Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Grow Boys! at the Knowledge Institute...

Last Friday I had a wonderful opportunity to share the Grow Boys!  concept with my colleagues from Red Deer Public Schools at our annual Knowledge Institute symposium. The Knowledge Institute is a effort to create a culture that supports original inquiry and applied research among professional educators. “Our goal is to expand knowledge and improve practice within our profession,” says Jay Hetherington, district psychologist and project coordinator. “We recognize that our classrooms are data-rich environments that can support applied research. This initiative encourages, supports and promotes research projects undertaken by our teachers.”

Having the good fortune to be chosen as a presenter at this year's Knowledge Institute turned out to be a fantastic opportunity to showcase what Grow Boys!  is all about, and more importantly, to share our concept with teachers who teach boys in grades other than grade five. Our rationale has always been to provide a local network of people supporting the happy, healthy growth and development of boys within our community from birth to adulthood. We had to start somewhere, and chose grade five as our jump-off point mainly due to the fact that an annual conference for fifth grade girls has taken place for about ten years already in Red Deer. The "Go Girl" conference addresses the issue of physical literacy for girls and intends to highlight the importance of staying active, eating healthy and making healthy choices. We have worked closely with, and learned a great deal form this well-organized effort to support girls.

Our focus is a bit different, however. We intend to develop a broad network of support within the community that extends way beyond the school, and beyond the fifth grade age group; one that sees school resources and community resources become synergistic creating a solid platform that is replicable in other communities. Our vision is to create a local culture of support for boys in a variety of contexts that can be applied to any community... as long as there are people within it that have the will to step up and take action.

I met a number of people at the symposium who expressed interest in supporting the boys they work with. One male teacher of grade two students asked, "how would this support look for my kids?" Another who works with grade eight boys told me he teaches a sport psychology class and saw many parallels in the messages he's putting out to his students and what Grow Boys! is saying about how to best support boys. The Knowledge Institute brought about ninety like-minded people together to talk about how to best support boys; boys of all ages.

Many thanks to Jay Hetherington and the Knowledge Institute for this wonderful opportunity to share what Grow Boys!  is all about.


  1. Thanks for the kind comments about the Knowledge Institute Sean. You and your Grow Boys concept were a hit at our event because of it's timely message and your excellent presentation skills. Teachers made comments about how important it was to hear from other educators from their area talking about data and concepts that were applicable to students in their own school district. Our district would like to help grow the Knowledge Institute concept across our province. Thanks again Sean.

  2. Thanks Jay. I think the local context is so important, and a feature of the Knowledge Institute concept, and what gives it such great legs to replicate in other districts and communities. I agree that embedded and applied research resonates for people locally because they can relate personally to it; it has meaning and localized purpose. Good on you for getting and keeping the ball rolling... great work!

  3. Might be important to consider the international implications of what you are doing in Alberta.

    The problem of a support network for boys presents in the States as incarceration for many of our best, brightest and most innovative. Under the rhetoric of "high school dropouts" or "illiteracy" is the harsh realities for poor and Latino kids and moms in many pockets in USA.

    I recently had the pleasure of a dinner with Nikolai Pizarro, an amazing young Latina. She told me that for every mom of a black boy what keeps them up at night is concern about them winding up dead or in jail.

    My sense is that in Alberta it is a good thing and a nice to have. For many in the States sustainable resilient networks for boys in at risk environments is literally a matter of life and death in the long run. And even more to the point is a proximate daily concern of millions of moms every single day.

    Your work is giving hope to many who are watching. And we want to help to do anything we can to maximize the learning that is earned.

    Sean, Thank you for what you do.

  4. Sean... I realized a paragraph above needs a word change....

    " I recently had the pleasure of a dinner with Nikolai Pizarro, an amazing young Latina. She told me that for every mom of a black boy what keeps them up at night is concern about their baby winding up dead or in jail."