muscle. And don’t assume that because they can’t do one thing, they’re not going to be able to do another. Focus on children’s resourcefulness.”
*The Age has withheld his real name.
Dr Deb Anderson is from the school of Journalism and Australian and Indigenous Studies, Monash University.
Dialogue Series (No.3)
Growing Ideas through Evidence Innovation
Kids Thrive InSchools Philanthropy
The children use music, writing, play-acting, drawing and dance to understand and explore philanthropy, community and their personal values and motivators. The children then initiate and forge partnerships with local organisations that share their values to create and deliver projects to benefit their communities.
Young children can play a pivotal role in bringing communities together and leading positive social change. Children are rarely considered as agents for social change, however Kids Thrive’s child-led approach supports children to: develop a positive sense of self; engage with their communities; and create the world in which they want to live.
This approach recognises that children are able to initiate and lead positive change from their own perspective for the benefit of all. In practice, Kids Thrive defines this approach as
- Taking a lead in identifying community strengths, and finding ways to increase those strengths through their own actions;
- Identifying community problems and finding solutions and actions they can take to remedy that problem – with or without the support of adults;
- Taking life-transforming ideas and skills back into their homes and communities, leading their adults by example into new ways of being in the world.
The approach requires adults to:
- Respect children as capable and able to achieve great things;
- Give children space to be deep and insightful people;
- Create opportunities for children to participate in community decision-making;
- Accept children’s offers and viewpoints respectfully;
- Be open to having our entrenched prejudices or limitations challenged and even changed by children.
What might help you notice whether improvements are being made? Through…
Evidence and approaches, such as Student capabilities:
Personal and social competencies
- More organized and demonstrate improved time management;
- Setting and achieving goals;
- Functioning as part of larger group of students to develop and
implement a project from start to finish;
- More able – post the KTISP program – to direct their own learning;
- Making phone calls to community groups on their own.
- Developing budgets and managing finances
- Willing to try something new;
- Using their experience of KTISP as evidence of their leadership
skills in their ‘pitch’ for school captain speeches;
- Initiating and forging relationships with local community groups;
- Initiating policy changes at school (e.g. flying the Aboriginal flag)
- Students are referring to themselves now as philanthropists –this cultural shift is noticeable in the playground with one school
- teacher and principal noticing that the students in the program are being more helpful and considerate in the school yard;
- Students are listening to each other respectfully in their project teams.
- Students are working supportively in their project teams with other children who are not in their friendship circle.
- When the Kids Thrive team arrives at a school, students are already waiting for them at the gate.
- Students are working on their community projects out of school hours;
- Students are working on their community projects even when it is not a set task;
- Students talk in positive ways about KTISP, “I want to do this forever!”
- Students with previously unexpressed attention to detail in their school work or its aesthetics now do so;
- Students’ body language changes in the sessions from just sitting in a chair to leaning forward; walking to walking confidently;
- Teachers and parents discovering things about their students/children they did not know they could do or had an interest in.
What might help you notice whether improvements are being made? Through… Evidence and approaches, such as
- The student-led projects are giving families a way to have a community-focused conversation at home;
- Family members ‘tear-up’ as they see and hear their children caring and doing something about a community issue;
- Attendance of family members, who previously had minimal contact with the school, at the students’ showcasing of their community projects and/or volunteering to be on the students’ funding panel.
- Students know of community organisations in their local area that they did not know of or have a relationship with before KTISP;
- Connections with community are being made in ways not normally done by students – via philanthropy; via doing their own research; via direct approaches; via informal conversations.
- Talking with members of the community that otherwise had not been talked to by children;
- Students are valuing their ‘local’ community context through such comments as, “the world is full of bad news… more important things are happening in front of us, but we can’t see them because we are looking at bigger things. You need to look at the small stuff as well” and “it felt good to help the mums”
- Members of community organisations are turning up to KTISP events, and participating in the program with students.
- Two small evaluations were undertaken of the KTISP program in 2013: The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation commissioned an evaluation of the program in three primary schools; and the Maldon Community Bank (a local program delivery partner) undertook an internal and community-based evaluation in three regional primary schools.
- The evaluators gathered feedback through interviews with teachers, principals, students and community organisations. This formal method, as well as the informal day-to-day observations of the Kids Thrive team, teachers and principals helped to elicit what students now know and are able to do; who they now know in their communities that they did not know before; and their ongoing engagement with philanthropy and community.
Ongoing learning and communication:
Kids Thrive undertakes constant reflection about the processes and outcomes of the
KTISP program, whilst it is being delivered, and at the end of each program cycle. Trainers and directors are in regular conversation with teachers, principals and community members to gauge their responses, and observations of the students as they progress through the course of the program.
Just as KTISP encourages students to disconnect from IT and practice social and relationship building skills, so Kids Thrive staff are encouraged to forge relationships with students, teachers,school and community leaders to ensure honest conversations and reflections continuously build the program.
