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  • What is the purpose of Project Belonging?
    Project Belonging is a peer-to-peer training and experiential learning program to prevent hate and Educational Displacement in schools. The project is run by Dr. Amra Sabic-El-Rayess, in coordination with Teacher College, Columbia University, and is funded by the Department of Homeland Security’s Center for Preventions, Programs, and Partnerships (CP3).
  • What is the structure of Project Belonging?
    All students participate in a five-hour online training that introduces them to concepts of Educational Displacement, belonging, and othering in schools. Afterwards, students in the Project Belonging program (not the Project Belonging Training) work in teams to create projects that apply these concepts to their own school environments and communities. They will receive feedback from teachers, Columbia University staff, and peer teams throughout. At the end of the program, they present their work in a secure Teachers College, Project Belonging metaverse space.
  • What is the difference between the Project Belonging Program and Project Belonging Training?
    Students in the Project Belonging Training receive access to the five-hour course on Educational Displacement, but will not participate in the community-based initiative. Their participation in the training will be entirely asynchronous. Students in the Project Belonging Program take part in the same training, but two of the five hours will be synchronous webinars with Dr. Amra Sabic-El-Rayess, two will remain asynchronous, and one hour will be a space to debrief what students have learned. Following the training, they will be paired with a Columbia University (Teachers College) Project Belonging staff member who will guide them as they develop their community-based initiatives that promote belonging.
  • How long does Project Belonging run?
    If students participate in the Project Belonging program, it will start in September 2023 for the first cohort and January 2024 for the second cohort. Each cohort lasts a semester. If students are only participating in the Project Belonging training, we estimate it will take them one month to complete.
  • How many schools are in the Project Belonging program?
    The first cohort in the Project Belonging program will include between 10 - 15 schools from across the United States.
  • Can I speak to someone to get more information before enrolling?
    Yes! If you are interested in speaking with a member of the Project Belonging team, please contact us through our contact form on the homepage, and we will be happy to schedule a meeting.
  • What is the training about?
    The course introduces students to concepts of belonging and resilience in school settings, investigates how and why we develop certain assumptions about our peers and community members, and discusses strategies to promote social connections in students’ communities.
  • For which grades is the content appropriate?
    The program is designed for middle and high school students, so the curriculum will be accessible for students in grades 6 - 12. If students need additional time to help understand the material, Teachers College, Project Belonging staff are available to review the content with them.
  • What if my school is not very diverse? Is this training still relevant to our community?
    This project is not limited to racially or ethnically diverse communities. Project Belonging aims to develop student leaders who are committed to creating welcoming and supportive communities. Students from all backgrounds are encouraged to participate.
  • Is participation in the program free? Do schools have to pay for anything?
    Both the Project Belonging Program and Training are completely free through summer 2024! Teachers College will provide all the training materials needed for students to complete the program. Student teams in the Project Belonging Program will get a $1000 stipend from Teachers College, Columbia University.
  • Who is responsible for recruiting interested students?
    Supervising teachers, principals and school administrators will work to recruit students for the program. Teachers College staff will provide schools with promotional materials and will be available for support.
  • What level of commitment is expected from teachers? From administrators?
    Supervising teachers are only necessary for student teams participating in the Project Belonging Program. Students in the Project Belonging Training (i.e., only participating in the online training) do not need to have a supervising teacher. Supervising teachers are points-of-contact for Project Belonging staff. They may share student concerns, help students coordinate meeting times and spaces, communicate with parents, and assist students through the logistics of the program. Supervising teachers, or another member of the school faculty or administration, will need to be present for online meetings between students and Project Belonging staff. A schedule of meetings will be shared with each supervising teacher/staff member and student team at the beginning of the Project Belonging Program.
  • Do teachers get compensated for participating?
    While we cannot provide compensation, we do recognize the effort that we ask of supervising teachers. We strongly believe that participation in the program can help foster development for educators. We offer supervising teachers access to an online professional development course, Reimagine Resilience, at no cost. Teachers receive Continuing Education Credits and a certificate from Teachers College, Columbia University for completing this course.
  • How many students in our school can participate in the program?
    There is no limit to the number of students that can enroll in the Project Belonging Training. The Project Belonging Program may have an unlimited number of students on their school teams; however, please keep in mind that all students on a team are expected to play an active role on their team. We recommend team sizes of 3-5 students.
  • How long will students have to commit to this program?
    The Project Belonging Program timeline envisions the completion of a five-hour training, and the following design and implementation phase of the program will vary in the hours required based on each particular team. Following this period, there will be a one-day commitment for student presentations in the Project Belonging Metaverse.
  • Would this program take away from class time? When would students complete the modules and project?
    This project will not be completed during class time. Students should find time outside of class to complete the project. Supervising teachers should help students determine how and when they will meet to complete the course and project.
  • Will ELL students or students with IEPs be provided with appropriate accommodations?
    Supervising teachers should let our Project Belonging staff know if any students need accommodations. Our staff will provide translated or scaffolded materials if requested. Project Belonging staff will work with the Office of Access for Individuals with Disabilities (OASID) at Teachers College to provide assistance as necessary.
  • Can students earn school credit from participating in Project Belonging?
    Please speak with your school or district administrator to determine if you can get credit for participating. Teachers College, Columbia University does not offer school credit for students, although we do offer them a certificate of participation from Columbia University at the end of the training or the program.
  • How can Teachers College (TC), Columbia University ensure student safety in a virtual environment?
    Staff is working closely with Teachers College, Columbia University’s Department of Public Safety to ensure all students feel comfortable in the program and their information is protected. All virtual meetings between students and Teachers College staff members include a teacher, principal or administrator from the students' school. All data collected will remain confidential, and all appropriate consent forms will be collected before program participation. Project Belonging is securing the approval of the Institutional Review Board at Teachers College, Columbia University and will not commence any program or training activities prior to the successful achievement of this approval.
  • Do students need parent/guardian consent to participate?
    All participating students must get consent to participate in Project Belonging. If students are below 18 years of age, parents or legal guardians will need to sign a consent form and a permission form. In addition, the student must sign an assent form before the program or training begins. If students are 18 or older, they may provide consent for themselves. The Project Belonging team will email all forms to students and families; forms are completed and submitted online.
  • Does the school principal need to approve participation in the program?
    Yes. Principals will need to submit a permission form approving the project before it begins.
  • What sort of student data will be used? Will the data be kept anonymous?
    Students may choose to complete online surveys before, during, and after the training to monitor their understanding of the content. Students in the Project Belonging Program may also participate in focus groups and interviews via Zoom with Project Belonging staff members in alignment with protocols approved by the Institutional Review Board. All student responses are kept anonymous.
  • Can students leave the program if they are no longer able to commit or they are uncomfortable with the material?
    Yes, students are welcome to leave the program at any time.
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