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Foundations of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs)

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This learning series is designed to explore the relationship between classroom behavior and learning.We will dive into the complexity of creating a culture where all students are available for learning. Research on Brain and Neuroscience will provide foundations for classroom practices that lead to impact.

“Remember everyone in the classroom has a story that leads to misbehavior or defiance.  Nine times out of ten, the story behind the misbehavior won’t make you angry.  It will break your heart.”

                                                                                                -Annette Breaux


  • ACEs stands for Adverse Childhood Experiences and originated from a health care study in the late 1990’s.The results were startling to the medical profession and have dramatic implications for schools.
  • Dr. Marjorie Fujara is among those medical professionals working to ensure educators have an understanding of ACEs in hopes of supporting healthy academic and social growth in our school systems.
  • Dr. Fujara is a founding member of an advocacy group call the Partnership for Resilience. This group is focused on connecting health care and education focused on whole child efforts.
  • As you watch the video (13:29) that will introduce the ACE, be prepared to share out your thoughts for the Video Viewing Protocol process.The participant handout has prompts for viewing.

 ACEs Reflection Activity

  • Have participants review the list of ACEs as a small group (pairs, trios, or a quadruples) in the Participant Handout.
  • Thinking about your school population, to what degree might you suppose these experiences exist?In the community?
  • While it is not important to know exactly WHO in your classrooms have what ACEs score, it’s important to note that there is strong likelihood that your school community has students, parents, and staff with 1 or more ACEs.

  Brainstorm School Impact

  • Ask small groups to brainstorm the BEHAVIOR and ACADEMIC signs they might anticipate from students with high ACEs Scores.Remind participants to review the list of ACEs and think about the Fight, Flight or Freeze response Dr. Fujara mentioned.
  • Create 1 group chart for BEHAVIOR and 1 group chart for ACADEMIC by asking participants to share out their ideas.Facilitator should chart on large paper or electronic device.
  •  The ACEs research often prompts educators to what to know specific details about students’ lives.It’s common to have staff suggest doing a quick survey on their population to see how many ACEs scores arise.While in some cases that might be appropriate, in most knowing a specific student’s ACEs score is not necessary. Rather-

  • Awareness of ACEs can help shape our reactions in schools.  Changing our reactions from “What is wrong with this child?” to one of “What happened to this child?”
  • Knowledge of ACEs can help in the problem-solving process when considering how to support a child’s academic or behavioral needs.  Care and compassion might be a better solution than academic intervention.
  • Understanding of ACEs can allow for empathy and caring to be front and center in the classroom

Action before next session

Read the brief NPR blog How to Apply The Brain Science of Resilience to the Classroom and consider implications to literacy learning and instruction.



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These tools were created as part of the Literacy Improvement in Rural Education through Collaboration (LIREC) project funded by the U.S. Department of Education