Programs for Middle School Students
Middle school students are able and ready to be leaders in changing the conversation on mental health. Through partnership with United Health, Active Minds is piloting the We Are Active Minds Middle School program in Florida, North Carolina, and Minnesota starting in fall 2023. We Are Active Minds Middle School is a free program for middle schools to increase knowledge and skills while changing attitudes and cultures on mental health. Our middle school program is research-informed, developmentally appropriate, and celebrates and promotes diversity and inclusion.
Our goal is simple: provide middle school students with the skills and confidence to create the school community they have always wanted while starting the conversation about mental health. If you are interested in bringing We Are Active Minds Middle School to your school, click here.
The We Are Active Minds Middle School program consists of:
We Are Active Minds Clubs and the We Are Active Minds Middle School Curriculum.
We Are Active Minds Clubs
We Are Active Minds Clubs are mental health clubs for middle school students. The club will be co-facilitated by school staff and students. We Are Active Minds Club is for all students to explore mental health. We Are Active Minds Club can be made up of diverse student populations or for a specific community of students i.e. student athletes, BIPOC youth, or LGBTQ+ youth. Having a club in your school will provide a space for students to discuss mental health, build community, and engage in club activities as they navigate the We Are Active Minds Middle School curriculum. We Are Active Minds Clubs will be part of the Active Minds Chapter Network and will receive chapter network newsletters, resources, and technical assistance.
We Are Active Minds Middle School Curriculum
The We Are Active Minds Middle School Curriculum is a free mental health curriculum that is co-facilitated between student leaders and adult facilitators. The We Are Active Minds Middle School Curriculum can be facilitated during a We Are Active Minds Middle School Club, during a class, or during an existing student club that wants to center the conversation about mental health.
The curriculum consists of 16 lessons divided into two sections: “self” and “community” to help students explore who they are, and how they relate to others while growing their mental health literacy and advocacy skills. Topics students and adults will discuss include: identifying emotions, coping skills, understanding mental health, getting help, mental health crisis, healthy relationships, self-esteem, and so much more. The We Are Active Minds Curriculum is developmentally appropriate and uses best practices by including activity-based learning, having lessons build on one another, and centering student voices to bring the lessons to life.
The Curriculum is informed from national standards and best practices:
- CASEL’s SEL Framework (self and community core competencies)
- National School Counseling Association (ASCA) Mindsets & Behaviors for Student Success
- Positive Youth Development (PYD)
Schools that join the We Are Active Minds Middle School community will receive:
- Ongoing support and technical assistance from Active Minds K-12 Initiatives staff.
- Virtual workshops and training to enhance facilitation skills and understanding of mental health topics while finding support from peers across the country.
- First-hand access to all new materials to support middle school students.
Frequently Asked Questions
We Are Active Minds
We are already facilitating an SEL and/or mental health program. How is We Are Active Minds Middle School, different?
Our 16, 50-minute interactive sessions are designed to increase SEL skills AND mental health literacy. Our foundations in the Positive Youth Development (PYD) and the CASEL Framework focus on helping youth relate better to self and others by building critical inter and intrapersonal skills.
Further guided by the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) standards as well as school mental health guidelines, We Are Active Minds Middle also provides youth with skill-building and opportunities for practical application that will help them increase their own mental health knowledge as well as aid them in helping peers and creating impact in their schools and communities.
As a youth mental health education and advocacy program, We Are Active Minds Middle aims to:
- Explicitly elevate language and best practices to normalize mental health
- Increase mental health literacy and knowledge
- Encourage help-seeking behavior
- Mobilize youth to become mental health advocates
The meeting of SEL and mental health literacy means, for example, that standard lessons such as “how to be a good friend” are amplified with conversations such as “recognizing when a friend is having more than a bad day and how to help” as well as understanding common signs for anxiety and depression in yourself and others. Many schools familiar with other popular programs, will note that the We Are Active Minds Middle curriculum adds mental health language and skill building activities that that aid in youths’ understanding of mental health and well-being, aligning with evidence based SEL frameworks.
