Children & Youth
Cherry Tree Club
pre-school program for homeless and at-risk children in Mercer County
- The program has anecdotal evidence that participants go on to do well in school. Is this the case? How effective is the program? Does it give children the tools to succeed?
- What does the current research say about the importance of self- and social identity in school success? How might research done in the 1970s about children's racial identity be relevant today, to this program in particular? How does a homeless child's early school experience establish her identity in ways that might impact her ability to succeed?
- How might parents’ interest in, support of, and commitment to education, be increased - particularly for those parents who did not feel well-served by their own school experiences?
- How does a parent's sense of hope (or hopelessness) impact her child's behavior, success in school, and educational outcomes? Is there data on this subject? Are there programs which focus on changing parental attitudes to support their children's success?
Cherry Tree Club's website
Court Appointed Special Advocates of Mercer County, Inc.
protecting the well-being of children through advocacy
Established in December, 2000, Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Mercer County is an independent non-profit organization whose mission is to train and supervise community volunteers, appointed by the Family Court, to advocate for the best interests of children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse and/or neglect.
CASA is interested in two projects. They would like to design and execute a survey assessing the child welfare workers' perceptions of CASA volunteers. CASA is also interested in developing new assessment tools as it transfers the organization’s data to a new database. Students could help create or modify surveys and forms that will allow CASA to measure health outcomes, mental health outcomes and educational outcomes. Child Trends, a well-regarded research institute, recently worked with CASA at the national level to strategize how to measure outcomes. Working with CASA of Mercer County could involve focusing in on a few of the outcomes the national organization articulated and working on the county level to determine how to best measure them.
Every Child Valued
summer & afterschool programming to close the achievement gap
Every Child Valued (ECV) provides afterschool and summer programming to the children in Lawrence Township to eliminate the historic pattern of achievement gaps among students in the Lawrence Township Public Schools. ECV is situated within the Eggerts Crossing Village, which is a subsidized, family-rental housing development. ECV would like to learn more about how to best engage and serve parents whose children currently participate in the program and recruit parents whose children are not yet enrolled. How can ECV demonstrate the value of parental involvement in children’s educational careers (from pre-K through high school and beyond) and the importance of afterschool and summer programming? Additionally, ECV would like to know if there are similar organizations in the region and if there are best practices ECV could incorporate into their programs. The reports a psychology student generated in a 2015 summer research internship would be a helpful resource.
life skills and conflict resolution/anti-violence
Kidsbridge is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing imaginative, hands-on programs focusing on: anti-bullying and anti-cyberbullying; tolerance; diversity appreciation and respect for all persons; victim empowerment and positive self-esteem; conflict resolution and empathy; sensitivity to persons with disabilities; understanding of LGBT persons and grassroots youth activism.
Kids are exposed to a variety of media and require skills to view, analyze, and dissect content in print and on TV and the internet. What evidence-based media literacy curricula or programming exists to provide kids with the skills to evaluate truth, bias and propaganda? What are schools doing to address this issue? What countries are the leaders in this educational field?
Kidsbridge current life skills programs in Trenton serve approximately 30 children in weekly one-hour lessons. In evidence based life skills programs, how do students’ attitudes and self-awareness change towards hope, finishing high school and aspiring for college? Do students’ disciplinary incidences (such as detentions, suspensions) at school decrease and do their grades improve during the Kidsbridge and other life skills programs?
Kids increasingly spend their time watching television or using the computer, playing videogames, and using portable, handheld game devices. As kids spend less time in social interaction and more on electronics, how does their self-induced isolation affect their social awareness, empowerment, empathy and interpersonal skills?
Modern elementary and middle schools often are the scenes of bullying, cyberbullying, exclusion and name-calling. Are interpersonal skills for kids changing? Is it because “face to face” time is diminishing? Does community service create empathy or do we need to do more? Are values of civility, empathy and respect on the rise or falling among elementary, middle and high schoolers? Why?
Mobile Minds of New Jersey SEAL Academy
summer and afterschool program to support academic development
The summer SEAL Academy works to close the achievement gap in the Bromley area of Hamilton, NJ by combatting summer learning loss with engaging activities that are academic and character building. Current research interests include:
The “maker movement” in education is a relatively new concept. A makerspace is a place for a child to explore STEM fields through mostly independent hands-on activities and projects. How could makerspaces or making lead to alternative pathways to higher education and ultimately careers? A 2015 Derian/CBLI summer research intern explored this topic and generated a report, which would be a useful resource.
How can individualized learning plans (ILPs) be adapted to make them more accessible to parents? Information on how afterschool programs use ILPs would be valuable to have.
Additionally, research on best practices and current literature on how to develop parental advocacy, especially in urban schools, would help this organization better support the families they serve.
Mobile Minds of NJ's SEAL Academy website
Prevent Child Abuse—New Jersey
family social services & supporting successful families
PCA-NJ serves over 33,000 low-income families across the state to increase parent engagement and participation, help them support their children's educational success, and connect them to local resources. The program is interested in assessing longer-term outcomes of their interventions and can provide access to a wealth of data for your senior thesis. Student projects could include analyses of the organization’s large data-set and multiple research tools and/or working with staff to test and develop new data-collection tools such as surveys and focus groups. Programs include Child Sexual Abuse Prevention, Home Visiting, HELP Initiative (connecting new and expectant parents to treatment services for mental health, substance abuse and domestic violence), Parent Linking Program (providing child care for teen parents to allow them to further their education), Family Outreach Program, Childhood Obesity Prevention, and Shaken Baby Syndrome Prevention.
experiential learning outdoors, in school, at Princeton University and in the community
Princeton-Blairstown Center provides year-round programming for at-risk urban youth which is designed to promote social and emotional learning (SEL) through experiential education. PBC would like to know what other comparable organizations are doing that have been proven to develop SEL in youth and their families. How are the programs effective and how are results measured? Are there successful programs that engage and help parents?
Additional research projects are:
Develop a pre- and post- survey for middle school students that assesses their emotional quotient to measure growth in SEL skills; and
Research and help create a student evaluation that measures attitudinal changes in leadership development, team work, SEL, and STEM/environmental awareness.
Research and analyze the true costs of serving one at-risk youth at Blairstown for a day, overnight and week long program. Compare these costs with other leaders in the field. Help PBC develop a sliding scale for its emerging Summer Bridge program
Evaluate the campus’s solar capacity and identify other ways to optimize the campus’s energy efficiency.
Village Charter School
a community approach to education in Trenton
The Village Charter School offers a high-quality program that provides a nurturing environment for the children of the Trenton area. The school opened in September 1999 and graduated its first eighth grade class in spring 2006.
VCS is launching an afterschool program this year, the VCS Mindful Tutoring (VMT) Program, and is interested in evaluating it. The program is one of the first using mindfulness techniques to help urban students focus on learning. Students can observe the afterschool programming, led by teachers, and report on the effectiveness of the sessions, highlighting the strengths and proposing recommendations for change.
VCS will be determining parents’ needs this year by conducting discussions with them, either at the school or in families’ homes. What kind of programming would support parents? What are some examples of effective parent programs other charter schools have provided? How can they be adapted to best address the needs of VCS parents?
The Head of School/CEO at VCS has developed a theory for what he has termed a Living Wage Index™ to better assess the economic health of communities in the U.S. The LWI™ uses local economic indicators rather than the national ones the federal government employs to calculate economic health. A project with the LWI™ would involve exploring and testing the theory to further refine it and could lead to contributions in a publication.
Village Charter School’s website