About $1 billion is spent each year on scientific research across the country, but how much reaches families in a meaningful way? The information is compiled into reports, published in journals, but not brought into the community. Forging connections between science and community is the uncommon mission of the UCLA Family Commons in Santa Monica.
The enticing storefront facility on Second Street focuses on four main areas: community, family, parent and child. They offer yoga and martial arts classes and craft workshops. But they also host classes in areas such as “mindful awareness,” parenting toddlers, helping with homework and healthy eating. They even offer custom Family Wellness Checkups to help you gauge how your family is doing and set a plan for addressing your parenting priorities.
“We feel that you can deliver a lot of the science in ways that do not involve sitting behind a desk,” explains Diane Flannery, Ph.D., director and co-founder of the facility. And there is plenty of science being delivered here. When they get inquiries from clients, Flannery and colleagues can even call on experts from UCLA to help them compile data on all sides of the issue at hand – be that helping kids sleep, parenting sons, or coping with ADHD without medication.
The cozy little space helps ensure that all this expertise is delivered in a personal and accessible fashion. During a tour Monday, Flannery showed of comfy, round rooms where families and experts sit together around tables and the walls can all be written on with dry-erase markers. Active classes like yoga and martial arts take place in an airy room with windows and mirrors – and these offer their own community connections. A family taking a yoga class for toddlers might also happen upon a class about parenting toddlers, for example. Or instructors might notice a behavior problem in a child taking a martial arts class, discuss that with the parents and offer resources to help them cope.
The shopping is good here, too, with a plethora of books and other items for parents and kids on a host of topics. Not into dull, dry parenting texts? No worries. Flannery and staff personally review all the books they sell and carry only those with true family-friendly appeal. They can even point out the most pertinent sections for parents with little time on their hands and a particular problem to solve.
Open since December, Flannery says the Commons is now seeing about 25 walk-ins per day. They charge for classes and other services, but do sometimes offer sliding scales for families who need them.
The facility also reaches out virtually, with a Web site offering information and tools – including a tool for measuring how you spend your time (read about that on Carolyn Graham’s “I Don’t Have Time For This” blog), and a barometer of sorts for the mood of the community. Just set the bar to answer the question “How are you feeling today?” and you’ll add your color to the lanterns hanging in front of the Commons. With such a great resource in the area, there are sure to be a lot more good feelings to go around.