The "How's it going" Dream Workshop station with facilitators and children.
The "How's it going" Dream Workshop station. This is one of three stations. Pictured here facilitators (yellow shirts) help guide the children through the exercise of HOW to make the dream a reality. We sectioned off the room using cardboard.

The Dream Workshop Pilot Program

As part of our ongoing research, we’ve tested “Dream It!” and “The Dream Workshop” in about a dozen schools and programs. We had so much success that the facilitators started calling it “The Dream Club” because most people thought that “The Dream Workshop” didn’t sound like any fun. Here you can see how our program developed. If you want to try it yourself, download The Dream Workshop or buy Dream It!

Finally, the Dream Workshop is here to help kids live an amazing life. This was our pilot program, which, depending on how you measure it, took almost a year of brainstorming. It started with some important planning meetings with the Northside Education Committee and local schools, parents and community members. At one meeting Steve Sunderland stood up and said kids don’t know how to dream anymore. At the moment, I was writing the Dream Playbook and suddenly saw an opportunity to make it real with some hands-on activities. So, I teamed up with Sue Wilke head of the Northside Education Committee, Steve Sunderland from Peace Village, Tommy Rueff from Happen Inc and Shelley Werner and the kids at Faces Without Places (now Upspring). Actually, there were dozens of adults behind the scenes to make this happen, including a generous donation of about 20 pizzas from an anonymous Samaritan.

Dream Workshop Pilot Program. The aftermath of dream drawings. Note this is only 1 corner of the room.

It is a long story to summarize a year of thinking; so, hopefully, the pictures speak for themselves. Our workshop had 3 stations teaching kids the basics of how to make dreams a reality. Back then our motto was: Dream It, Plan It, Do It. ​And, we had a station for dreaming, planning (now called mapping) and doing (now called playing).

  1. What’s Up with Steve? Focusing on what the student’s dream is.
  2. How’s it Going with Scott? Focusing on planning and how to make a dream come true.
  3. Why Not Tommy? Focusing on doing and why dreams are important with an activity to invent something new.

We were challenged to find an adequate way to express the concept of dreaming. My goal was to teach kids how to find the passion and purpose to give their lives meaning. Tommy likes to refer to it as the superpower of creativity and the ability to make it happen! And, Steve simply wanted to inspire kids to feel like they had an active role in creating their future. Any way you express it, these ideas of nurturing passion are new to the educational system, which focuses more on traditional skills like reading, writing and arithmetic.

Below are pictures with permission from Faces Without Places. My pictures focus on my workshop because I didn’t have time to photograph anything else. My workshop was called “How’s it going, Scott?” And it focused on teaching kids how to make their dreams a reality. There’s not much you can do in 25 minutes, so my solution was just to present them with a simple exercise to get them thinking that making dreams come true takes some planning and some work. I gave them a drawing of two islands. They were on one island and their hypothetical dream of a treasure chest was on the other island. And in between there was an insurmountable obstacle; in this case, an ocean full of sharks. Their assignment was to draw or write a solution to get the treasure.

Some great solutions included:

  1. Cutting down the palm tree to make a bridge.
  2. Making an airplane or wings from the palm leaves.
  3. Whistling to the dolphins and riding them to the other side.
  4. Walking on water or sharks like stepping stones.

I didn’t want to coach or bias them, rather I wanted them to be as creative as possible. So when the kids spontaneously started making step-by-step action plans I was impressed. And another student created multiple backup plans. When the other students learned this the idea spread like fire. Though the treasure was a metaphor, only one student questioned why they actually wanted the treasure. Instead, he made a plan to fulfill his real dream of being a football star.

A girl illustrates building a rainbow bridge
Here is one solution, building a rainbow bridge between two islands. Notice the rainbow-colored beads in her hair.
A girl draws a picture of a UFO flying from one island to another using colors that match her dress.
Another solution: A spaceship flies you from one island to another. Notice how she redrew the picture in her own style (right hand) and used colors that match her dress.

Red Carpet World Movie Premiere

A few days later this same group of kids went to the “world premiere” of the movie they had been making this summer about the Cincinnati Museum Center. They wrote, filmed and starred in this movie. They even made their own costumes. It was a huge project organized by Happen Inc and their Lights, Camera and Learning in Action program. It was an amazing moment to see the kids walk down the red carpet, signing autographs before their limo ride to Graeter’s Ice Cream. Wow, what a dream come true. I didn’t have anything to do with this event except I was honored to attend. During the Dream Workshop, the young director of this movie asked, “How long do I have to go to college to be a film director?” It was a pivotal moment when the idea of a dream turns into the passion of commitment.

Happen Red Carpet Movie Premier. The filmmakers signing autographs.
The Happen Inc Red Carpet Movie Premier. The VIP filmmakers (white T-shirts) exit the movie theatre and sign autographs on the red carpet.
Happen Red Carpet Movie Premier. The filmmakers on the way to the limo.
One of three limousines awaits our filmmakers.
Happen Red Carpet Movie Premier. The filmmakers inside the limo.
The filmmakers inside the limo on their way to get Graeter’s Ice Cream, a local favorite in Cincinnati. Pictures with permission from Happen Inc and Faces Without Places.

Articles about our original research

So far, we have collaborated on 6 university-led research projects, each one using the scientific process and building on the methods of the previous studies. We have also held a lot of informal workshops at schools and non-profit organizations to test our material. And behind the scenes, we are doing ongoing research, literature reviews and consulting social-emotional professionals to make sure everything we do is evidence-based and peer-reviewed.  See all our research projects below. 

Intervention results graph

Dream It! Achieves a Research Publication Milestone

Great news!!! Today is an exciting day for the science of dreaming (goal setting, aspiration, passions). We are proud to announce that our latest dream research study has been published in the peer-reviewed, scientific journal Child & Youth Care Forum.

Dream Workshop University of Cincinnati Facilitators

Impact and feasibility of the Dream Workshop

A summary of a research study conducted by the University of Cincinnati to test the efficacy of a Dream Workshop and whether it improved children’s self-confidence as measure of Social and Emotional Learning (SEL).

Dream Team at Parker Woods Montessori Elementary. The authors and University of Cincinnati facilitators.

Improving social and emotional awareness using the Dream It! Playbook

Student’s using the workbook “Dream It!” had a scientifically proven, evidence-based improvement in optimistic thinking and perseverance (along with improvements in hope, growth-mindset and overall school climate) among elementary school students. Highlights from our most-important study to date, including lots of pictures and graphs.

Doctor Sara Williams at the American Psychological Association's annual conference

Improving Children’s Optimistic Thinking by Teaching them to Dream about Life Goals

We were honored to attend the American Psychological Associations 2018 annual conference to present the results of our study. This is a new analysis of our data that, essentially, says that young students perform better when they are taught the basics of socioemotional skills, like passion and goal setting, first before more academic subjects, such as reading, writing and arithmetic.

The "How's it going" Dream Workshop station with facilitators and children.

The Dream Workshop Pilot Program

We tested the Dream Playbook in over a dozen schools. We called it our “Dream Workshop” but it was so much fun that the students called it “The Dream Club.”

Picture of Scott Stoll

Scott Stoll

My claim to fame is that I rode a bicycle around the world and wrote some books. More about me.

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