When students return to school for the 2020-21 in August, or the beginning of September, there are going to be many things that are different.


That includes the implementation of COVID-19 safety precautions, the potential for fewer children in school as well as the need to get used to being back in a classroom again, after finishing the last portion of the 2019-20 school year at home with remote instruction.


Because of this unprecedented time, Window on a Wider World (WOWW), in collaboration with The Hope and Healing Place, are bringing programs to the 51 Panhandle-area schools they serve to promote the importance of talking through emotions and share their feelings about living through and coping through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.


These new programs will promote resilience, managing emotions and social/emotional learning, according to a news release. One of the programs, "COVID-19 Time Capsule," will tackle the topic of the pandemic head on, encouraging students to gain understanding of what they went through.


The programs will go along with the other programs WOWW offers, including arts, science and cultural "Experiences Beyond the Classroom."


Catherine Meck, the executive director of WOWW, said this is the first time the two organizations have collaborated on curriculum for area schools. Meck was looking for programs to offer to their area schools surrounding trauma and coping skills and found that the Hope and Healing Place were offering those programs already.


"I knew that this could be a really good partnership, to have programs that really dealt with coping skills and resiliency," Meck said. "…These kids need to bounce back. They need to understand what they just went through, what they are still going through with plexiglass in between each other. It’s going to look a little different here in the Panhandle. I thought it would be a great compliment to have the Hope and Healing Place be a part of us."


These programs will be offered to students during the school day and in smaller groups, to account for COVID-19 safety precautions, Meck said.


As a former teacher, and the current community relations director for the Hope and Healing Place, Laurie Howard believes these programs are a necessity for both students and teachers as they make their way back to the new normal during this ongoing pandemic.


Howard said she thinks that COVID-19 is causing grief and hardship for families during this time. She wants students to be able to understand that and learn how to deal with those emotions.


"At the Hope and Healing Place, I like to call it, we provide a toolbox, a toolkit, for these kids to know ‘what can I do when I’m feeling this way? What are some positive, healthy things that I can do when I’m feeling scared, when I’m feeling frightened, when I’m uncertain about what the future holds?’" she said.


Howard believes these programs will help normalize that students are not alone in their feelings and promoting the need to talk about it openly with each other.


"These kids need it. These kids really need this resource," she said. "…By us having this partnership, if we can teach these children how to process these emotions correctly as children, they are going to carry that through adulthood. For me, it’s just giving them tools they are always going to need and use and it’s going to lessen grief, I hope, for them further down the road."


For more information about WOWW and The Hope and Healing Place, visit their respective websites at https://www.windowonawiderworld.org and http://www.hopeandhealingplace.org.