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
Christina Seix Academy
independent grade school for economically disadvantaged students
The Christina Seix Academy, or CSA, is a new community-based school (opened 9/5/12) which provides scholarships and significant support to students enrolled in pre-K through 8th grade and their single-caregiver families. CSA wants to ensure that families are successful in the Academy and is interested in the following research question:
- CSA is piloting a continuing education initiative with online learning through Udemy and Coursera, MOOC* providers, for parents and staff. How have other community-based schools/organizations used online learning to build adults' capacity for job readiness skills? What continuing education online learning programs have proven to be successful?
CSA is open to other research topics, such as evaluating adult English as a Second Language (ESL) classes and identifying effective parent leadership programming and best practices for a peer adult mentoring initiative for parents.
*Massive open online courses
Eden Autism Services
autism information, education, training and support
Eden is a non-profit organization that has been improving the lives of children and adults with autism since 1975.
- Identify trends in iPad use and for what purposes (e.g., communication, leisure skills for individuals with autism.
- Compare treatments for self-injurious behavior
Additional topics for future research:
- Research the trends in employment outcomes in autistic adolescents transitioning from public school to adulthood and the effectiveness of vocational training programs.
- Investigate the relationship between parents’ perceptions and Eden’s perceptions of student progress. What factors contribute to a high alignment between parent and Eden’s perceptions of student progress?
- Examine if exergaming (video games that are a form of exercise) improves cognitive performance (executive functioning) in students with autism. A 2014 senior thesis investigated exergaming as an intervention to reduce maladaptive behaviors (e.g., reduced repetitive behaviors, aggression, or self-injury) with three autistic adolescent male students. Studying a larger sample size of individuals of different ages with autism would provide Eden with useful information.
- Identify evidence-based programs or practices that reduce parental stress, particularly maternal stress, to incorporate into the support groups Eden currently provides to parents.
college prep "no excuses" charter school
Foundation Academies is a Trenton, NJ-based charter management organization. The school opened in August 2007 and currently educates over 500 students in grades 3 through 12. Given their Trenton roots and with parent demand for the program far exceeding available seats, they will expand to serve over 1,000 students in grades K through 12 by 2020 across multiple campuses throughout the City of Trenton.
- Foundation Academies would like to know more about schools and programs that recruit and retain mission fit, long-term professional teachers. What can be learned about how to hire and retain excellent instructors and to sustain a quality staff team over the long term? How is recruitment and hiring managed? What kind of alternative models exist for screening and interviewing prospective teachers?
Foundation Academy's website
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 kids today different because of this social intolerance? Are interpersonal skills for kids getting worse? 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 Mind's 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.
SEAL Academy would like to examine how individualized learning plans (ILPs) can be adapted to make them more accessible to parents and gather information on how afterschool programs use ILPs.
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 Mind'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 of 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:
- Evaluate PBC’s Drop Out prevention program and make recommendations;
- 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.
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 Excellence Program, and is interested in evaluating it. Students can observe the afterschool programming, led by teachers and tutoring staff from an outside agency, 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 of this new economic theory.
- Several vintage houses are on VCS’s property and could serve as sites for various supplemental and community programs and services. How can the structures be renovated or otherwise improved to accommodate different programming?
Village Charter School’s website