Discovery Dating, WI

“One thing I learned about this class was to help others and be nice to others and also have respect for others.”

By: Alice Skenandore, Executive Director & Jen Schanen, Program Outreach Specialist

Rootstwo children

Native American midwives founded Wise Women Gathering Place (WWGP), a small nonprofit organization, in 1998 on the border of Green Bay and Oneida, Wisconsin.  Alice Skenandore, founder and director of WWGP, created a healthy relationship curriculum, Discovery Dating as a method to engage youth and adults to explore and clarify their goals and values, discern character traits of others, and thereby develop criteria and skills for better decision-making.

Theory and Reach

Discovery Dating is built on the belief that people have their own best interests at heart, and if given complete information and access to choices, they will choose well.  Discovery Dating was designed to enhance participants’ personal agency. Self-efficacy and self-regulation are the core elements of personal agency.  Individuals with high levels of personal agency are more likely to understand the consequences of their actions, be more resilient to new challenges, be better able to constructively problem solve, and be less likely to pass on the hurt and pain of oppressive behaviors.

Discovery Dating is currently being applied with youth and adults as a broad-spectrum intervention tool to develop decisional skills to reduce risk behaviors including teen pregnancy, violence, substance abuse and unhealthy relationships.  For over ten years, we have implemented Discovery Dating in classrooms, parent programs, prisons, youth clubs, mentor-mentee programs, and support groups.  A recent program brought together mothers and children harmed by domestic violence, using Discovery Dating as a lens to explore these past harms and create future avenues for family healing.  Many remarked that this kind of clear and open communication is what their families really need.

Promising Practice picture of three people

The implementation and evaluation of Discovery Dating as a pregnancy prevention tool with rural Native American adolescents was described in a recent article published in the Journal of Family Social Work (Hagen et al, 2012).  During the four-year period following the intervention, there were five pregnancies among the 157 students who participated in Discovery Dating compared to 32 pregnancies among the 136 students who did NOT participate in Discovery Dating.  We believe these findings are largely due to the impact of Discovery Dating on youth’s increased personal agency.  In an unpublished study conducted in 2010-2011, skills for personal agency increased by 12% (p = 0.006) among middle school students who received Discovery Dating based on a comparison of pre- and post-test scores.

Connectionpicture of two girls and provider

We offer a four-day Discovery Dating Facilitator’s Training for individuals interested in bringing the curriculum to their community.  For more information about Discovery Dating, the Discovery Dating Facilitator’s Training, and ordering  materials, please contact  Wise Women Gathering Place, 2482 Babcock Rd, Green Bay WI 54313. Phone: (920) 490-0627  Website: www.wisewomengp.org