Spend time with evaluators: Independent evaluation sits side- by-side with our learning and relationship building processes.
This ensures we create space for critical feedback and to provide additional data and analysis. In order to achieve useful outcomes in the evaluation process it is important to spend time with the evaluator, ensuring they have a deep understanding of the aims of the project – and how it might differ from other programs they have evaluated. This keeps the focus of the evaluation on the aims of the project. It also ensures the emerging data is relevant and useful to the schools and to us at Kids Thrive, as well as the
ongoing growth of the program.
Approaches can serve improvement and evaluation purposes:
Keen observation and journal keeping are the key tools we use in our evaluation ‘tool box’. When delivering programs in schools, we work side-by-side with teachers who are, after all, with their students every day. From this we can learn from the teachers’ observations understanding of their students. For example, we listen to their comments, note their observations, and compare them to our own – as the outside ‘eyes’ who see the students afresh. Using this approach, we improve our program and we gather systematic evaluative data from student ‘case studies’ – “Waleed is so shy he will fi nd it challenging to participate” ending with “I can’t believe Waleed led the presentation, and approached the leader of the community organisation to ask if he can become a member.”
The Kids Thrive InSchools Philanthropy (KTISP) program enables primary school-aged children to connect with their communities through philanthropy. Young children engage with their significant adults, the professionals who work with them, and with the communities through arts based experiences. The children use music, writing, play-acting, drawing and dance to understand and explore philanthropy, community and their personal values and motivators. The children then initiate and forge partnerships with local organisations that share their values to create and deliver projects to benefit their communities.
Dialogue Series (No.2)
A practical Guide to grow your ideas in education for maximum impact
The Kids Thrive InSchools Philanthropy program’s arts approach empowers primary school aged children to connect with their communities through philanthropy. The children immerse themselves in music, writing, play-acting, drawing and dance to understand and explore philanthropy, community and their personal values/motivators.
They then initiate and forge partnerships with local organisations to create and deliver beautiful projects to benefit their communities.
Kids Thrive is a not-for-profit incorporated association with a committee of management
(CoM). The CoM has a governance role with regard to the work of Kids Thrive. They focus on the Vision, Mission and legal requirements. At this time the accounts are audited internally by the Treasurer.
Kids Thrive is endorsed by the Register of Cultural Organisations (ROCO) as a Deductible
Gift Recipient (DGR) as covered by Item 1 ofthe table in section 30-15 of the Income Tax
Assessment Act 1997 and endorsed as a Tax Concession Charity (TCC). Each of Kids Thrive’s
arts-based child-led community development programs includes a steering committee thatinforms and advocates.
Kids Thrive is located physically within the Auspicious Arts Incubator in the Emerald Hill
Cultural Precinct of South Melbourne, Victoria along with fellow arts-related organisations
and businesses. This arrangement provides infrastructure and business mentoring support to the Kids Thrive leaders.
Kids Thrive’s InSchools Philanthropy (ISP) program is unique in that it consistently and
comprehensively engages with young children, their significant adults, and the professionals who work with them exclusively through arts based experiences. InSchools Philanthropy pilot is part of the social enterprise stream of Kids Thrive.
‘Philanthropy is, in essence, about resourcefulness; finding ways through, ways around, ways home. Saying ‘Yes!’ to what you want upheld in the world. The philanthropic discussion is too readily bogged down in ‘those that have’ helping ‘those who don’t have.’ Don’t have what? Stuff? Access to leveraging opportunities? With a re-focus on resourcefulness above resources, anything is possible – which is, in fact, the essential creative act. ISP is fired up to get kids to be really resourceful. To see the gaps and opportunities in the systems and relationships and to develop a much keener eye for the opportunity to act.’
Andrea Rieniets, Kids Thrive
Guiding principles and practices Kids Thrive uses to engage effectively with philanthropy and schools …
Create child-led community building:
Kids Thrive provides the expertise to support children to forge relationships in their community, supporting children to develop the knowledge, confidence and skills to
communicate with groups directly themselves. In doing so, there is a new generation of children who are learning to connect within their community.
‘Language associated with philanthropy, such as
“giving back” can foster a culture where we
think we have to wait 30 years before
becoming a philanthropist: give and take,
breathing out and in. Why hold your breath for
30 years?’ Andrea Rieniets, Kids Thrive
The InSchools Philanthropy pilot challenges this thinking and practice. The children are actively supported to become philanthropists in their own communities. Through a series of structured ‘action-based learning’ activities, run by the Kids Thrive team, the children get in touch with their personal values and motivators. They find out who in their local community is doing work that aligns with their values. The children learn to ‘talk to people’, approach them directly, and to develop ‘potential partnerships’. They rehearse being philanthropists and immerse themselves in the process. This includes the children putting together a ‘pitch’ for funding for their local community project, which they present to a panel of school council members, local community leaders, community bank representatives, and philanthropists.
