Semilla – planting the seeds of change for Puerto Rico

Project Website(s)

  • Project Description

    Our goal in the work proposed here is to provide a platform to integrate the use of prescriptive education to increase awareness about toxic stress through experiential learning within collaborative teams. We also aim to provide children, educators, and healthcare providers with additional skills to address the health and neurobehavioral consequences of allostatic load by amplifying the participant’s scientific curiosity matched with mindfulness training. Following the ecobiodevelopmental model by pairing “what happened to you” with STEM training that allows children to externalize their life experiences in a location that has identified by them to be a safe space, we will build a network that will serve the SEMILLA community to be engaged in the use of scientific inquiry to promote individual and community agency. The integration of learners from different fields as facilitators of the experience, we expand the network and enhance their capacity by acknowledging all sources of knowledge and building in that culture into the Pediatrics training experience. The end result is a community-based STEM + M program with a pathway to become a community led program in future iterations.

  • Abstract

    The eco-bio-developmental (EBD) model of childhood development promotes the use of integrated evidence- based approaches for the prevention and management of adverse childhood experiences and toxic stress across the lifespan. The neurobehavioral effects of such exposures herald challenges in academic achievement, social interaction, and emotional wellbeing. Disproportionate effects of toxic stress in the learning process contributes to fewer students from under-represented and disadvantaged groups choosing to follow a career path towards Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM). This gap is enhanced when there is a lack of or a poor level of coordination among service providers, and a buffering system for these at-risk students. By enhancing a child’s capacity to understand and communicate their needs with stakeholders, we aim to promote health agency both at the individual and community levels. The goal of Semilla is to engage children ages 9 – 12 years in the science of their own well-being. The expected broader impact of Semilla is a healthy community brought by children as agents of change for their own health, then that of their family and community. This change will be brought about by stepwise strengthening and iteration of relationships between education, science, medicine, and the community. Our activities flow from a focus on emotional wellness of participants to their whole-body wellness. As volunteers from the fields of science, education, and medicine enter into this process with children of their community, they too are changed. Our specific aims include: 1) Implementation of Semilla Curricula through Boys & Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico; 2) Recruitment, Training, and Deployment of a fellowship program for educators & scientists for current & sustained support of the whole body wellness of the Children of Puerto Rico; and 3) Development of a Clinical Community response to the Health & Wellness Needs of the children of Puerto Rico. The successful completion of Semilla will achieve a community of science where children from disadvantaged backgrounds can effectively communicate with professionals in training from various disciplines through a joint experience of scientific inquiry while the whole community moves toward better health.

  • Dissemination Strategies

    Community-based showcases
    Year-end showcase
    Local newspaper articles and electronic publications
    Social media: Facebook and Instagram (SemillaPRCommunity), Twitter (@cohealpr), youtube, and LinkedIn
    Cross publications via Boys and Girls Clubs of Puerto Rico social media presence

Project Audience

Children 9 to 12 years of age
Undergraduate and graduate students engaged as Fellows
Pediatric Residents

Subjects Addressed

Mental and emotional health
Social Emotional Learning
Whole Body Health
Mindfulness strategies
Toxic stress
Scientific exploration of whole-person health