An old Greek proverb says that a society grows when old men plant trees whose shade they will never sit in.
That perfectly sums up the work real estate investors Randy and Dell Loy Hansen are doing for Advocacy, Support & Assistance Now Founders Anika Robinson, Susan Mulhearn and Angela Teachout. The ladies fought back tears,
Randy had expected her to say something like, "Wow, that’s a big check." Instead, Anika told him "Now we can start on the school."
More states, including Arizona, are moving toward trauma-informed services. But some states aren't investing in preventative services or the services are inconsistent, interrupted by multiple placements or moving kids from one caseworker to another, she says.
Shade Tree Academy was founded on August 12, 2020. We have completed two academic school years and we look forward to welcoming students for the 23-24 academic school year. Our academic programs are designed to challenge and engage students at all levels.
Consistency and stability are critical for our students. All students will be evaluated to determine their developmental level and identify individual needs for support. Our program includes two parts: skill development and academics. The skill development portion may include 1:1 development-focused activities facilitated by staff, Psychoeducational groups, somatic exercises, Trauma Therapy and/or Therapy groups facilitated by a licensed clinician. The academics portion focuses on educational needs. Students with a high level of needs will be placed on our 80% skill development, 20% academics model. Students who have a moderate level of needs will be placed on our 50% skill development, 50% academics model. Finally, students who have a lower level of needs and are preparing to transition out of Shade Tree Academy will be placed on our 20% skill development, 80% academics model. All new students will be placed on the 80% skill development/20% academics model to ensure students are learning coping skills and regulation techniques. Students will be reassessed each month to see if they are ready to move up to the next model.
Increased focus will be placed on academic development when staff and caretakers are able to see growth in the child’s window of tolerance and their ability to manage stressful situations. Once a student has successfully passed our 20% skill development, 80% academics model, they will move to a classroom setting to practice all of the tools they have gained. Through our “launch program”, students will be asked to mentor a new student for one hour per week as a means to give the new student hope in their recovery and return to school of origin. Students in our launch program will be given the option to return to their school of origin or to remain at Shade Tree Academy
Every student will be provided with a safe spot - it’s their own area with three sides of the area having dividers. Children that have been through trauma or who struggle with mental health diagnosis are easily distracted, typically anxious, are unable to settle their bodies/minds, or feel safe in new environments. Having three sides to their area means they only have to worry about being aware of one opening but also allows us to work on implementing healthy boundaries which is so important. We like to have a clear expectation for every child of where their area starts and ends. Typically we have a mat or carpet that goes within the divider walls to clearly show their area. Having a safe spot allows us to break up the day with plenty of opportunities for dosing. This means the students are receiving time for one-on-one school work, group activities, individual and group therapy, and outside group time. There’s a purpose to us calling it a Safe Spot. This helps children to feel like a positive intervention tool instead of feeling like they are in time out or in trouble. A safe spot is a great strategy to start with when we are working on boundaries and self-regulation. The positive practice of being in this area off and on throughout the day is needed to help strengthen those skills. If they can’t handle a boundary, it would be really difficult to work on self-regulation or healthy relationship skills. In the beginning it can and should be used as their main base throughout the day. As your child progresses a safe spot may be used to help them settle or calm when they get dysregulated or over stimulated.
Education and learning cannot take place when a student is dysregulated and in survival mode. With this in mind, we provide breaks in the schedule based on the student’s unique needs. Throughout the day, students will work on learning emotional self-regulation techniques such as mindfulness, relaxation, deep breathing, meditation, grounding and bilateral stimulation techniques. We also allow them to take time out to use these techniques when needed. The students are offered a healthy snack twice a day that includes a fruit, protein or vegetable. We provide their healthy snacks as they learn to fuel their brain throughout the entire day.
All students are asked to complete a daily art project. Art projects stimulate visual and auditory development and help strengthen learning pathways in the brain that support motor, cognitive, language, visual, and emotional development. These perceptual skills are essential for reading, writing and math. Cognitive and emotional skills such as patience, self-regulation, focusing, confidence, and perseverance also support learning and are essential for life.
