Antigonish, Nova Scotia, Canada

Creating safe and positive spaces for learning: The Positive Space Program continues to grow

November 30th, 2015

The Positive Space Trainer team continues to grow, with 14 new trainers joining the team.

On Nov. 28, StFX Human Rights and Equity Officer Marie Brunelle, second year education student Kalyn MacAskill, and education professor and head of X-Pride Dr. Joanne Tompkins led a five hour session in which members of both the StFX campus and local community developed and deepened their skills as facilitators of the Positive Space Program. 
To date, this joint program, begun in 2003 between the Antigonish Women’s Resource Center and StFX, has trained over 1,500 individuals to recognize and challenge heteronormativity and gender identity privilege when and where they encounter it. 
The new trainers include two teachers from the Strait Regional School Board, one faculty member from the StFX School of Nursing, four fourth year nursing students and six second year B.Ed. students. 
“All these individuals will be able to take the Positive Space program to their respective spheres of influence and educate others to promote environments that challenge homophobia and transphobia,” Dr. Tompkins says.  
“Currently all B.Ed. pre-service teachers complete Positive Space One and Two as part of their teacher education program and increasingly Positive Space training is offered to nursing students. This allows both professional programs to ensure that new nurses and teachers are able to be inclusive in their future professional environments,” she says. 
Many teachers and guidance counsellors within the Strait board have completed Positive Space training, allowing them to be advocates for their learners.  
“We know from recent Canadian research (EGALE, 2009) that the climate for LGBTQ students and students of LGBTQ parents is often unsafe. These students face higher degrees of unsafety and harassment in school, which obviously impacts their learning and their health,” Ms. MacAskill says. 
“What is important is that we know when teachers are educated and know how to be advocates and allies for LGBTQ students, the school climate gets significantly better for those students, and for all students. That’s why I am excited to be part of the Positive Space team.”
Ms. Brunelle said that since its inception “over 1,500 people from the campus and surrounding community have participated in this small but mighty program. This week I am conducting a Positive Space Two workshop for professionals who work in the area of mental health at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital. Next week I have been asked to do a workshop with StFX residence assistants. It’s wonderful to see the program continue to grow.”
Dr. Tompkins mentioned that she, along with colleagues Jennifer Mitton and Laura-Lee Kearns, are researching the impact of Positive Space education on pre-service and in-service teachers in schools and the preliminary results are very positive. 
For more information on Positive Space Training or for training requests, please contact Ms. Brunelle at Positive Space training for a specific unit or department can be arranged. All Positive Space trainers are volunteers and there are no participant fees for this program. 
The Positive Space Program acknowledges the support of the StFX Human Rights and Equity Office in supporting the administrative costs for the program. 

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