Outreach spotlight: Members of ICD develop curriculum for the The Ladder mentorship program

By Keira Leneman

Members of the Institute of Child Development’s Outreach and Engagement Committee recently initiated the development of a curriculum for elementary, middle, and high schoolers about stress, the body, and coping for The Ladder’s May virtual session on mental health.

The Ladder is a club for kids from North Minneapolis who are interested in health careers. The program offers a structured environment of service learning, leadership development, and cascading mentorship. It aims to expose children and youth to health careers in an integrated manner and includes members from fourth grade all the way through practicing physicians. The Ladder holds monthly meetings every second Saturday, during which members engage in educational and mentorship activities. 

Dr. Anita Randolph, head of the Engagement CORE at the new Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain, fostered an introduction between ICD and The Ladder. The ICD Outreach and Engagement committee, co-led by Dr. Melissa Koenig, then met with Ladder leadership team Miller Balley and Sally Jeon to plan ICD’s involvement. Graduate student Outreach Committee members Keira Leneman and Hopewell Hodges coordinated ICD’s effort to develop a multi-part curriculum for three different age groups for The Ladder’s May event.

For the event, ICD’s Meriah DeJoseph, Keira Leneman, Hopewell Hodges, and Kayla Nelson co-created an elementary, middle, and high school curriculum with faculty and students from other units across the University of Minnesota campus, including Dr. Cheryl Olman, Vanessa Anyanso, and Dawson Hill of Psychology, Julianna Goenaga of Neuroscience, and Dr. Danielle Watt, director of the Medical School’s Biomedical Graduate Research, Education, and Training program. Psychology’s Dr. Rich Lee also supported the planning efforts, and ICD’s Dr. Melissa Koenig guided an opening meditation for all at the event. 

The curriculum for all age groups centered on the biological basis of stress and self-regulation in our bodies and brains, as well as reviewing stress coping strategies. Activities were the center of both components and included making a brain hat with a spinal cord from coloring pages and yarn, and a mindfulness timer out of glitter glue and a bottle of water. For the high school group, there was a neuroanatomy “competition,” where kids convinced the group why their assigned part of the brain was the “coolest.” 

The curriculum was co-presented during the May event alongside Ladder volunteers who are current students or professionals in the medical field. All in all, the ICD team enjoyed engaging virtually with this great group of future medical health professionals!