From a curriculum perspective, InSchools Philanthropy can be a vehicle for teachers to
explore with students areas such as civics and citizenship, sustainability, literacy and
numeracy (budgeting), thinking processes, humanities (economics) and other student learning, such as leadership, personal learning and interpersonal development.
Kids Thrive is commissioned by local businesses and philanthropic organisations
(delivery partners) to develop and deliver the program in local communities. These local delivery partners – such as Community Bank branches of the Bendigo Bank – provide grants of up to $1000 for the children’s projects. In 2013, the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation is also supporting the program in four primary schools. In total, 7 programs in 2013 are being run with “imaginative young philanthropists” in the catchment areas of East Ivanhoe and Heidelberg West, St. Kilda, and the regional towns of Maldon, Newstead and Baringhup.
InSchools Philanthropy is one of a number of programs developed and offered by Kids Thrive.
Each program sits within the overall approach of Kids Thrive to be ‘relationship-centred’, arts-powered and child-led.
Factors for effective engagement
Building the capacity of the children and teachers to connect with their community
is crucial. This involves developing their knowledge of philanthropy and the ways
philanthropic acts can build strong, resilient communities. It also means skilling children in how to think and act philanthropically in their community. Effective capacity building also comes when all the partners – Kids Thrive, the school, the prospective community partner and the ‘delivery’ business or philanthropic partner demonstrate a commitment to the program.
“Everyone needs to embrace the aims and processes of the program”, says Andrea Lemon,
The most challenging aspect for effective engagement is being impact focused so
that everyone in the program benefits in the longer term:
With many projects we (the not-for- profit) can become the ‘vegemite’ in the sandwich between philanthropy and schools. The school cannot really know what a program is about until they have done it, which can make it initially more challenging for them to engage and commit. The philanthropics are understandably interested in impact, as are we, but at what point will our impact be evident? While we can measure the impact from one program, we are working for generational change and this doesn’t happen in a 12 month funding cycle. (Andrea Lemon, Kids Thrive)
What are the main outcomes?
InSchools Philanthropy is in its infancy as a program. This said, the team is noticing positive changes as a result of the Kids Thrive approach and methodologies within the program. These include, at a really fundamental level, teachers and students now knowing what philanthropy is and how to pronounce the word!
… an aspect of creativity is that you can make something beautiful from something very small. By placing philanthropy within a creativity paradigm we make it inspiring and achievable – a different possibility altogether. ‘Let’s make something together.’
So philanthropy itself becomes a creative act – not just reliant on thoughts, processes and logic. It’s about getting in touch with your values and your feelings: what do you feeling strongly about? What do you feel strongly against? What if…? (Andrea Rieniets, Kids Thrive)
Furthermore, Andrea Rieniets has observed: From a teaching and learning perspective, the
program leaders use the arts as a different modality of learning. Teachers tell the Kids
Thrive team that as a result of this modeling, they are now using some of these learning
approaches in their other classes.
The strong school-community focus of the program also provides a unique bridge for new
relationships to develop. The Kids Thrive team report that many of these relationships go beyond the life of the program with children continuing as volunteers within the organisations they partnered with in the program, and community organisations continuing to partner with the schools.
The fact that a new delivery partner, The Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, has come
on board for 2013 is testament to a growing interest in the work and its value.
How is information gathered?
Information about how the pilot is going is gathered iteratively and informally via the program’s events. Immediate feedback is also gathered by the Kids Thrive team from the children and teachers as they undertake various ‘action learning’ processes.
How do you share the information gathered and with whom?
The program has two key community story telling public events: the presentation ‘pitch’ for funding that the children do, and the public celebration where the students, artists and
philanthropists share their projects once they have been achieved.
The children move from ‘cold’ to ‘hot’ as the program progresses. Their knowledge expands and their skills improve. They become aware of what’s needed in their community and what could ‘we’ be doing differently. We see their confidence levels grow – and we see them grow six inches in height (literally) – from session 1 to the final celebration event in the program – as they experience being leaders, being taken seriously by adults, and making elemental changes in their community.
KIND Kids Thrive: A Summary of the 2013 Evaluation
Kids Thrive Inc. received funding from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship, Scanlon Foundation, Gandel Philanthropy and the City of Hume’s Communities For Children to offer KIND during 2013.
The KIND program is based on Derman-Spark and Edwards’ (2010) anti-bias framework1 and pursues the four goals outlined in the framework:
1 Derman-Sparks, Louise and Julie Olsen Edwards, 2010, Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, National Association for the Education of Young Children, Washington DC
- Self-esteem and valuing one’s own culture.
- Valuing differences.
- Noticing unfair behaviour because of those differences.
- Taking action.
Children participating in KIND create original songs and participate in community performances at the end of each school term. The program also provides professional development for teachers and multicultural agency workers in using the arts for education and social change.
The evaluation identified the impact of the KIND program in the three Catholic primary schools in the Hume Region in 2013.
