The Blog

Building Character through Science: working together to ask “why”

When kids ask “why,” they are doing a lot more than seeking information on a specific topic. Anyone who has been chased around by a preschooler peppering every moment with “why?” can confirm that. Kids ask questions to make conversation, to confirm what they think they know, and sometimes just for the reassurance of knowing an adult is guiding them. This honestly doesn’t change much as kids mature into the tween and teen years — except it becomes more and more important to make sure that they know questions are welcome, and that adults are still there to listen and to advise.

The resulting conversations help kids find their place in the world, as well as understand and manage the unknown. When an adult answers a child’s question, that builds the relationship between the two of them and opens the door even wider for that adult to be a guiding force.

Relationships are the basis for Classroom Champions, an international nonprofit mentoring organization I started with my brother Steve Mesler, a 3x Olympian and 2010 Olympic Champion in bobsledding. We pair K-8 classrooms with Olympic and Paralympic athletes for a year-long mentoring relationship. Psychological research is showing more and more clearly that relationships with invested adults like mentors, teachers, and family members can help children develop resilience and stronger decision making skills. Over time, these skills help them develop a better sense of well being, and help kids become their best possible selves through a lifetime.

One of our goals at Classroom Champions is to provide teachers and parents with resources for having big conversations with their students. Students engaged with Classroom Champions materials are challenged to think deeply about topics like goal setting, community involvement, perseverance, and friendship. Our partnership with Ask, Listen, Learn provides adults support for engaging in an important conversation that will help kids stay on a positive path toward those goals and toward  healthy relationships — the negative effects of alcohol on their brains and the importance of saying no to underage drinking.

Interactive and compelling science-based resources, such as those available through Ask, Listen, Learn, help answer students’ “whys” and build the knowledge children need to make healthy decisions around alcohol. Kids are curious about how their bodies work, and these resources are an excellent introduction to basic neuroscience. When kids can clearly appreciate the harm that alcohol can do to their growing brains, they are more likely to think twice about drinking.

With its complement of extensive parent and teacher-focused supporting materials, Ask, Listen, Learn resources equip adults to be important collaborators in children’s learning process. These resources also help kids develop the ability to make good decisions with their futures in mind — something that is reinforced through partnerships with organizations like Classroom Champions.

It’s a big responsibility to be the person in a child’s life who answers the “why” questions, and we are proud to be working with Ask, Listen, Learn to help parents and teacher feel supported in having the important information they need to answer those questions about the dangers of underage drinking.



Leigh Parise, PhD, is a co-founder of Classroom Champions. She holds degrees in Education and Public Policy, has worked as a New York City public school teacher, and conducts education research at MDRC. Leigh is an educational advisory board member for the Foundation for the Advancement of Alcohol Responsibility.




Curious about how to become a Classroom Champions teacher? Find out more, and apply for the 2017-18 school year — which includes the Winter Olympic Games in February — by going to