March 19, 2021 – As schools transitioned to virtual learning in the past year, WPDI had to shortly adapt its Domestic Harmonizer Program (DHP) curriculum to be available online for our partner middle schools in the greater Los Angeles area. There were challenges along the way, but great returns in the end. One of the highlights of this past school year has been the delivery by the DHP of “advisory classes” to 1,600 students at Stephen White Middle School and S.T.E.A.M. Magnet.
The purpose of the advisory classes is to provide a home base to students while also giving them a platform to learn about various social issues and life skills as outlined by the Los Angeles Unified School District. The DHP’s focus on restorative practices and social-emotional learning fit well with the goals of both the school and the district. These classes are designed by DHP staff in collaboration with Stephen White’s Advisory Planning Team and taught one week per month by the school’s 90 educators, who recognized, as Sarah Thalmann, educator and Advisory Coordinator, that the “partnership with the Domestic Harmonizer Program is a great asset to our school community.”
Over the past six months, WPDI’s advisory-based online classes have focused on topics including active listening, conflict styles, peer mediation, restorative practices, empathy, negotiation, and power – all issues connected to major social justice-related concerns as well as current events important to the school community. Each month, the DHP team creates interactive slides for every class and the Stephen White Advisory Team packages the content to be consistent with the format that is used by educators at the school. Since the beginning of the school year, important issues such as the US national elections and the insurrection at the Capitol were discussed using a restorative framework. Students also learned about peer mediation and active listening as tools to help them in their personal lives and the importance of meeting our human needs, especially during the COVID pandemic.
Mr. Ron Williams, Dean of Discipline at Stephen White remarked that “with the uncertainty of our schools reopening looming, the DHP team continue to work tirelessly with our Advisory Planning Team to develop and implement lesson plans for our teachers to use and make themselves available to provide additional virtual classroom support. All in all, their work with our staff and students has improved our campus climate and culture.” WPDI is thrilled to be collaborating with Stephen White Middle School and S.T.E.A.M. Magnet to design these advisory classes along with other classroom lessons, and we committed to continuing this important partnership.