Additionally, as a 20-year-old peer powered mental health advocacy organization, our peer-to-peer strategy for mobilization sets Active Minds apart. Since starting our work two decades ago in the college and university space, we are firm believers in youth voice and youth’s ability to mobilize for the mental health change they want to see in the world. Our programming for middle schoolers is no different. We Are is designed so that youth become practiced in co-leading conversations and activations that can change minds, communities, and policies. Our middle schoolers don’t just learn about mental health, they are given a safe space to practice becoming leaders.
Our goal is to provide facilitation methods that work for you, your youth, your school or after school schedule. We have four great options for you to facilitate the program:
STANDALONE STAR (Curriculum + We Are Active Minds Club): The curriculum can be implemented as a We Are Active Minds Club with a diverse mix or identity focused group of youth.
CLUB COMBO (Curriculum to enhance your pre-existing club): Can be combined with a pre-existing club or sports team e.g., a pre-existing Girl Talk Club, GSA, or basketball team. These are great because it allows groups of similar identities/interests to have identity aligned mental health conversations.
CLASSROOM KICKSTARTER (Curriculum to integrate into a class discussion): Can be facilitated as part of a class e.g., a PE Teacher uses We Are Active Minds curriculum as part of their content/lesson each week.
AFTER-SCHOOL ACTIVATOR (Curriculum to integrate into your after-school program): Can be used at your school-based after school program
Remember, Clubs are a great way for youth who complete the curriculum to turn their newly acquired knowledge into action! A We Are Active Minds Club inspires youth to become mental health advocates for their great school community. Club members are often those who mobilize for change in practices and even policies that positively impact school mental health culture. Highly recommend!
The We Are Active Minds curriculum is written to be around 45 minutes. However, if you are tight on time or life happens, check out the “Tight on Time” section in the lesson. Here you will find which activities to focus on so your youth are able to get as much as they can from the lesson. You will find the “Tight on Time” section on the first page of each lesson.
What is the incentive for schools, after-school organizations, PTAs etc. to facilitate the curriculum?
We Are is a free evidence-informed curriculum for the age group that most needs our care, support, and attention: middle school youth. The training and onboarding for facilitators is also offered at no cost and during accessible hours from career youth development professionals.
Currently We Are does not progress by grade level. The curriculum can be facilitated with a single grade level, for example a group of 8th graders or a mixed group of middle schoolers e.g., 6th and 7th graders. The lessons scaffold within the curriculum, and all the lessons are connected to build mental health literacy and advocacy skills.
If you want to continue your We Are program beyond the curriculum, we suggest implementing a We Are Active Minds Middle Schools Club. Remember, Clubs are a great way for youth who complete the curriculum to turn their newly acquired knowledge into action! A We Are Active Minds Club inspires youth to become mental health advocates for their great school community. Club members are often those who mobilize for change in practices and even policies that positively impact school mental health culture. Highly recommend!
Alternatively, if you cannot extend your curriculum into a club, your school/organization can facilitate the We Are curriculum with new and additional new groups of youth based on your school/organization/ facilitator capacity. When you choose curriculum or club, please feel free to contact us so we can assist you!
Many schools and organizations have set standards for how clubs are structured, i.e., how many youth are required to sign up, how often they meet, and agreements for how clubs operate including goals, schedule of events, how positions are decided etc. If this is true for your school/organization, your We Are Active Minds Club should follow these predetermined guidelines.
If there are no guidelines or you are starting your We Are Active Minds Club after school or outside of the club structure, here are some guidelines about getting started and facilitating clubs and curriculum.
- Chat with Active Minds Middle School staff to learn more about the program. Sign a Partnership Agreement.
- Identify your We Are Active Minds Middle adult facilitator(s). Active Minds can assist with identifying the characteristics of a strong facilitator and will train them as well!
- Select the format for your We Are Active Minds program! Club? Classroom?
- Promote program details with your broader staff to build understanding of benefits and details the program will bring to your school/organization. Be sure to share program details with parents and caregivers.
