New program helps school staff who work with students experiencing trauma

Every day, children who experience traumatic life events — such as violence, abuse, neglect, or growing up in a household with substance abuse or mental health concerns — bring stress and other effects to school with them.

To help staff who work with these students, Kaiser Permanente is launching a mental health and wellness program in schools across the state called the Resilience in School Environments Understanding and Practice (RISE UP).

RISE UP is an interactive theater workshop designed to foster resilience and support school staff as they work with students who are managing trauma from difficult situations.

The two-hour workshop is presented by Seattle Children’s Theatre. It debuted in the Seattle region at Lowell Elementary School in October 2019, and it travels to West Valley School District and Northeast Washington Educational Services District (NEWESD 101) in the Spokane area in November. During the 2019 to 2020 school year, RISE UP will be shared with 20 schools involved in the Kaiser Permanente Thriving Schools program.

By using interactive theater techniques, RISE UP helps teachers and other staff gain insight into how to encourage a positive school climate, especially in trauma-sensitive interactions with students. The goal is to create better, safer learning environments.

“By using real-life examples from the participants, we hope to help teachers and staff see what they did right and where they can improve — not just for the sake of their students, but for themselves and their colleagues, too,” said Meredith Berlin, teaching artist from Seattle Children’s Theatre.

RISE UP began last school year as a pilot of Kaiser Permanente Colorado. It was so successful that it’s being rolled out across the country during this school year. A survey of participants in last year’s program found:

  • 84% reported that they learned how to develop stronger relationship with students
  • 84% reported feeling confident in their ability to develop stronger relationships with students who have experienced trauma
  • 78% indicated they felt more connected to their colleagues after the session

As part of the Thriving Schools program, Kaiser Permanente and Seattle Children’s Theatre also continue to tour “Ghosted,” a performance and group discussion for high school students. The play’s goal is to remove some of the stigma around mental health, help students understand how and when to get help, and learn more about depression and anxiety. Next spring, our production for middle school students, “Above Between Below,” will be in schools. The play gives young people tools and strategies to cope with, avoid, and put an end to bullying.

Educational Theatre Programs are free to qualifying schools

All these programs are created by theater professionals who develop the performances in consultation with educators, youth, community advisory committees, and Kaiser Permanente health care providers. Designed to inspire children, teens, and adults to make informed decisions about their health and build stronger communities, all programs are offered free of charge to qualifying schools in our service area.

To book a performance, please contact Broderick Ryans, Seattle Children’s Theatre’s arts-based learning program manager, at or 206-443-0807, ext. 1164.

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