University of Western Ontario: Western-developed healthy relationship program adopted by 5,000+ schools

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For more than 20 years, the Western-developed, school-based Fourth R program has been working with students, teachers, parents and communities to address youth violence and bullying, unsafe sexual behaviour and substance use.

Developed at Western’s Centre for School Mental Health and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health by researchers David Wolfe, Claire Crooks, Ray Hughes and Peter Jaffe, the Fourth R is based on the idea that education should involve more than the traditional three R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic – with the fourth R standing for relationships.


Claire Crooks

“The best part (of the Fourth R project) has been working with educators, administrators, community mental health professionals, child protection professionals, and people from the youth justice system to make our resources as locally relevant and feasible to implement as possible,” said Crooks, director of the Centre for School Mental Health and professor in the Faculty of Education who now heads up the initiative and continues to develop updates and new research to contribute to the curriculum.

Together with a team of researchers, Crooks is working on adaptations and evaluations of the Healthy Relationships Plus program for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth in school and community settings, as well as looking at fit and feasibility in the youth justice system. The team is also working with Indigenous partners to develop and evaluate culturally relevant, strengths-based approaches with Indigenous youth.

To date, the Fourth R curriculum has been adopted by more than 5,000 schools throughout North America, in part thanks to a collaboration with WORLDiscoveries, the business development arm of a research partnership between Western, Robarts Research Institute and Lawson Research Institute.

WORLDiscoveries manages operations for the Fourth R and is responsible for the electronic delivery system for the program’s 100 products tailored to both Canadian and American school boards.

Crooks is proud of how the Fourth R has been scaled up and out – with curricula spanning grades seven to nine for both the public and Catholic school systems, in addition to small group formats and two mentoring programs specifically geared for Indigenous youth.

“The (WORLDiscoveries) team helped me understand that commercialization meant we could provide resources and services to a much larger number of organizations and schools,” said Crooks.

Banner year for WORLDiscoveries

The Fourth R and a diverse portfolio of licensed technologies ranging from medical imaging technology to paediatric hearing aid prescription software are all factors that contributed to a banner year for WORLDiscoveries, which moved from sixth to fifth place in the national rankings of the Association of University Technology Managers.


“With $6.4-million in revenue from a portfolio of 207 licences, we have had another record year in terms of bringing technologies and innovations to market, as we have done with the Fourth R program. It’s one way we’re helping to build a vibrant, commercialization-focused community at Western,” said Souzan Armstrong, WORLDiscoveries’ executive director.

Support for the Fourth R and other direct-to-market products are just some of the services WORLDiscoveries offers to London, Ont. researchers. The team also offers expertise in patenting technologies, formulating intellectual property strategies, product development, licensing, and new company startups. For more than 20 years, the Western-developed, school-based Fourth R program has been working with students, teachers, parents and communities to address youth violence and bullying, unsafe sexual behaviour and substance use.

Developed at Western’s Centre for School Mental Health and the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health by researchers David Wolfe, Claire Crooks, Ray Hughes and Peter Jaffe, the Fourth R is based on the idea that education should involve more than the traditional three R’s – reading, writing and arithmetic – with the fourth R standing for relationships.


Claire Crooks

“The best part (of the Fourth R project) has been working with educators, administrators, community mental health professionals, child protection professionals, and people from the youth justice system to make our resources as locally relevant and feasible to implement as possible,” said Crooks, director of the Centre for School Mental Health and professor in the Faculty of Education who now heads up the initiative and continues to develop updates and new research to contribute to the curriculum.

Together with a team of researchers, Crooks is working on adaptations and evaluations of the Healthy Relationships Plus program for 2SLGBTQIA+ youth in school and community settings, as well as looking at fit and feasibility in the youth justice system. The team is also working with Indigenous partners to develop and evaluate culturally relevant, strengths-based approaches with Indigenous youth.

To date, the Fourth R curriculum has been adopted by more than 5,000 schools throughout North America, in part thanks to a collaboration with WORLDiscoveries, the business development arm of a research partnership between Western, Robarts Research Institute and Lawson Research Institute.

WORLDiscoveries manages operations for the Fourth R and is responsible for the electronic delivery system for the program’s 100 products tailored to both Canadian and American school boards.

Crooks is proud of how the Fourth R has been scaled up and out – with curricula spanning grades seven to nine for both the public and Catholic school systems, in addition to small group formats and two mentoring programs specifically geared for Indigenous youth.

“The (WORLDiscoveries) team helped me understand that commercialization meant we could provide resources and services to a much larger number of organizations and schools,” said Crooks.

Banner year for WORLDiscoveries

The Fourth R and a diverse portfolio of licensed technologies ranging from medical imaging technology to paediatric hearing aid prescription software are all factors that contributed to a banner year for WORLDiscoveries, which moved from sixth to fifth place in the national rankings of the Association of University Technology Managers.

“With $6.4-million in revenue from a portfolio of 207 licences, we have had another record year in terms of bringing technologies and innovations to market, as we have done with the Fourth R program. It’s one way we’re helping to build a vibrant, commercialization-focused community at Western,” said Souzan Armstrong, WORLDiscoveries’ executive director.

Support for the Fourth R and other direct-to-market products are just some of the services WORLDiscoveries offers to London, Ont. researchers. The team also offers expertise in patenting technologies, formulating intellectual property strategies, product development, licensing, and new company startups.

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