Data for the evaluation was obtained from the following sources:
- Steering Committee and “frontline workers” evaluation feedback
- Steering Committee Minutes
- Student Progress Reports – these detailed reports were completed by the three teachers for each child in their class detailing each child’s progress as a result of KIND in relation to eleven dimensions.
- Teacher and Principal Evaluation
- End of Year Interviews with children conducted by the Kids Thrive artists.
1. To what extent have children, teachers, agency staff and steering committee members participated in KIND?
KIND has involved:
- 81 children from the three schools
- Three school sites
- Five teachers (one from each from two schools; three from one school)
- 11 Steering Committee meetings between 22 January 2013 and 16 December 2013
2. What has KIND delivered?
KIND has delivered:
- 4 original songs, 7 cultural songs brought from home
- 51 workshops and sessions
- 4 community engagement events/performances by participants to 690+ community audience
- 3 pre-workshop community engagement concerts by Kids Thrive
- 3 professional development sessions for the teachers and community agency workers
3. To what extent do children demonstrate improved self-confidence as a result of KIND?
95% of students had some level of improvement in their self-confidence as a result of KIND.
4. To what extent have children shared aspects of their own culture with each other?
75% of children had been able to express aspects of their own cultures with each other.
5. To what extent do children demonstrate greater understanding and acceptance of difference?
100% of children demonstrated improved respect for each other and Improved appreciation of diversity and difference.
6. To what extent have children improved their capacity to recognise unfairness?
95% of children improved their capacity to recognise unfairness, both in the behaviour of others and themselves.
7. To what extent have children improved their capacity to take constructive action to deal with unfairness against themselves or others?
95% of children made improvements in their capacity to take action to address unfairness.
8. To what extent have teachers and relevant agency workers improved their understanding of discrimination and the issues facing their students
100% of teachers and principals have improved their understanding of discrimination and the issues facing the children as a result of KIND.
9. To what extent have teachers and relevant agency staff developed their skills around arts based learning?
100% of teachers and principals said they had improved their knowledge and skills around arts based education as a result of KIND.
10. To what extent have parents/carers, schools and community agencies strengthened their connections?
KIND has had some positive impact on the level of engagement between families and schools and between schools and agencies but it is not possible to quantify the level of impact.
KIND is an arts-based learning program focusing on cultural diversity and valuing differences, using the anti-bias framework developed by Derman-Sparks and Edwards (2010). In its first year KIND has delivered a significant program in three schools in the Hume Region, a disadvantaged area of Melbourne. The evidence from this evaluation suggests that the program has been successful in improving the skills and capacities of the children and their teachers and in starting the process of building the links between families, schools and multicultural community agencies.
Banyule Kids Thrive: A Summary of the 2013 Evaluation
Kids Thrive Inc. received funding from the Lord Mayor’s Charitable Foundation, Angior Foundation, Australia Council and Bennelong Foundation to provide the BKT program during 2013.
BKT is an arts-based, primary prevention program exploring and encouraging positive social and emotional learning and alternatives to violence for children, their families and carers in Banyule with a particular focus on the disadvantaged area of West Heidelberg. In 2013 the program was delivered in three campuses of two local primary schools
Children participating in BKT create original songs in their own class group (one class selected at each school), participate in community performances at the end of each school term, firstly at their own school sites, then combining the three campuses. The program has also provided professional development for teachers in using the arts for education and social change, and in understanding and using social emotional learning in the classroom.
The evaluation identified the impact of the BKT program in the three primary schools in 2013.
- Data for the evaluation was obtained from the following sources:
- Minutes of Steering Committee Meetings
- Student Progress Reports – these detailed reports were completed by the three teachers for each child in their class detailing each child’s progress as a result of BKT in relation to 13 dimensions
- Teacher and Principal Evaluation Survey
- End of year interviews with children conducted by Kids Thrive artists.
1. To what extent have children, teachers, agency staff and steering committee members participated in BKT?
BKT has involved:
- 58 children from the three schools
- Three school sites
- Three teachers (one from each school campus); three principals (one from each school campus); one community agency worker and three community agency managers.
- 9 Steering Committee meetings
- 53% of children showed improved attendance; 72% showed improved ability to focus and 81% showed improved social/class engagement as a result of BKT
2. What has BKT delivered?
BKT has delivered:
- 8 original songs, 2 traditional clapping games to 70 children
- 85 workshops and sessions
- 7 community engagement events/performances
- 2 professional development sessions for the teachers and community agency workers
3. To what extent do children demonstrate improved self-confidence, positive social skills and the capacity to self-regulate?
84% of children showed increased confidence as a result of BKT; 60% of children showed improved teamwork; 62% of children showed improved empathy and 51% showed improved self-regulation.
4. To what extent have children learnt and applied creative literacy skills?
83% of children showed improved literacy; 81% showed improved communication and 78% showed improved persistence as a result of BKT.
5. To what extent have parents/carers had a positive engagement and improved participation with their child’s education?
Parent engagement improved for 50% of children.
6. To what extent have schools and community agencies strengthened their connections?
All teachers and principals identified some positive impact on their relationships outside the school as a result of BKT.
