Remaking Middle School Podcast

Join us in exploring the many facets of adolescence from the adverse, to the awkward, to the awesome! Host Jason Cascarino and his guests, including educators, researchers, developmental scientists, thought leaders, and other caring adults, tell us why middle school can and should be awesome.

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Early adolescence is an extraordinary opportunity for long-lasting, positive learning and development, if approached at the right time and in the right way. The great challenge is making sure the middle school experience is in sync with the needs and interests of the middle schoolers who attend them. Lessons in Adolescence offers actionable insights about young adolescent learning and development from in-school and out-of-school educators, researchers and developmental scientists, thought leaders, and other caring adults. Each episode focuses on a specific, timely and relevant topic, encouraging listeners to better understand the developmental needs of young adolescents and unleash the full potential of the middle school years.

The Lesson in Adolescence podcast is a production of Remaking Middle School, an initiative that seeks to transform the learning and development experience for young adolescents in the middle school years. Remaking Middle School brings together good educational practice (in-school and out of school) with the latest developmental science. 

Lessons in Adolescence is hosted by Jason Cascarino, strategic advisor and consultant to the Remaking Middle School founding partners. The podcast is produced by Abby Gillespie and Jason Cascarino.

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You can find the Lessons in Adolescence Podcast wherever you listen to podcasts. Our episode notes on Google and Stitcher includes links to additional readings and resources.

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Podcast Feature: Mini Lessons in Adolescence

In the Lessons in Adolescence podcast we feature conversations with researchers, practitioners, program developers and advocates. These Mini Lessons draw on content from our first two seasons of episodes on important topics relating to positive early adolescent development and effective middle level education.

Subscribe for more episodes featuring our full-length interviews.

Vital to the learning and development of adolescents is a sense of belonging. A positive personal identity can play a big role in how confident and comfortable students feel in an academic space. In this mini lesson, we dive into how to best cultivate this experience for middle school students. 

Featuring excerpts with Rob Jagers, Vice President for research at CASEL from episode 3, and Chris Balme, Founder of Spark, Millennium School and Argonaut from episode 4.

Research has shown that middle school is the best time to introduce career exploration programs. The key to this experience is curating real-world experiences and interactions for students in the learning space. In this mini lesson we explore the wide variety of career exploration opportunities that are being made increasingly available for middle school students.

Featuring excerpts with Ashley Hemmy, manager of program engagement at Boston-based American Student Assistance from episode 22, Nadia Selby, Vice President of Programs at Citizen Schools from episode 18, Daquan Oliver, Founder and CEO of WeThrive from episode 23, and Julie Lammers, Senior Vice President of Advocacy and Corporate Social Responsibility for American Student Assistance from episode 26.

When looking at the adolescent years, there’s often an emphasis on in-school academics. But a huge part of student growth also involves what happens outside of school. We spoke with various leaders of innovative after school programs to learn more about the large impact out of school time has on adolescent development.

Featuring excerpts with Jodi Grant, Executive Director of the Afterschool Alliance from episode 8, Elizabeth Micci, a Managing Director at Citizen Schools from episode 18, and Nyasha Rusununguko, the former Director of Program Operations at Higher Achievement from episode 16.

Issues of institutionalized racism and discrimination are roadblocks that school systems nationwide are continuously working through. As young people, middle schoolers can be extremely susceptible to trauma and demonstrations of violence involving race relations. In this mini lesson, we explore how crucial it is to provide students with the accurate language and context to inform their conversations.

Featuring excerpts with Rob Jagers, Vice President for research at CASEL from episode 3, Dr. Joanna Lee Williams, Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology at Rutgers University from episode 1, and Dr. Daren Graves, an Associate Professor of Education and Social Work at Simmons University from episode 20.

Relationships are undoubtedly a vital part of any student’s growth. But how do we begin building these relationships, or rather, what should they look like? We spoke to researchers in the academic field along with students involved in mentoring programs to determine how to best combine knowledge and practice — aiming to produce the best results for middle school students.

Featuring excerpts with Dr. Kent Pekel, former CEO of Search Institute from episode 6, Dr. Elizabeth Santiago, the former Chief Program Officer of MENTOR from episode 7, and Kiana Dixon and Janikaa Jackson, students at Brooklyn College and consultants with the Center for Supportive Schools from episode 15.

Engaging youth in summer learning programs is essential to closing educational gaps and supporting students as they navigate new identities. Research shows that there is demonstrable proof that these programs produce substantial results for middle grade students. In this mini lesson, we explore how summer learning will continue to be an influential tool in guiding youth development and inspiring positive change in student’s communities.

Featuring excerpts with Jennifer Macombs, a senior policy researcher and director of the Behavioral and Policy Sciences Department for the RAND corporation from episode 13, Aaron Dworkin, CEO of the National Summer Learning Association from episode 11, Alec Lee, co-founder of Aim High from episode 12, Terrance Riley, Vice President of Programs of Aim High from episode 12, and Nancy Deutsch, a professor of Education at the University of Virginia and a director of UVA’s Youth-Nex Center from episode 13.

Youth-Nex and AMLE logos side by side

The Remaking Middle School initiative is an emerging partnership working to build and steward a new collective effort for young adolescent learning and development. Founding partners include the University of Virginia Youth-Nex Center to Promote Effective Youth Development, the Association for Middle Level Education (AMLE), the Altria Group, and the New York Life Foundation. We are seeking to ignite conversation, action, and a movement to re-envision and remake the middle school experience in a way that recognizes the strengths of young adolescents and ensures all students thrive and grow from their experiences in the middle grades.