This is a step-by-step Webinar about how to use The Imagine Project:

Go at your own pace, We encourage you to write your own story when it’s suggested. Writing your own story helps with understanding the power of the project. You will enjoy it, we promise!

Module 1: Introduction to The Imagine Project

  • Step 1: Introducing The Imagine Project: 
    • Step 6: Download the Feelings Wheel Watch this video about using The Feelings Wheel while writing or having others write their Imagine stories. Module 2: WHY The Imagine Project? Learning about Stress and Trauma 
      • Step 1Watch this intro video.
      • Step 2– Learning about stress and trauma:
        • Unfortunately, our world is stressed. Adults are stressed and so are kids. Depression and anxiety are higher than ever before–no matter what age. Research has shown that traumatic events affect 50% of children before the age of 17. Adults and children need tools to mitigate stress and help navigate through challenging life events.
      • Step 3– Stress statistics:
        • In the last 6-7 years there has been an unprecedented spike in anxiety and depression in adolescents. 
        • ~35% of children experience health-related stress problems.
        • ~10% have anxiety, ADHD, or behavioral problems. ~5% suffer from depression.
        • American teens rate their stress at a 5.8 (10 point scale), adults are typically 3.8.
        • 7 out of 10 teens say anxiety and depression are a major problem among their peers. 
        • Watch this video about how stress and trauma can show up in kids. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrF5BF3aES0
        • Signs of stress: 
          • Stomach aches
          • Frequent headaches
          • Acne
          • Dizziness
          • Bowel problems
          • Bedwetting
          • Frequent colds or illnesses
          • Becoming clingy
          • The quality of school work has changes
          • New habits such as hair twirling, nose picking, or thumb sucking
          • A change in sleep patterns
          • Mood swings
          • A child might begin to lie
          • Changes in eating habits
        • Stress and trauma can:
          • Change brain function which will impair a child’s ability to  focus, organize, and process information.
          • Adversely affect attention, memory, and cognition.
          • If a child seems chaotic, unable to focus, easily distracted or frustrated they could be experiencing (or have experienced in the past) some level of stress or trauma. 
          • Recommended reading if you’d like to learn more about stress and trauma: “What Happened to You” by Bruce Perry, and/or “The Deepest Well” by Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris
      • Step 4-Understanding trauma: 
        • Watch this video
        • Trauma is any life experience that overwhelms your coping mechanisms. Everyone’s coping mechanisms are different. One child might handle an experience better than another. One child might not be bothered much by loud arguing, another will be very upset. Children are more easily and more profoundly affected by a traumatic event. Traumatic events can be severe or mild depending on the child’s ability to cope. 
        • Trauma statistics: 
          • 60% of adults report experiencing some level of trauma
          • 50% of children experience at least 1 trauma event before the age of 17
          • 26% of children witness or experience trauma before the age of 4
        • Symptoms of trauma: 
          • Sleeping or eating problems (hoarding or avoiding food)
          • Excessively angry, aggressive, or abusive towards others
          • School problems
          • Frequent headaches, stomach aches or other physical problems
          • Nightmares
          • Poor self-confidence/self-esteem
          • Addiction: food, drugs, technology, etc.
          • Sexual knowledge beyond the child’s age
          • Abnormal fears and anxiety
          • Suicidal thoughts
          • Withdrawal or alienation from social or family situations
          • Difficulty trusting others
          • Unhealthy romantic relationships
          • Overly self-reliant
          • Self-harm
          • Feeling shameful
          • Defiant
          • Running away
          • Starting fights
          • Difficulty visualizing/dreaming about new possibilities in life
        • TASK- take the ACE survey for yourself http://traumadissociation.com/ace
        • Watch Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris’ TED talk (very helpful but optional) https://embed.ted.com/talks/nadine_burke_harris_how_childhood_trauma_affects_health_across_a_lifetime 
        • Unresolved emotional issues can cause:
          • Frequent emotional and mental dysregulation
          • Difficulties focusing and learning
          • Disengaging with school
          • Developing poor social skills
          • Be prone to high-risk behaviors

      Children need tools to help them cope with life’s challenges. The Imagine Project is a great tool to help them process, cope, and move forward in life.

      Module 3- What is The Imagine Project?