7. To what extent have teachers and agency staff developed skills around arts based learning
The majority of teachers and principals identified improved knowledge and skills in arts-based learning as a result of BKT.
Comparing 2013 with 2012 results it is possible to conclude that BKT improves children’s:
- Self-confidence (90% of children improved in 2012 and 84% in 2013)
- Communication (89% of children improved In 2012 and 81% In 2013)
- Creative literacy (80% of children improved in 2012 and 83% in 2013)
- Persistence (77% of children improved In 2012 and 78% in 2013)
BKT also makes a contribution towards improved:
- Engagement of parents with schools
- Connection between schools and with community agencies
- Skills and knowledge in arts-based learning for teachers.
BKT is based on sound evidence of the value of the arts in engaging and educating young children. BKT has delivered a significant program in three school campuses in a disadvantaged area of Melbourne. The evidence from this evaluation suggests that the program has been successful in improving the skills and capacities of the children and their teachers and community agency workers and in building the links between families, schools and community agencies.
Baby Choir 2014 Findings & Conclusions
For further information contact Dr Alex Phillips. Banyule Community Health. Quality Coordinator. 9450 2648 or email@example.com
Baby Choir Evaluation Report 2014
Summary of Conclusions & Supporting Evidence
Evidence from the current evaluation suggests that…
70% of observed interactions facilitated positive childhood development.
1. Activities run at Baby Choir facilitate positive engagement between adults and children (Program Logic).
- 50% of positive interactions were face:face between an adult and child according to structured observations.
- 36% of adults surveyed said that the best thing about Baby Choir was the time that they had with their child.
2. Baby Choir contributes to childhood development in communication and self-identity.
- face:face interaction between the adult and child occurred most often (30%) during a song and dance activity where adults were prompted to face the child, look into their eyes and sing and move (Slow Dancing; second session).
- According to the Australian Early Years Framework singing and chanting rhymes, jingles and songs together and positive adult, child interaction (p.41&42) are known to impact on children’s development of self-identity and communication.
3. Baby Choir contributes to the conditions required for optimal brain development in vulnerable children at a time of rapid brain growth.
Australian Early Development Census (2014) 0-3 years of age is a period of “rapid” brain development which can be “fostered by relationships with caregivers and supported by optimal community environments for families and children.” These conditions can ameliorate stress in children related to disadvantage and/or trauma. Prolonged stress of this type negatively interferes with brain development.
- Activities run at Baby Choir facilitate positive engagement between adults and children.
- 73% of adults reported positive feelings about being at Baby Choir and the environment.
- A theme evident in survey responses was that adults and children felt ‘relaxation and being calm’ when at Baby Choir and afterwards.
- 64% of adults surveyed described behavioural indicators that demonstrated social connections and developmental outcomes for children. These outcomes suggest Baby Choir is a positive environment for children.
- 58% of families attended more than one session across one or more terms indicating that it was an enjoyable experience and environment.
- Choir reaches vulnerable children by being conducted at Banyule Community Health, a service in West Heidelberg where families rank in the 95th percentile of dis/advantage.
4. Baby Choir increased social connections between adults from disadvantaged communities (Program logic).
- Choir reaches vulnerable adults by being conducted at Banyule Community Health, a service in West Heidelberg where families rank in the 95th percentile of dis/advantage.
- Structured observations indicated that 39% of positive interactions during Baby Choir were between adults.
Baby Choir 2014 Findings & Conclusions Page 2 of 8 For further information contact Dr Alex Phillips. Banyule Community Health. Quality Coordinator. 9450 2648 or firstname.lastname@example.org
- 45% of surveyed adults reported that the adult-to-adult interactions were important to them.
- Two Community nurses interviewed for the evaluation said that singing and dancing meant adults had something to do and it provided a shared experience, both of which enabled conversations to begin more naturally.
5. Baby Choir impacted on social connection and developmental outcomes for children.
- 64% of adults surveyed described behavioural indicators that demonstrated positive social connections and developmental outcomes for children.
- Only 12% of positive interactions were between two or more children.
- For several reasons observational data of children’s interactions with each other was not a valid indicator of social connection/interaction for the children who went to Baby Choir.
6. Adults improved coping skills as a result of attending Baby Choir.
- 64% of adults surveyed said that since attending Baby Choir they responded to difficult situations in a “more calm” and constructive way.
- A theme in survey responses was that adults and their baby felt ‘relaxed and calm’ both during, and after being at Choir.
7. People who regularly took part in Baby Choir positively engaged with service providers (Program Logic). Likewise they accepted support from services (Program Logic).
- Forty five families attended Baby Choir in 2014.
- 58% of families attended more than one session across one or more terms.
- 31% attended for one term, 35% attended two terms, 19% three terms and 15% went to all four terms.
- 69% of these families attended for two or more terms.
- Community nurses said that in an informal setting such as Baby Choir, adults frequently talked with them about parenting and child development. It helped build adult’s trust in services.
