Treatment Education Coordinator answers the question “Why does PrairieCare utilize the educational component that they do?” by: Kayla Schroeder

Hello, my name is Kayla Schroeder. I am the new Treatment Education Coordinator here at the PrairieCare Inpatient Hospital in Brooklyn Park. My role PrairieCare is brand new to PrairieCare! The vision is to provide individualized support to students returning to their home school after an episode of inpatient hospitalization. This will include working with parents and guardians around communicating information that may be helpful for school staff to best support the student as they return from hospitalization.  In the short three months I have been employed at PrairieCare, I have had the opportunity to meet with representatives from local schools as well as district mental health providers. The most common question I receive is “Why does PrairieCare utilize the educational component that they do?”

PrairieCare provides educational curriculum in the inpatient and partial hospitalization programs. The classes are taught by licensed teachers who provide literacy based content. During the patient’s stay at PrairieCare, they will un-enroll from their home school district and enroll into ISD 287, ISD 112, or ISD 622 depending on the site where they are receiving care. Patients will receive school credits while attending PrairieCare programming.  The educational component offered does not teach math or science courses as individuals in the classroom vary in age and academic level, therefore the patient will not earn math or science credit. While a patient is at PrairieCare, outside homework from their home school is typically not worked on, as the main goal while in the hospital or partial hospital program is to prioritize their mental health and social and emotional learning tools to help them succeed for life.

All three districts take pride in the coursework they teach as it is richly focused on social emotional learning for more successful stress and symptom management skills that are often amplified or triggered in a traditional classroom setting. Through a collaboration between PrairieCare and District 287, staff conducted rigorous research and national benchmarking to create an educational model that optimizes learning while receiving psychiatric care. The academic model at PrairieCare provides engaging and effective academic support that is integrated into their mental health programming.

The teaching strategies through District 287 focus on:

  • Strengthening efforts to engage and motivate students
  • Integrating curriculum of content-area teachings to enhance students’ vocabulary and comprehension skills
  • Providing interventions that help build self-confidence in vulnerable areas
  • Increased teacher support
  • Leadership that supports the facilitation of literacy instruction

The experiences in the classroom environment at PrairieCare help patients prepare for everyday life and allow them to practice and be coached on applying skills they can bring back to their home school environment. Teachers not only teach curriculum, but they engage students in learning coping skills to utilize in the larger academic settings. Teachers also support patients in their classroom settings to communicate what they need, and coach them on how to communicate in their home school environment as well.  For some of our patients, asking for a break or revealing they do not understand an academic concept can be daunting and anxiety provoking. These anxious feelings can create symptoms that really challenge their mental health stability and general success in the traditional classroom setting.  Through the coaching, positive reinforcement and practice that they receive through their classroom experience at PrairieCare, they have a better chance of successfully transitioning back to their home school environment. Through the research, PrairieCare and District 287 have found that structured and engaging learning plays an optimal role in developing a patient’s social, emotional, and academic growth.  ISD 112, and ISD 622 have worked to replicate this classroom model in our PHP sites as well.

Some have asked why PrairieCare does not utilize online learning curriculum that is core content based, and self-paced learning. PrairieCare has intentionally moved away from the self-paced core content model of instruction, based on almost two years of using that model of instruction and finding it very limited in terms of benefit to our patients. When children and adolescents come to PrairieCare, it is due to acute psychiatric crisis.  That crisis is often first perceived by staff and peers in school.  There is also high correlation between stress in school, and difficulty with symptom management in school.  Based on research and our own experience, we decided to create an education model that is integrated into treatment. We, in partnership with District 287, created a classroom setting that works just like a traditional school setting, but is a step removed from the stress of comprehensive core curriculum. Instead, we provide core curriculum and added social emotional learning and skills building.  In adopting that model for our educational component, we are promoting our patients capacity to function and be resilient, managing their triggers and learning better communication skills.  All of this combined gives the children and adolescents we serve the best prognosis to achieve mental health recovery and maintain it once they are back at home and in their home school.  It’s a model that we have seen work time and time again.