Trauma and Repair: Building Safe and Restorative Learning Communities

Summer 2019 (First Session)
Class Size: 25
Credits per quarter

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Taught by

Faculty: Carolyn Stringer,

What is an optimal learning environment for students affected by trauma, and how do we create it?  

Neuroscience shows that a fearful brain cannot learn. When the baseline state of a trauma-affected student is fear, their consuming anxiety makes it difficult to reach the state of attentive calm needed to take in new cognitive information. School can become frustrating and humiliating. Teachers can become impatient, and, unaware of the student’s internal state, misjudge the trauma-behavior. The student’s coping tools are highly adaptive for self-protection, but can be significant barriers for learning. Can we offer substitute coping tools in the classroom? The good news is, yes—we can. When a student feels safe, curiosity thrives. A dedicated and compassionate educator can help create safety by making a classroom relationship-centered.

In this course we’ll examine and discuss: Trauma neuroscience and types, its physiological and emotional impact on youth, and curriculum that teaches coping strategies suitable for a classroom environment. We’ll approach trauma from a cultural perspective, asking whether “resilience” is a human condition more available to some groups than others, and what protective factors make some individuals more resilient than others. We’ll then use our understanding of trauma to build structures and curriculum for a trauma-responsive learning community, which includes restorative justice, practices, communication, and processes. We’ll ask ourselves: What is “safe space” and how do we create it? How do we create a web of relationships between teachers and students, and between and among students, to provide supportive learning environments for students affected by trauma? 

This course will use a combination of books, articles, videos, guest speakers, and field trips to expand and deepen our course content. The course primarily focuses on trauma and youth so is most appropriate for K-12 teachers, youth educators, and students interested in working with youth. However, the information and skills can also be helpful for adult educators as well as those interested in creating a trauma informed and trauma responsive workplace.

*The class is not intended to provide therapeutic benefits to its students or serve as a trauma-therapy community: While it’s often inevitable that studying trauma will activate one’s own traumatic memories and experiences, the intent of this class is to give educators the understanding and tools to create optimal learning environments for trauma-affected students.

This offering will prepare you for careers and advanced study in:

teaching, psychology, youth development, and curriculum design


Credits per quarter

Online learning:
  • No Required Online Learning - No access to web tools required. Any web tools provided are optional.

$27 fee covers field trip expenses and required readings

Class Standing: Freshman–Senior
Class Size: 25

Scheduled for: Day

Final schedule and room assignments:

First meeting:

Tuesday, June 25, 2019 - 1:00 pm
SEM 2 A2107 - Seminar

Located in: Olympia

2019-04-16Required Fee Change: Now $27 (was $30)