Bedford County's five school districts, Head Start and several private day care centers will implement the evidenced-based youth development program,The Incredible Years, through a four-year, $636,992 grant awarded to Unified Family Services Systems on behalf of Bedford County in Spring 2008 by the Pennsylvania Commission on Crime & Delinquency. The program is one of only 12 prevention programs designated as a Blueprints Model by the Center for the Study and Prevention of Violence.
Beginning in the 2008-09 school year Bedford County will implement two major components of the program: a social-emotional development curriculum in preschools, daycare centers and kindergartens and parent workshops offered in each school district
The in-class Dina Dinosaur curriculum will be delivered an average of two days per week. Lessons are introduced in 10 to 20 minute circle time followed by 10-20 minute small group activities. The curriculum focuses on the following themes: making new friends and learning school rules,understanding and detecting feelings, problem-solving skills, how to be friendly, how to talk with friends, how to do your best in school.
Content is taught in a variety of ways including video vignettes, life-size puppets, dinosaur homework activities, books, cartoons, incentives and picture cue cards. Teachers choose from among 300 activities that focus on social-emotional skills as well as other school readiness activities such as pre-reading and pre-writing activities, math and science concepts, fine and gross motor skills and creative art projects.Problem-solving practice and reinforcement from teachers take place in less structured settings such as during choice time, in the lunch room or on the playground. The wide array of activities allows teachers to choose developmentally appropriate lessons within the major themes,allowing for customization.
The program also provides weekly letters home to parents and suggests home-based activities that link with and reinforce the in-class curriculum. Homework activities are also designed to be done by children with their parents.
The second major Incredible Years component is the parent training program(for parents of children ages 2-6). The program is delivered once a week in two-hour sessions spread over 12 weeks. The program focuses on the following areas:
- Strengthening childrens social skills, emotional regulation and school readiness skills.
- Using praise and incentives to encourage cooperative behavior.
- Positive discipline rules, routines, effective limit setting and handling misbehavior.
The sessions utilize videotape examples to foster group discussion about child-directed play skills, social and emotional skills coaching and problem-solving as well as behavior management principles including differential attention, encouragement, praise, effective commands,time-out, consequences, monitoring and problem solving.
A12-week session will be offered in early 2009 in six locations throughout the county Hyndman Elementary, Bedford Elementary, Central Elementary, Everett Elementary, Northern Bedford County Elementary and Saxton-Liberty Elementary, to be facilitated by trained workshop leaders and district-based family support facilitators.
The implementation of The Incredible Years follows similar implementations of two evidence-based youth development programs in the county over the past two years Raising Healthy Children in all county elementary schools and LifeSkills Training in all county middle/junior high schools. With the addition of The Incredible Years, all Bedford County public school children will benefit from comprehensive, universal youth development and prevention programming that has been proven effective to improve student outcomes building social and emotional skills, lowering risky behavior and increasing their capacity to become healthy, productive adults.