The University of Tennessee Extension / Family & Consumer Sciences

Posted On: September 10, 2018

Extension agents are a national treasure: They offer educational programs through the designated land-grant university in each state with the goal to provide research-based knowledge that improves the lives of citizens.

In 2010, the University of Tennessee Extension (UT Extension) identified BrainWise as a program that would help Family and Consumer Sciences agents better serve families. Professor and child development specialist Dr. Matthew Devereaux arranged for twenty-five agents to be trained to teach the program.

The University of Tennessee Extension / Family & Consumer Sciences Katie Conrad
Katie Conrad

Eight years later, this collaboration led Extension Specialist Katie Conrad, Ph.D., to contact BrainWise about attending a Training of Trainers (BTOT) session so she could be licensed to train extension agents working in the state’s ninety-five counties. The agents would use the program to enhance existing youth, adult, and family classes and services.

Additional support will be provided by the formation of an online BrainWise community (e.g., Google classroom or Basecamp.) Its services will include various ways to connect agents, provide resources, answer questions, inform them of program and project updates, and be a sounding board for them to share their successes and suggestions for growth.

This approach will help expand the reach of BrainWise and ensure that the program is taught with fidelity, increasing optimal outcomes. Such efforts are critical as greater awareness grows about the negative consequences of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) and their impact on health and society.

Dr. Conrad reports that recent data show that 61% of adult Tennesseans have experienced some form of childhood trauma. “BrainWise is an excellent resource for a wide range of audiences, from 4H youth, to childcare providers and elders,” she said. “The 10 Wise Ways will help our agents address ACEs and help us build healthy and resilient families.”

She supported this belief with specific examples. “What I personally enjoy about BrainWise is the accessibility. There are a plethora of easy-to-grasp tools and ‘grab-and-go’ activities that can be adapted for anyone. This is the type of curriculum our agents are hungry for!”

She also talked about how the 10 Wise Ways can be integrated into existing programs, such as RULER, a widely heralded approach developed by the Yale Center for Emotional Intelligence that UT Extension is teaching in several schools. “BrainWise is the perfect complement to RULER because it is grounded in theory and research on social and emotional learning. In fact, when I was trained in the 10 Wise Ways of BrainWise, I was able to make connections of how each wise way supports, or relates to, the four anchor tools of RULER.”

When asked how she would recruit others to teach BrainWise, Dr. Conrad focused on its application to education and health. “BrainWise complements ‘the other half’ of learning; that is, youth and individuals are not successful if their social and emotional needs are not being honed or met. BrainWise supports academic achievement and sustains lifelong health and success which can be missed by traditional approaches to learning. The program meets children, youth and adults where they are socially and emotionally, helping them make better choices and decisions. It is a win-win for everyone!”

The University of Tennessee Extension / Family & Consumer Sciences Matthew Devereaux Ph.D
Matthew Devereaux Ph.D.

Dr. Conrad’s Constellation of Support includes Dr. Devereaux and her UT Extension colleagues, as well as her fellow BrainWise Trainers in Colorado, Alaska, and Calgary. Her enthusiasm and vision for teaching BrainWise will benefit many families, and we celebrate her expertise, creativity, and request to be a licensed trainer. She was the catalyst for offering the first BrainWise Training of Trainers (BTOT) session and online community for trainers.

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