      • Step 3: Writing Helps Mitigate Stress and Trauma
      • Research shows that writing about life’s struggles helps to process, heal, and move forward during and after experiencing life challenges. Kids are perfect candidates to use writing as a tool to mitigate stress starting as young as Kindergarten through high school. The Imagine Project is a great tool to prompt kids and teens to write about a difficult life story because the 7-step process uses the word Imagine to begin each sentence. Using “Imagine” is a safety net for the writer. It gives them the opportunity to write about their experience without being pulled into a deep/difficult emotion they might have felt using other writing formats. Step 4 in the writing process prompts the writer to Imagine a new story in place of the old story, helping to Imagine new possibilities in their life. A perfect way to move forward to realize they don’t have to be defined by their story.

      * Step 4: Why Does TIP work:  Dr. Jerry Yager:     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aSqooWqtUYA&t=1s

      * Teens Talking About TIP https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mBwXDEOjAnw&t=81s

      * Step 5:: TASK: Watch 2-3 videos of kids reading their Imagine stories. *A few of these stories might be difficult to watch if you have had similar experiences. Please take care of yourself and if you feel triggered just stop and move on to a different video.

      Jay’s Imagine Story (Alternative high school senior)


      Kamia’s TIP story (freshman in college who was homeless)


      Kailee’s TIP story (middle schooler) 


      Emily’s TIP story (Alternative high school junior talking about abuse)


      Victor’s TIP story (Adult talking about using The Imagine Project) 


      Faith (5th grader) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QbQrnZg4W8g

      Kaedon (5th grader) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBoSbDlqqbU&t=2s

      Molly (5th grader) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cz0uOJcGsTg

      Achmed (5th grader) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYUjBCJWFzo

      Chloe (5th grader) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I3JwogMRSu0

      Module 4- How to Use The Imagine Project

    Module 5 – Writing Your Story: Now it’s time to write using The Imagine Project 7-step process. It’s important to write your own story so you can witness and feel the power and benefit of using The Imagine Project before asking someone else to write. 

    Download The Imagine Project Journal to begin writing (you can use your own writing pad if you’d like).

    Imagine Project Spotify Playlist:Here is a song playlist you can use while writing your Imagine story and while you’re working with students.


    This is the embedded code for the Spotify Playlist:

    <iframe style=”border-radius:12px” src=”https://open.spotify.com/embed/playlist/3Xyfy02g4oFsJkIPHoL70N?utm_source=generator” width=”100%” height=”352″ frameBorder=”0″ allowfullscreen=”” allow=”autoplay; clipboard-write; encrypted-media; fullscreen; picture-in-picture” loading=”lazy”></iframe>

      • Step 1Celebrate: Make a list of positive experiences that have happened in your life. What are you proud of? What do you love about your life? Connect them to feelings on the feeling wheel when appropriate.
        •  Watch the intro video
        • Check The Imagine Project Spotify playlist for possible songs. Song suggestions for step 1: “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera. 
        • TASK- write celebrations
      • Step 2Reflect on difficult times or challenging life experiences related to a specific topic- Connect them to feelings on the feeling wheel. 
        • Watch the intro video
        • Check The Imagine Project Spotify playlist for possible songs. Song suggestion for Step 2: “Story of my Life” by One Direction. 
        • TASK: list 1-3 difficult life experiences. 
      • Step 3Write an Imagine Story:  Take one of the difficult life experiences from step 2 and write an Imagine story about it. Tell the story beginning each sentence using the word Imagine. Write the story in detail and use feeling words where appropriate. 
        • Watch intro video 
        • Check The Imagine Project Spotify playlist for possible songs (typically need 2-3 songs for this step). Song suggestions:  “Into Dust” by Mazzy Star, “Renegades” by X Ambassadors, “Three LIttle Birds” by Bob Marley
        • TASK- Write Story.
        • If you are able, it’s a powerful process to share your story with someone. In a group setting, you can share with each other. Sharing creates vulnerability but it also is very empowering to feel heard. (Some teachers/leaders wait and share after Step 4)
      • Step 4Hopeful Turn: Write a new ending to the story you wrote about in step 3. How do you want the story to end? What’s positive that has, or can come from your story? Write a new ending to your story using the word Imagine to begin every sentence. Use feeling words where appropriate. You can encourage participants to share their story after this step as well.
        • Watch intro video  
        • Check The Imagine Project Spotify playlist for possible songs. This typically needs 1-2 songs. Song Suggestions: “Just Imagine It” by MKTO, “Can’t Knock Me Down” by Pretty Panther
        • TASK- Write Hopeful Turn
    • If you are able, it’s a powerful process to share your story with someone. In a group setting, you can share with each other. Sharing creates vulnerability but it also is very empowering to feel heard.
    • Step 5I am, I can, I will: Turn your dreams into I statements! 
      • Watch intro video 
      • Check The Imagine Project Spotify playlist for possible songs.This is a fast step, you may or may not need a song. Song suggestions: “Roll Up Your Sleeves” Meg Mac
    • Step 6 DO! Write down 3 things you need to do to make your dreams happen.
      • Watch intro video
      • Check The Imagine Project Spotify playlist for possible songs. This is also a quick step, you may or may not need a song. Song suggestions: “The Climb” by Miley Cyrus
      • TASK- Set Goals Check The Imagine Project 
    • Step 730 Day Imagine/Gratitude/Kindness Challenge– In this challenge you are asked/asking that every day for 30 days you write down 3 things you are grateful for, 3 things you want to Imagine in your life, and do 1 act of kindness. All of these embed kindness, goal setting, and seeing possibilities in your future.
      • Watch the intro video
      • Check The Imagine Project Spotify playlist for possible songs. Song suggestions: “Imagine” by John Lennon, “Rise Up” by Andra Day
      • TASK- start the challenge.

