Tag: Project SLIDE

Community Learning Series will explore awareness, prevention of ‘taboo’ subject of suicide

cls-poster-newLegendary grunge rocker Chris Cornell committed suicide May 18 in his hotel room following a concert in Detroit.

Only two months later, on July 20, Linkin Park singer Chester Bennington took his own life at home in California. Bennington had performed at Cornell’s memorial service. The two had been friends. Between them, they left nine children, some as young as 6.

Members of the media – the music media, especially – scrambled for answers. Why? Why now? Were there signs? Could anyone have helped? In the end, their reporting took the shape of rise-and-fall stories that shed little light on what caused the tragedies of May 18 and July 20.

The all-too-real deaths of Cornell and Bennington exist alongside the pop-culture sphere of the fictional TV series, “13 Reasons Why,” which has renewed intense scrutiny, conversation and controversy throughout the nation for its stark depiction of teen suicide.

But conversation on uncomfortable topics is important, says Suzanne Degges-White, chair of the NIU Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education.

And conversation is the goal of “Suicide Prevention: Sharing Strategies of Care,” the latest installment in the College of Education’s Community Learning Series.

“Suicide is a topic a lot of people are afraid to address,” Degges-White says. “They’re afraid that if they talk about it, they might make someone commit suicide or want to commit suicide. They think that if they bring it up, they might be planting seeds of an idea – and that’s not true.”

Suzanne Degges-White

Suzanne Degges-White

Beyond those fears, she adds, “suicide is still a taboo subject. It’s something we don’t mention, and there’s a lot of shame and stigma for people who’ve lost someone to suicide. It’s a fear that they’ll be looked down upon.”

Five panelists will explore topics of suicide from 6 to 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 12, in the Barsema Alumni and Visitors Center, 231 N. Annie Glidden Road. The event is free and open to the public; a reception will take place from 5:30 to 6 p.m.

Panelists include Adam Carter, an assistant professor of trauma counseling in the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education; and Brooke Ruxton, director of Counseling and Consulting Services at NIU.

Others on the panel are Laura Bartosik, co-founder of Project SethStephanie Weber, executive director, Suicide Prevention Services of America; and Vince Walsh-Rock, assistant principal for Counseling and Student Support Services at Downers Grove South High School.

Degges-White will moderate the discussion, leading the panelists through questions that identify ways in which the average person can recognize the warning signs and feel prepared to speak up.

Her colleagues also will explore topics of self-injury and supportive services provided by schools.

Members of the audience who are mourning the suicides of friends and loved ones will hear valuable tips for working through their grief, Degges-White says. Counselors will attend the event, she adds, and will make themselves available for anyone in need that evening.

Adam Carter and Brooke Ruxton

Adam Carter and Brooke Ruxton

“If you’ve lost someone to suicide, this is a safe place – and a good opportunity to hear the stories of others,” Degges-White says. “Laura Bartosik lost her son to suicide, and she has turned her grief into positive action. She created Project Seth, a foundation where they promote suicide awareness.”

The Oct. 12 event fits well with a $300,000 grant received last fall from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to decrease stigma around mental health and to promote resilience in the NIU community.

NIU’s three-year grant, which is shared by the Department of Counseling, Adult and Higher Education and Counseling and Consultation Services, funds various training programs and an awareness campaign.

“The connections that we’re making through the grant really indicated that this topic needs to be addressed in multiple areas and not just to our campus,” Degges-White says. “It’s important to talk about this topic. Suicide should never be perceived as an acceptable option to solve a problem.”

For more information, call (815) 753-1448 or email cahe@niu.edu.



Project SLIDE couples lessons in biodiversity with preparation for teaching diverse learners

project-slide-2A chance to explore and learn in a natural, outdoor setting is uncommon for most fifth-graders at Golfview Elementary School in Carpentersville.

But students and faculty from the NIU College of Education provided just that this spring.

“I can safely say that it was an experience the fifth-graders will never forget,” says Gary Swick, an adjunct instructor of Foundations of Education in the NIU Department of Leadership, Educational Psychology and Foundations.

“For a lot of these kids, they’ve never been on a trail in a forest preserve, just walking from one place to another in the woods,” he adds. “It was highly sensory and stimulating for them.”

Part of the NIU’s Project SLIDE (Science Literacy in Diverse Education), the day of field activities April 21 at Schweitzer Woods Forest Preserve in West Dundee provided hands-on learning in environmental science and biodiversity.

NIU students first interacted with the Golfview fifth-graders April 7, when they presented five classroom lessons on those topics.

“Gary and I shared some students in their second professional semester – the diversity block, which involves courses about working with diverse learners,” says Dianne Zalesky, an instructor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. “In talking to Portia Downey, we heard about Educate Local, and how we could get our students out into a different community with diverse learners.”

project-slide-4Educate Local provides teacher licensure candidates the opportunity to gain experience and develop their perspective of education through volunteering, observing and participating in various campus, community, and educational settings.

Hispanic children make up nearly 96 percent of Golfview’s enrollment, offering a fertile training ground for students in Zalesky’s “ESL Methods and Materials” course.

Curriculum came from Project Learning Tree, a program of the American Forest Foundation that “uses trees and forests as windows on the world” to grow students’ understanding of the environment and actions they can take to conserve it.

“Their motto is, ‘It’s not teaching them what to think; it’s teaching them how to think.’ It’s critical thinking on environmental issues,” Swick says. “My students are certified Project Learning Tree instructors.”

Swick’s students, enrolled in his “Using the Community as a Resource” course, chose the lessons from Project Learning Tree’s book of “outdoor education recipes.” Five teams of Huskies deployed throughout five Golfview classrooms to present. Some taught two lessons, he says, while others tackled five.

“What really impressed me is how well they operated as a team,” Swick says. “It was almost like an internal combustion engine, where you have different pistons firing but they’re all driving the same thing forward. It was rarely one of them standing-and-delivering with the other four watching.”

Zalesky made sure her students practiced differentiation of their lessons to meet the needs of different learners.

project-slide-5“My students learned as much as the fifth-graders did,” Zalesky says. “The more experience you have working with students and applying theory to practice, the better – and that was invaluable. Delivering lessons is not just giving information. It’s interacting with the students. It’s grouping them. It’s classroom management.”

Language-related lessons including writing about shared experiences, she adds, which led to students on both sides of the teaching-learning spectrum creating a book of memories of their time together.

NIU’s students have gained priceless knowledge, Swick agrees.

First, he says, their toolkits now include the planning and delivery of curriculum. Second, he adds, they learned to adjust on the fly and to make improvements from one class to the next.

Their biggest realization, however, might lie in the confirmation of their abilities.

“It was a really great experience for them to be responsible for something this big – so many lessons, which is out of their comfort zone – and being able to adapt things while they’re doing it,” he says.

“Even though it was highly stressful, they thought it went really well, and they knew that if they could pull that off, they could do almost anything,” he adds. “They did a great job.”

project-slide-3