One of the biggest themes that arose from the rich discussions in this year’s all-school Embarc PD was that all young people deserve to have space and feel welcome in every place in their community. In just a few months of school, here are some of the ways our teachers and schools are already building those welcoming spaces


Learning through reflection:

Dedicated reflection time is an essential part of learning. And providing young people space to express their thoughts reinforces that their feelings are important and valuable. During PD, teachers shared successful reflection strategies they’ve used. Something as simple as quietly lying in the grass for five minutes then inviting students to share whatever is on their mind creates space for students to be vulnerable and support one another.

Viewing experiences as healing moments:

Everything we know about Positive Childhood Experiences and trauma indicates that moments that provide connection to another person, a feeling of belonging, or a moment of peace can help young people heal from trauma. During Summer PD, one ChiTech teacher shared how, after her class finished a cooking experience, one student reflected “I’m taking away from this experience that you can share a meal with people and in that moment become family.” Feeling that deep connection is a form of healing.

Four students stand in a kitchen, cooking a meal together during an Embarc learning experience

Students cook a Friendsgiving meal together at an experience with Boutique Bites.

Sharing power:

Every student has something to contribute to the classroom. When educators make space for students to become teachers, students can begin to internalize their own power and influence. For example, sophomore students at Bogan High School became teachers as they facilitated a lesson all about relationship building.

This is the kind of learning we want all young people to access, no matter what school they attend or what neighborhood they live in. Embarc teachers across Chicago are already building welcoming, affirming spaces for their students. As the year continues, we’ll see those spaces grow and students continue to heal and develop within them.

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