    Module 6: More helpful information about stress, trauma, and using The Imagine Project: 

     Step 1: Using The Imagine Project in Groups or Classrooms

      • World renowned trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry explains in his book, What Happened to You said that the resilience in this country is diminished because our connectedness is diminished. Social media, the pandemic, and a host of other causes have created a relational poverty with children and adults. We need the emotional support of being connected to others to withstand life’s challenges. When the Imagine Project is used in a group (family is a group) or classroom and kids are given the opportunity to read their stories out loud, a connectedness is created. A sense of understanding ourselves and each other–creating camaraderie and security in knowing that you aren’t alone navigating this sometimes difficult world, and that others also have challenges they face. It’s truly beautiful to watch this process unfold in a group/classroom. We at The Imagine Project encourage everyone to experience it, young and old
    • Equity (Four Agreements): Watch this video explaining using the Four Agreements in a classroom or group setting while using The Imagine Project sets clear norms for the experience. 
    • How to present brain research on stress and learning to a group of students: Watch this video to learn more about how stress affects the brain and the ability to learn. 

     Step 2 Sharing your story and holding a brave space. After steps 3 and 4 we encourage participants to share their stories out loud with each other. Some will share, some won’t. It’s okay either way, it’s their decision. When they do share it’s important to know how to hold space for those who are sharing, and teaching others in the group or classroom to hold a brave space. These videos explain more about holding space for sharing.

    • This is a wonderful children’s book about holding space. “The Rabbit Listened” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rBjAWkog9n0)
    • TASK- Share your story or plan for sharing your story. Watch more stories from above to practice listening

    Step 3 – Releasing Stress – There are many ways to release stress with kids. Here’s a few ideas:

    • Running, jumping, playing, or just being silly.
    • Dancing: Gonoddle.com is a great website for younger kids. 
    • Tapping: also called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). Go to this website to learn more about this simple and effective way to release stress. https://theimagineproject.org/eft-tapping/
      • Step 4: Dos and don’ts:
    • DO:
        • Have students read their stories together in a group (this is optional).
        • Clap after each student reads their stories.
        • Teach compassion, respect, attention, and even have other students visualize wrapping the reader in love (especially with the little ones).
        • Have students pick a positive power word that goes along with their story. This is helpful in supporting them believe in themselves.
        • See them without their story. They need a positive role model to believe in them. If you aren’t sure you can handle being with their emotions, ask a counselor to be in the room with you. Here is a blog to help you help kids who are feeling emotional.
        • Download and us the Feelings Wheel to help focus your emotions on your story and your hopeful turn.
        • See their resilience and how amazing they are!!
        • Send home the parent letter before you do the project so parents are aware of what the kids are doing.
    • DON”T:
      • Read the student’s story if you’ve told them you’re not going to read it (we suggest telling the kids no one needs to read their stories if they don’t want anyone to).
      • Send them home on a Friday after reading their story from step 3.
      • Try to fix them, it’s okay if they cry, let them feel their emotion, care for them through it. In the words of Brene` Brown, hold the energy of, “I am here with you.” You aren’t doing therapy with them, you are just giving them a place to be heard.
    • Step 5: Watch this conclusion video 
    • Step 6: Task: Thank you for watching and participating with The Imagine Project. Please complete this brief post questionnaire on Google Forms: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdpiydKHk285Ibo_rBIZXpGimERDjVxofSTD8C96yirugAmuw/viewform?usp=pp_url