- Conduct youth recruitment to encourage participation and create excitement. Active Minds will share best practices in recruitment. Don’t forget to get parent/caregiver permission!
- Attend facilitator training!
- Ensure all youth are registered and have permissions signed.
- Facilitate 16 We Are Active Minds Middle curriculum sessions (weekly, bi-weekly). Take attendance! Facilitate 4 youth surveys to check for understanding. Stay connected with additional check-ins and drop-in office hours for support.
Is the intent for ALL of my students to complete the lessons, then expand to clubs if interested? Or are the lessons designed for use in clubs?
While we would love it if at the start of your program or even after your 16 sessions + 4 survey sessions are complete, that your group would decide to continue as a Club, we recognize that all schools/organizations will not be able to do so because of time constraints, pace, scheduling, etc. However, if your group wants to and is able continue as a Club, our K-12 team will provide monthly activations to assist Clubs to facilitate fun, engaging, and informative projects so the We Are facilitator and youth can advocate for mental health in the broader school/organizational community.
All those who are identified as curriculum facilitators should attend and complete training. Typically, sessions are facilitated by one or two facilitators max as school staffing and schedules allow.
We Are facilitators will be offered 2 opportunities for training in the fall for fall program start and 2 winter training dates for winter implementation.
Training synchronous/live virtual and takes place over 2 days for a total of 4 hours. Facilitator(s) must attend both training sessions.
September 2023 Training:
Tuesday September 12 and Thursday September 14 (6-8 pm EST)
October 2023 Training:
Wednesday October 4 and Thursday October 5 (6-8 pm EST)
January 2024 Training
Tuesday January 9 and Thursday January 11 (6-8 pm EST)
February Training 2024 Training
Tuesday February 6 and Thursday February 8 (6-8 pm EST)
All 16 We Are Active Minds Middle sessions and the 4 pre and post surveys should be facilitated within a maximum of one academic school year for each club/group of youth/class. Our suggested cadence is weekly, bi-weekly, or bi-monthly. If your program is being facilitated over the 8-week summer break, we suggest your program meet 3 times a week to complete all lessons.
We Are Facilitators will receive all materials they need for a successful club/program before they begin engaging with youth.
For We Are to be most impactful, we recommend leading the curriculum in a closed group consisting of at least six youths. Or the size of a group required for your school or organization’s pre-determined club/program size (if applicable). For best outcomes, a set group of dedicated youth meet consistently for all 20 lessons.
When thinking about the facilitators leading the curriculum, who have you found to be the best fit for the role? Social workers? Counselors? Teachers? Youth Development Professionals?
Active Minds can assist with identifying the characteristics of a strong facilitator and train them as well! Active Minds will share a list of skills and attributes that may help you identify a strong facilitator. This is an adult that youth feel safe with and empowered by. Youth flock to these adults because they provide unconditional positive regard, are guided by anti-racist teachings, guide behavior from a positive discipline lens, and celebrate youth culture.
Youth leaders can be any youth the adult facilitator feels can be or already is a leader, influencer, or powerful voice among peers. The youth leaders can volunteer, or the adult facilitator can ask youth they think could do well in the role. We highly recommend encouraging youth who might be hesitant or overlooked to help them see all they can do. It is important to help youth understand this is not about perfectionism, but about pushing ourselves to grow and be vulnerable. The number of youth leaders will vary depending on the group size, but 1 to 4 youth leaders is suggested.
It is a requirement of schools and organizations to know and adhere to their mental health and safety crisis protocols and procedures. Active Minds cares about the mental and physical safety of youth above all else, which is why it is a requirement of your signed Partnership Agreement. To participate in the We Are Active Minds Middle program, your school or organization needs to have set policies and procedures around suicidal ideation, self-harm, abuse, or if a youth is experiencing a mental health crisis. Active Minds strongly recommends working closely with your school or organization’s mental health team and understanding the procedures and protocols before implementation. Active Minds will also be providing additional training and resources to help the adult facilitators feel better equipped for these conversations.