Editor’s Note: Mary Kelly is the Executive Director of the Association of Florida Teaching Artists (AFTA) — an association of fine arts, literary arts, and performing arts professionals who also teach. She has over 30 years of experience instructing students at pre-k through college levels, consulting and facilitating for private and nonprofit organizations, providing customized instructional materials and implementing arts-integrated related programs.
In May of 2016, the Suncoast Campaign for Grade-Level Reading held a Mind in the Making (MITM) Facilitator Institute for 27 individuals from 13 different agencies in Manatee and Sarasota counties. Since then, these facilitators have been presenting Mind in the Making’s Seven Essential Skills Training Modules to over 375 people throughout the Suncoast region. Due to demand, a second Mind in the Making Facilitator Institute was held in February of 2017, raising the number of local facilitators to 50.
Team Gold consisted of a group of parents and caregivers from Visible Men Academy, a charter school for boys in Manatee County. Their commitment to participate in the eight-week Mind in the Making workshops proved their investment in their children’s future.
The Mind in the Making program created by Ellen Galinsky provides research-based advice for parents, teachers, and caregivers on how to stimulate mind building from early childhood and throughout life. The Mind in the Making tools — the seven essential life skills — are related to the executive functions of the brain. The executive function skills are used to manage our attention, our feelings, our thoughts, and our behavior to reach our goals. They include being able to pay attention, remember information, think flexibly, and exercise self-control.
Two facilitators delivered the program for participants who were English and Spanish speakers. The groups worked together with English to Spanish translation. This was engaging, however, the interpreting took time and so we decided to split into two groups. We joined groups during many of the activities, sharing time and discussions, which created a very entertaining vibe within the sessions.
Chris, a grandparent who is very involved with Visible Men Academy programs, related stories of how she helps her grandson through reading, helping him with his homework, and providing extra-curricular activities to engage his mind. The youngest participant was from Haiti; she helps take care of her brothers. She expressed that the Mind in the Making program provided her with tools to help her brothers and herself become better students.
We thank the parents and caregivers who participated for their time, insights and creative energy.