- A certain degree of trust in health centre staff was demonstrated when clients consented to being filmed for the current evaluation.
- Families attended 3 other groups, on average, in addition to Baby Choir.
- There was no evidence to suggest that attendance at Baby Choir increased participant’s use of other health services.
- Community nurses interviewed were not surprised that 42% of families attended only one session. They said that the flexibility and active nature of Baby Choir was part of its success for some people, and conversely, was probably not suited to others.
- 27% of survey respondents said that Baby Choir was different from other groups because it was more flexible and active.
8. The Performance and related Rehearsal sessions did not meet the needs of people who attend Baby Choir.
- Zero from ten families did not attend the Rehearsal in term 4 despite attendance for 2 or more terms, including term 4. Two families attended the Performance.
9. A substantial decrease in attendance at Baby Choir in Term 2 suggests attendance be monitored in 2015, particularly in the month of May.
- Families were least likely to attend Term 2. Attendance in May 2014 was 0 – 2 families across 4 sessions. 15 families in total attended in Term 2.
Baby Choir 2014 Findings & Conclusions Page 3 of 8 For further information contact Dr Alex Phillips. Banyule Community Health. Quality Coordinator. 9450 2648 or email@example.com
Data collected for the current evaluation was as follows:
- Survey completed by 11 adults at Baby Choir session 2.9.14
- Video recordings of Baby Choir sessions 7.10.14 and 14.10.14
- Analysis of 15 seconds of observational data at 5 minute intervals. Total145 behaviours observed. Variables; Face:face adult to child interaction; adult to adult interaction; child to child interaction.
- Semi structured interview with the two BCH Community Midwives and Maternal & Child Health Nurses who attend Choir.
- Attendance records for 2014
Evidence and Conclusions
Observations demonstrated that activities run at Baby Choir facilitate positive engagement between adults and children (Program Logic).
Results suggest that Baby Choir contributes to childhood development in communication and self-identity.
It was apparent that 50% of positive interactions were face:face between an adult and child according to structured observations. Likewise, 36% of adults surveyed said that the best thing about Baby Choir was the time that they had with their child. For example, “I can just have fun with my kids,” we have “time together” and “family time.” Much attention is paid to positive engagement between adults and children as an essential experience for positive childhood development (Early Years Framework).
According to the Australian Early Years Learning Framework (2009) the creative and expressive arts offer a medium for adults to interact with children. More specifically, singing and chanting rhymes, jingles and songs together (p.41&42) are known to impact on development of self-identity and communication.
Observational data indicated that face:face interaction between the adult and child occurred most often (30%) during a song and dance activity where adults were prompted to face the child, look into their eyes and sing and move (Slow Dancing; second session, n= 9/30). To further impact on childhood development in communication and self-identity it could be worth increasing the number of activities, or prompts, that direct adults to interact face:face with children.
Baby Choir contributes to the conditions required for optimal brain development in vulnerable children at a time of rapid brain growth.
Evidence form the current evaluation indicates that Baby Choir is a program that is delivered in such a way that it not only reaches vulnerable children but promotes healthy brain development.
According to the Centre for Community Child Health at the Royal Children’s Hospital (AEDC, 2014), 0-3 years of age is a period of “rapid” brain development which can be “fostered by relationships with caregivers and supported by optimal community environments for families and children.” These conditions can ameliorate stress in children related to disadvantage and/or trauma. Prolonged stress of this type negatively interferes with brain development.Baby Choir 2014 Findings & Conclusions Page 4 of 8 For further information contact Dr Alex Phillips. Banyule Community Health. Quality Coordinator. 9450 2648 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Evidence from the current evaluation demonstrates that Baby Choir provides the conditions for positive brain development in vulnerable children. Structured observations and survey responses demonstrated that positive adult, child interactions were an outcome from Baby Choir. The Early Years Framework (2009)supports the use of singing, movement and dance as a way to promote engagement between adults and children. Certainly, these were the most frequent type of activities run during the program (see observational data).
It was apparent that the environment was safe and enjoyed by families. 73% of adults reported positive feelings about being at Baby Choir and the environment. For example, one respondent said it was “friendly, welcoming and relaxed” and another two said it was a “fun, easy going environment” and an “Environment for baby to have fun.” These positive feelings are in keeping with a similar theme of relaxation and being calm for both adults and children that was indicated by 27% of adults surveyed. 58% of families attended more than one session across one or more terms indicating that Baby Choir wan enjoyable experience and environment. 64% of adults surveyed described several behavioural indicators that demonstrated social connections and developmental outcomes for children. These outcomes suggest Baby Choir is a positive environment for children. Choir reaches vulnerable children by being conducted at Banyule Community Health, a service in West Heidelberg where families rank in the 95th percentile of dis/advantage (ABS, 2011).
Evidence indicates that Baby Choir increased social connections between adults from disadvantaged communities (Program logic).
