Children and Their Worlds

What does the world look like through the eyes of a child and how can we best promote their health and well-being?

Students examined childhood development and the evolution of public policies intended to safeguard and improve children's physical and mental health, educational opportunities, and general welfare in the U.S.

Inside the Classroom

The course explored issues related to the physical, mental and educational health of children. Because of changes in juvenile justice to compulsory K-12 education, mandatory immunization and vaccination policies, Head Start, the States' Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), No Child Left Behind (NCLB), preschool, Nickelodeon, PBS, the Internet, child-focused corporate advertising, and an array of other public and private programs and policies that have proliferated in the U.S. since the arrival of the post-war Baby-Boom generation, over the past several decades children have become a top political priority and for many, arguably, a national obsession.

Consequently, childhood has become one of the most fought over and researched areas of medicine, public policy, and the social sciences. The course included clinical, developmental, and public policy readings and assignments.

Outside the Classroom

Students connected what they learned in class through various experiential learning opportunities outside the classroom. Among other experiences, students attended lectures by nonprofit leaders and learned about mental health and children's issues in Richmond firsthand—one way they did that was by visiting, touring and meeting with administrators at the Faison School in Richmond.

A key component of the class is community-based learning (CBL). Students engaged in weekly service-learning at one of four different sites in the Richmond community over the course of 15 hours in the fall semester. Examples of CBL sites are:

There were also two community trips related to this course that further connected their classroom experience. Students traveled to New York City over fall break to visit a leading charter school and children's nonprofit organization that specializes in child development and education. Then in January, students traveled to Walt Disney World to meet with marketing and advertising professionals at Disney, as well as a local journalist, regarding Disney's child-focused corporate advertising.

Research and Capstone Project

Over the course of the fall semester, students carried out research on a variety of mental health and public policy issues in children culminating in a research paper on one topic due at the end of the fall semester. Over the spring semester, students worked in groups with their classmates to create a capstone project and subsequent presentation to the University community on those issues.