    Recommended Reading:

    The Imagine Project: Empowering Kids to Rise Above Drama, Trauma, and Stress by Dianne Maroney 
    The Imagine Project is a How-to guide that helps parents, teachers, and counselors support kids who are dealing with trauma, and stress. Beyond the explanations about emotional wellness, how stress affects a child, and the impact of trauma on a child, there are thorough instructions about how to use the powerful, yet simple 7-step expressive writing tool (The Imagine Project Journal) that helps kids overcome difficult life circumstances.
    The Imagine Project – Stories of Courage, Hope, and Love by Dianne Maroney
    A collection of photographs and inspirational stories of individuals who have overcome obstacles or worked toward humanitarian causes. Maroney brings together dozens of personal stories, each accompanied by photographs of the narrators and identified with thematic titles—gift, heritage, winning, resolve, etc. Each narrative is a series of sentences beginning with “Imagine…” followed by an element of the narrator’s story.
    What Happened to You?: Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing
    by Oprah Winfrey, Bruce D. Perry
    Have you ever wondered “Why did I do that?” or “Why can’t I just control my behavior?” Others may judge our reactions and think, “What’s wrong with that person?” When questioning our emotions, it’s easy to place the blame on ourselves; holding ourselves and those around us to an impossible standard. It’s time we started asking a different question.
    Through deeply personal conversations, Oprah Winfrey and renowned brain and trauma expert Dr. Bruce Perry offer a groundbreaking and profound shift from asking “What’s wrong with you?” to “What happened to you?”
    The Art of Holding Space: A Practice of Love, Liberation, and Leadership
    by Heather Plett
    In this profound book, facilitator and speaker Heather Plett empowers you with constructive, actionable practices for transforming conflict, building boundaries, and increasing sovereignty in your own life—and the lives of those closest to you.
    You’ll learn:
    – How to create a non-judgmental space for yourself and others
    – How to build trust and autonomy
    – How to create and refine your circle of trust
    – How to move through trauma
    – How to reawaken your authentic identity
    – How to work through conflict
    – How to create “brave spaces” that allow for free expression
    Fostering Resilient Learners: Strategies for Creating a Trauma-Sensitive Classroom
    by Kristin Souers, Pete Hall
    In this galvanizing book for all educators, Kristin Souers and Pete Hall explore an urgent and growing issue–childhood trauma–and its profound effect on learning and teaching.
    Grounded in research and the authors’ experience working with trauma-affected students and their teachers, Fostering Resilient Learners will help you cultivate a trauma-sensitive learning environment for students across all content areas, grade levels, and educational settings. The authors–a mental health therapist and a veteran principal–provide proven, reliable strategies to help you
    The Deepest Well: Healing the Long-Term Effects of Childhood Trauma and Adversity by Nadine Burke Harris 
    The stunning news of Burke Harris’s research is just how deeply our bodies can be imprinted by ACEs—adverse childhood experiences like abuse, neglect, parental addiction, mental illness, and divorce. Childhood adversity changes our biological systems, and lasts a lifetime. For anyone who has faced a difficult childhood, or who cares about the millions of children who do, the fascinating scientific insight and innovative, acclaimed health interventions in The Deepest Well represent vitally important hope for preventing lifelong illness for those we love and for generations to come.
    Help for Billy: A Beyond Consequences Approaching to Helping Challenging Children in the Classroom by Heather T. Forbes
    “Help for Billy” is a pragmatic manual to help guide families and educators who are struggling with traumatized children. Based on the concept of the neuroscience of emotions and behavior, Heather Forbes provides detailed, comprehensive, and logical strategies for teachers and parents. This easy to read book, with tables, outlines and lists, clears the way for a better understanding of the true nature regarding traumatic experiences affecting the brain and learning. It is a must read for anyone working with a child in the classroom.

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