A medium and short term aim of Baby Choir is that adults have regular and positive informal contact with each other, which in-turn, improves social and community connection. Researchers in public health, specifically the Social Determinants of Health, have long established that these conditions are essential for the physical health and wellbeing of adults and children (Aslund et al. 2010; Holt-Lunstad et al. 2010; Kelly et al. 2012; Wilkinson & Marmot, 2003[WHO]). These researchers have also found that social connections are typically poor in disadvantaged communities effectively compromising the resilience of individuals and communities. For these reasons, the location of Baby Choir in West Heidelberg and evidence of increased adult engagement take on a particular significance.
Choir is delivered at Banyule Community Health, a service in West Heidelberg where families rank in the 95th percentile of dis/advantage (ABS, 2011 SEIFA). Provision of a family program in this location maximises attendance by disadvantaged families.
Structured observations indicated that 39% of positive interactions during Baby Choir were between adults. The value of these interactions was reported by 45% of adults surveyed. For example, when asked what they thought were the best things about attending Baby Choir some adults said, “Being less shy and getting out,” “… social interaction,” “making new friends and getting out of the house” and “time with other parents.”
According to the nurses interviewed for the evaluation the structure and activities of Baby Choir provides opportunities for conversations to take place naturally. Singing and dancing meant the adult had something to do with the child and a shared experience to begin conversations with other adults. The nurses reported that other adult and child groups tended to be more structured with fewer opportunities for ‘free-style’ interactions. Similar views were reported by 27% of survey respondents who said that Baby Choir was different from other groups because it was more flexible and active.Baby Choir 2014 Findings & Conclusions Page 5 of 8 For further information contact Dr Alex Phillips. Banyule Community Health. Quality Coordinator. 9450 2648 or email@example.com
Results demonstrate social connection and developmental outcomes for children.
64% (7/11) of adults surveyed described positive social connections and developmental outcomes for their child. It is perhaps worth considering all of the comments of this theme because they show a range of indicators of social connection and developmental outcomes for children. When asked about changes in themselves or their baby since attending Choir adults said:
- “Better social skills for my baby
- “Smiling to strangers more”
- “Less shy of new people”
- “She looks, enjoys seeing other babies”
- “My daughter loves to sing and now feels comfortable enough to sing here.”
- “My son’s language [has improved] and my other son has come out of his shell and gained some independence.”
In addition, one adult said “my baby interacts more with other babies here” compared to when she goes to other adult child groups.
According to the Australian Early Years Learning Framework (2009), when children reach out to other children or respond positively to others they are showing that they feel “connected with, and contribute to their world” (p.25).
Nevertheless, the range of reported behaviours that suggested Baby Choir contributed to social connection and developmental outcomes for children are in direct contrast with findings from structured observations that little interaction took place between children.
Only 12% of positive interactions were between two or more children. Although it was never intended for observational data to stand alone as an indicator of connection between children, it was anticipated that results from the survey and formal observations would support each other.
There are, however, several plausible reasons for the difference between conclusions drawn from survey data compared to formal observational data. Limitations in observational data of interactions between children are as follows;
- Several children were at an age where developmentally, social connection/interaction would be indicated in realtively subtle ways, eg. making eye contact, or tracking people’s actions. Recorded observations are unreliable because interactions were only counted if they were more obvious; children physically reached out, verbalised or made clear facial expressions with each-other.
- Data was further flawed because children typically played together in areas of the room that were not within view of the recording. As such, these actions were not counted.
Given the limitations of observational data of children’s interactions with each other it would seem that it was not a valid indicator of social connection/interaction for the children who went to Baby Choir.
Nevertheless, interactions and connections do not take place in a vacuum. Although the Early Years Framework (2009) points to the need for child-to-child interaction it was not to the exclusion of engagement with adults. Adults surveyed for the current evaluation pointed out many behavioral changes that suggested children had improved social connections as a result of attending Baby Choir.Baby Choir 2014 Findings & Conclusions Page 6 of 8 For further information contact Dr Alex Phillips. Banyule Community Health. Quality Coordinator. 9450 2648 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Findings take on a particular significance given that the children starting school in West Heidelberg were developmentally vulnerable at twice the rate of all Victorian children in the domains of social competence and emotional maturity. According to the Australian Early Development Index (AEDI, 2012) children starting school in West Heidelberg were vulnerable in each of these domains at 16.3% and 14.1% respectively.
Adults described improved coping skills as a result of attending Baby Choir.
64% of surveyed adults described how they coped in difficult situations, both before and after starting Baby Choir. All the adults who answered this question described responding in a “more calm” way since attending Baby Choir. For example, two respondents said the following;
- In a difficult situation, before going to Baby Choir, I would get “angry.”
If I think of the same situation now, I would say that after attending Baby Choir, “I can lighten up easier.”
- In a difficult situation, before going to Baby Choir ”I cried, I swear.”
If I think of the same situation now, I would say that after attending Baby Choir, I would “Sing, dance, relax. Things that felt too tough I now know will go away.”
