Joel Daniel Harris `04
The latest episode of "Lessons in Adolescence" (a podcast by the Remaking Middle School Initiative, a collaborative project of University of Virginia's Youth-Nex Center and the Association of Middle Level Educators) features a conversation with Joel Daniel Harris, Founder and Executive Dreamer of TomTod, a nearly ten-year-old youth development nonprofit based in Canton, Ohio that offers summer learning opportunities for middle school aged youth, as well as after school and in-school programming. TomTod provides a variety of community-based, immersive experiences for thousands of youth across northeast Ohio that are deeply influenced by adolescent development and rooted in community and relationships, focusing on what young adolescents are capable of here and now, and not just in the future, which can work to change what most people think of the middle school period.
Joel Daniel and Jason talk about the genesis of TomTod, the attributes of summer learning that uniquely resonates with young adolescents, the core elements of the program, which runs throughout the year in and out of school and has a special concentration in the summer months in partnership with an array of community organizations, businesses and institutions. They then talk about the influences of Liberatory Design, positive youth development and social and emotional learning on the program, the complexities of measuring outcomes for programming directed to young adolescents, how TomTod is working to respond to the mental health crisis during this upcoming summer, and what the future holds for the organization in delivering programming as well as building capacity in schools and school systems.