Our daily group activities consist of brainstem calming activities- Children's brains organize from bottom to top, with the lower parts of the brain (brainstem aka "survival brain") developing earliest, and the cortical areas (thinking brain) much later. Brain development can become delayed for children with trauma, leaving them stuck survival mode like fight/flight/freeze/collapse. One of the most helpful ways to move children from these super-high anxiety states, to their calmer ‘thinking brain’, is patterned, repetitive rhythmic activity.
Over time, having a community of safe relationships surrounding the child, along with the regular practice of brainstem calming activities, can help a child’s brain and body to learn that they are safe. We utilize the list of repetitive, rhythmic regulations used for trauma by Dr. Perry, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk, Dr. Pat Ogden and others which include but is not limited to singing, dancing, drumming, musical activities, movement, meditation, deep breathing, yoga, tapping, passing a ball back and forth, tai chi, qigong, walking, running, swinging, trampoline works, skateboarding, massage, equine grooming, and other animal-assisted therapy activities.
Shade Tree Academy classroom offers a seven-to-one student to academic instructor ratio. Additionally we have a full time, on-site clinician along with ASU interns who are studying the field of social work available to assist as needed. This gives the trauma therapist the ability to work one-on-one with students while the academic instructor assists students with educational material.
Each day a report is sent home to caregivers describing in detail the academic work completed along with therapy, tools, and techniques utilized. A monthly email is sent with the weekly therapy modality that will be covered along with instructions and samples to encourage caregivers to utilize the information being taught at home. Bi-weekly telephonic conferences are scheduled with caregivers to provide updates and to receive information on pertinent personal information we may need to be made aware of. Academic grades are provided quarterly.
At Shade Tree Academy, we believe in empowering our students through holistic approaches. Our equine assisted therapy plays a vital role in helping our students grow and flourish. As the fall and spring seasons arrive, our students are filled with joy during their equine assisted psychotherapy sessions. Our equine center becomes a place of healing, where our expert equine assisted psychotherapists guide our students on a transformative journey.
Horses are truly remarkable healing animals, offering an extraordinary level of emotional support that can bring about positive transformation in our students with ease. In this unique therapy approach, students engage in activities such as grooming, feeding, and leading a horse.. These interactions with the gentle and intuitive horses create a safe and nurturing space for our students to explore their emotions and embark on a journey of personal growth.
The goals of Equine Assisted Psychotherapy at Shade Tree Academy are focused on helping our students develop essential life skills, including emotional regulation, self-confidence, and responsibility. As they form meaningful connections with these magnificent animals, students experience a profound sense of empowerment and self-discovery.
At Shade Tree Academy School, we believe that a well-rounded education includes opportunities for students to explore their interests and passions outside of the classroom. That's why we are thrilled to announce our partnership with Jacob’s Mission Community Center, offering an array of enriching after-school programs for our students!
From tutoring to dance, karate to musical theater, cooking to piano and guitar, life skills to basketball and ukulele – there's something for everyone! Our students can unleash their creativity, enhance their talents, and grow personally and academically in these diverse programs. The safe and supportive environment at Jacob’s Mission Community Center ensures that our students have the perfect space to flourish.
At Shade Tree Academy, our curriculum is ambitious in its approach to be both purposeful and relevant to our students. It not only meets the requirements set out in the National Curriculum, but is adapted, differentiated and extended to meet the unique needs of our students. Over the course of an academic year, students will access/cover a range of subjects within their class topic context. Every student is provided with academic material at a level appropriate to their stage of educational, emotional and cognitive development, whether this is through support to access the objective at a basic level or additional depth of challenge to master it.
Language Arts and Literature - Good and the Beautiful
Reading and Fluency- Reading Horizons
Science- Good and the Beautiful, and other supplemental resources
History- Good and the Beautiful, and other supplemental resources
Elective activities offered to all students throughout the year include equine therapy, art, and/or gardening.