Adult’s self-report that they could cope in more positive ways since going to Baby Choir are in keeping with a theme of Relaxation and Being Calm that was evident throughout the survey. 27% of adults reported a similar sentiment as the two examples presented below:
“It makes me more calm; me and my baby have fun … it also helps him to have a long nap … it always energized me with positive thoughts and the whole day is happier” “
“so joyful and relaxing”
It would seem that people who regularly took part in Baby Choir positively engaged with service providers (Program Logic).
It could be argued that attendance at Baby Choir is indicative of a positive experience with facilitators and other service providers who regularly took part. Forty five families attended Baby Choir in 2014. 58% of families attended more than one session across one or more terms. The majority (69%) of these families attended for two or more terms which for the purposes of the evaluation is defined as regular attendance. From all families who went to Baby Choir more than once, 31% attended for one term, 35% attended two terms, 19% three terms and 15% went to all four terms.
Positive engagement with service providers was also apparent in the reports of Community Nurses interviewed for the current evaluation. They said that being at Baby Choir gave adults an opportunity to talk with health professionals about parenting and child development in an informal setting. This aspect is reflected in the comments of some adults who said they started going to Baby choir to “learn skills as a first time parent” and to learn “ideas for playtime with my baby.” According to the community nurses adults frequently used this informal opportunity to talk with them and it helped build adult’s trust in child health services.
It may also be worth noting that a certain degree of trust in health centre staff was demonstrated when clients consented to being filmed for the current evaluation. It would seem that people who regularly took part in Baby Choir positively engaged with service providers.Baby Choir 2014 Findings & Conclusions Page 7 of 8 For further information contact Dr Alex Phillips. Banyule Community Health. Quality Coordinator. 9450 2648 or email@example.com
It is possible that the 42% of families who attended one session of Baby Choir were not engaged with service providers. Without further information from this group, however, this reason is purely speculative. In their interview, the community nurses said that they were not surprised that almost half of the people went to one session only. They said that the flexibility and active nature of Baby Choir was part of its success for some people, and conversely, was probably not suited to others. This explanation seems more plausible given that 27% of survey respondents said that Baby Choir was different from other groups because it was more flexible and active.
“This is different. No others do this. Other groups are so structured; no rules, open, express and bend”
In one sense positive engagement with service providers was also indicated by client attendance at other adult and child groups. On average survey respondents indicated that they attended three other groups with their children in addition to Baby Choir. This number excludes two adults who reported attending no other groups.
There was no evidence to suggest that attendance at Baby Choir increased participant’s use of other health services. According to the Community Nurses who take part in Baby Choir they tended not to receive referrals from the group for families to access their service. It was typical, however, for the nurses to refer their clients to attend Baby Choir.
It is apparent that clients who regularly attend Baby Choir accept support from services (Program logic)
Baby Choir is provided in West Heidelberg where families rank in the 95th percentile of dis/advantage (ABS, 2011). According to the community nurses interviewed for the current evaluation, they often worked with families in West Heidelberg who had negative experiences of children’s and/or health services. These experiences usually led to a lack of trust and acceptance of services. Regular attendance at Baby Choir, positive engagement with service providers and attendance at other adult and child groups are all suggestive of an acceptance of services by the target group.
It would seem the Performance and related Rehearsal sessions do not meet the needs of people who attend Baby Choir.
Ten families did not attend the Rehearsal in term 4 despite regular attendance for 2 or more terms (inclusive of term 4). Similarly, only 2 families attended the Performance.
A decrease in attendance at Baby Choir in Term 2 suggests attendance be monitored in 2015, particularly in the month of May.
Families were least likely to attend Term 2 with attendance at 0 – 2 families across 4 sessions in May 2014. 15 families in total attended in Term 2. According to BCH Community Nurses, poor weather may have caused the drop in attendance because more appointments are cancelled in the winter months.
A review of whether it is efficient to use resources during this time period needs to be balanced against the benefits of regular availability of Baby Choir for disadvantaged families. Social and community development workers, experienced in empowering disadvantaged communities, would argue that Baby Choir be consistently available to maintain community trust and security of the informal ‘drop in’ approach.Baby Choir 2014 Findings & Conclusions Page 8 of 8 For further information contact Dr Alex Phillips. Banyule Community Health. Quality Coordinator. 9450 2648 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Aslund, C., Starrin, B. & Nilsson, K.W. (2010). Social capital in relation to depression, musculoskeletal pain, and psychosomatic symptoms: a cross sectional study of a large population-based cohort of Swedish adolescents. BMC Public Health, 10 (715)
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Holt-Lunstad, J., Smith, T. & Layton, J.B. (2010). Social relationships and mortality risk: A meta-analytic review. PLoS medicine, 7(7): e1000316 doi:10.371/journal.pmed.1000316 On-line. Last accessed 14.11.13 http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1000316
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WOW! You read to the end. Good for you, you eval nerd! (Andrea Rieniets and Andrea Lemon)