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  • Writer's pictureChristine Cowart

Exciting News: New Collaboration with Wrexham University to Bring Trauma-informed Design to Higher Education!

Trauma-informed Design Consultants

is pleased to announce we will be teaming with

to develop a Trauma-informed Design evaluation tool

for higher education campuses!

This initiative will support Wrexham University (WU) in achieving its ambition to become the first Trauma and ACE (TrACE) informed university in the United Kingdom! In keeping with WU's applied focus for driving excellence, it has been partnering with the Welsh Government-funded and Public Health Wales-hosted ACE Hub Wales, to develop an understanding of trauma and its impact for everyone that works and studies at the University, to to better enable people who may have encountered trauma or adverse childhood experiences to progress and thrive and feel that they are treated with kindness, compassion, and respect.

WU is a public research university in the north-east of Wales, with campuses in Wrexham, Northop, and St Asaph, and recognizes that becoming TrACE informed is not about treating trauma and symptoms, but about developing a fundamental approach that recognizes that adversity and trauma are a possibility for everyone, so that we can promote opportunities for wellbeing, healing, and recovery. This work is alongside, and with, the university’s on-going social inclusion work, our strong commitment to mental health and wellbeing and our drive to promote equality, diversity, and inclusion in everything we do. It’s a key priority of our civic mission partnership strategy which is working to end social inequality in North Wales.

The University identified nine project workstreams for the TrACE project, one of which focuses on the physical environment of the school. With the Campus 2025 initiative already underway, an in recognition that the physical spaces in which we spend time can impact our perceptions, stress levels, and ability to regulate our emotional responses and behaviors, WU teamed up with Trauma-informed Design Consultants (TiDCo) to develop a trauma-informed design evaluation tool for campuses for higher education.

Key members of the TiDCo research team recently created the award-winning Trauma-informed Design Evaluation Tool for K-12 Schools (TiDEvalK12).

This tool is the first of its kind--an evidence-based tool to facilitate interior design renovations and new builds of elementary and secondary schools.  It was awarded a Certification of Research Excellence by the Environmental Design Research Association (EDRA), and can be used to evaluate the physical space and identify changes that can lower the stress levels of students and staff. The tool is grounded in the Substance and Mental Health Services Administrations' guidance for a trauma-informed approach, the Trauma-informed Design (TiD) Society's framework, and feedback from almost 100 educators, school administrators, and designers across the country.

The project, which was supported by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) Foundation, brought together educators and designers to bridge the gap in their understanding and areas of expertise and identify design impacts on educational outcomes. The study included nine schools throughout the United States of America, to evaluate their spaces and gather information about when and where students and staff experience the most dysregulation, and used this information to inform the creation of an evaluation tool for schools and designers.

As part of this new project, TiDCo will use the TiDEvalK12 project to inform the creation of a design evaluation tool specifically developed to address the needs of higher education campuses.

"Partnering with Wrexham University allows us to demonstrate the transformative power of Trauma-informed Design in creating spaces that prioritize the wellbeing of students and staff. We believe that every space has the potential to be a catalyst for positive change."

The research team will begin by surveying WU students and staff to collect information about where and when students and staff are most dysregulated within WU campuses, what interventions are used to help them regulate, what barriers exist to supporting dysregulated students, the university’s physical environment, and what changes to the environment might help students and staff feel safer while on campus. This will be followed by a careful design assessment of the main campus, as well as focus-group interviews with key staff members, to gain context and a deeper understanding of the survey responses and design assessment materials. Using all the information compiled, TiDCo will then identify trends, and create a design evaluation tool for use by WU.

Bridging the Gap

Design evaluation tools provide a lens through which users can better understand the relationship between spatial and interior design elements and student experiences and behaviors. In order to achieve trauma-informed design, it is necessary to bridge communication between educators, students, and designers. Each group brings valuable experience and knowledge to the table, but cannot be fully understood without a common language. The tool provides an opportunity to create greater insight into the needs of the school from each perspective, and the ways in which designers can help.

In addition to creating a new design evaluation tool, this partnership will extend the global reach of the TiDEvalK12. As part of WU's management of the North Wales Children's University (CU) pilot program, TiDCo will train staff at two elementary level schools involved in the North Wales CU Pilot program in the use of the TiDEvalK12.

Teachers and staff will be trained in the principles of trauma informed design and the tool itself, enabling them to complete physical environment assessments in their own schools. TiDCo will provide guidance and advice to the schools in drafting action plans supporting future structural improvements.

The Children's University encourages and rewards young people for taking part in extracurricular and volunteering activities in their schools, their community and online, in order to raise aspirations, provide young people with new experiences, skills, friends and passions. Young people log into Children’s University Online, to their individual dashboard and add the stamp codes. This helps them see how they are progressing towards the next award level; reflect on the skills they are building whilst being encouraged to try something new and exciting. Children and young people can receive up to 30 different certificates to reward their extracurricular participation! Bronze and silver certificates are sent to their schools or community group to be awarded, there are unique gifts at certain levels, and annual graduation events!


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