Tackling Grand Challenges: Undergraduates Assist with Seedlings© Curriculum Research

By Anne Berset and Bristi Basu, Department of Psychology

Undergraduates Anne Berset and Bristi Basu, with supervision from Dr. Sarah Watamura, conducted the Seedlings© Strengths and Needs Assessment this spring quarter with assistance from a DU Grand Challenges Advancing Community Engaged (ACE) Student Grant. The Seedlings© program was developed by Dr. Watamura in partnership with Growing Home, a local community partner, and is a community-based parental program offering scientific knowledge on adversity and teaching stress management techniques that aim to equip parents with social connections and tools to process trauma and thus interrupt its intergenerational transmission. Preliminary evaluation of Seedlings© data indicated statistically significant reductions after program participation in general anxiety symptoms, parental defensive responding, and parental distress, along with increases in parental efficacy and active coping. This initial data support the efficacy of Seedlings© and its model of change.

Through the grant, Anne and Bristi aimed to qualitatively assess existing implementation efforts and any necessary adaptations, along with new efforts to train and implement Seedlings in three new counties (Eagle, Chaffee, and Fremont). Anne and Bristi designed and conducted 25 semi-structured interviews with county leaders, facilitators, and parents. They asked about interviewees’ personal experiences, perceived needs of the counties, and any feedback for the curriculum or expectations.

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Anne and Bristi transcribed the interviews and coded content using a grounded theory approach to yield major themes. Qualitative analysis of these interviews presented helpful findings regarding the efficacy of Seedlings© and suggestions for modifying the curriculum to fit each county’s specific demographics and needs. The impact of Seedling© for parents was described as: “It’s about the self-compassion, and it’s that knowledge that you are the good parent, that you belong there. For families that are facing so many barriers, having that knowledge repeated…really does create that change.” Furthermore, leaders in Adams County at Growing Home emphasized the need to address concrete barriers by providing child care and meals. Participants suggested modifying the program timing and length to provide a range of times for parents. Within Adams County and Eagle County, the need to offer both Spanish and English classes emerged as a theme due to the counties’ diverse populations, but accurate translation of materials proved challenging. Cultural considerations are needed as well. For example, these cultural differences may be the level of information the participant is comfortable disclosing, the types of self-care routines participants practice regularly or the discussion of mental health.

The Seedlings© curriculum aims to provide parents with the tools needed to process trauma, which may have affected them or someone they know. Due to the widespread interest across Colorado in the Seedlings© program, understanding its efficacy and its structured adaptation to different contexts is instrumental in supporting broader efforts to support parenting in the context of adversity. The DU Grand Challenges ACE Student Grant not only afforded two undergraduates the opportunity to design and execute an independent research project but also provided a structured approach to adapting a unique parental curriculum to suit the needs of local counties. Future directions include supplementing qualitative analyses here with quantitative, which Anne will be working on this summer, and continuing to work together with local counties implementing Seedlings© to streamline adaptations.

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