Urban Improv 4th Grade Teacher Curriculum Training

As a member of the Hamilton Fish Institute’s Youth Violence Prevention Consortium, and with funding support from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, Roy A. Hunt Foundation, and American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, the Trauma Center at JRI has evaluated, developed, and implemented youth violence prevention programs since 2001. Projects have focused on evaluating Urban Improv, a school-based interactive and educational program that has used structured improvisational theater to teach violence prevention, conflict resolution, and decision making skills to Boston public school students since 1992. We have collaborated with Urban Improv on three primary projects:

1) Outcome Evaluations of Urban Improv

We have evaluated Urban Improv’s standard elementary and middle school programming. Our research has supported the utility of Urban Improv in preventing increased or new-onset of aggressive behaviors in fourth graders, while increasing pro-social behaviors and classroom engagement. Results of this study will soon be published in the Journal of School Violence.

2) Urban Improv for the Classroom: 4th Grade Teacher Curriculum

The best practice guidelines for youth violence prevention programming emphasize the importance of involving the total school community in the prevention program and fostering stronger relationships between students and school staff. We have, therefore, adapted the elementary school version of Urban Improv for more efficient dissemination requiring less extensive staff training and fewer resources by drawing from its components and building them into the natural setting of the classroom. We developed a classroom-based, teacher-led component of the Urban Improv program to extend the application of UI violence/problem resolution strategies within a broader context and cement learning through increased practice.

Urban Improv for the Classroom: 4th Grade Teacher Curriculum was developed by a team of fourth grade Boston Public School teachers, Urban Improv actor/educators, and Trauma Center psychologists. The curriculum extends for nine weeks, consists of three parts, and can be incorporated into standard school lesson plans. There are two versions of the curriculum: one serves as a supplement to the standard Urban Improv program for classrooms already participating in the actor-led Urban Improv program, and one was designed as a stand-alone youth violence prevention program for classrooms and schools.

The Urban Improv Teacher Curriculum is available for download from the Urban Improv page in the Products section of the web site.

3) Trauma Drama: Urban Improv-Intensive Protocol for Middle School Aged Children Exposed to Trauma and Violence

The Trauma Drama intervention program was developed in collaboration with Urban Improv to target youth violence in young adolescents with histories of exposure to violence and trauma. The program is a 24-week clinically informed theater-based program that aims to reduce youths’ risk of perpetrating and/or becoming victims of violence. Therapeutic techniques, such as relaxation, mindfulness, and grounding exercises, are integrated with improvisational scenes, movement and rhythm activities, cooperative games, and music. The Trauma Drama program targets safety, affect regulation, interpersonal skill building, problem-solving, youth violence prevention, trauma processing, and enhancement of individual competencies. The Trauma Center has evaluated the efficacy of Trauma Drama in a specialized day school for children and adolescents with severe emotional and behavioral disabilities and in two Boston Public School seventh grade classrooms. In the future, we plan to expand the Trauma Drama program and continue to evaluate the efficacy of this program as a tertiary prevention/intervention program.

For more information about this program, please contact Marla Zucker, Ph.D. (617) 232-1303, x219.

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