Community Toolkit to Navigate Challenging Times

Division of Student Life - Institute Community and Equity Office - Teaching and Learning Lab

The resources below are intended to help you support students and promote a sense of belonging during challenging times. Use these resources based on what you feel your community needs. Visit the well-being events calendar to find upcoming events promoting open dialogue. If you have questions or suggestions of tools to add, please email

Concrete ideas, practices, and strategies that help create space for students to engage in dialogue and conversation with others. Resources are for individual/facilitators, small group conversations, and large group discussions.

  1. CLICK Micro Lessons – Includes skills for building strong connections with others. Topics include emotional regulation, boundary setting, initiating conversations, listening, and asking questions.
    Printable handouts can be found in the CLICK Materials Google Drive.
    Contact Thea Keith-Lucas ( with questions.
  1. Dialogue@MIT (Sustained Dialogue) Micro Lessons – Sessions introduce basic dialogue framework and one dialogue skill per session. These bite-size sessions are intended to introduce students to dialogue and equip them with skills they can apply immediately. Skills include: asking strong questions, de escalation strategies for conversation, listening skills, and giving feedback. Customizable workshops and in-services are also available. Sample topics include creating a culture of dialogue, understanding conflict styles, and foundational skills for dialogue. Email to schedule a workshop.
  1. Bridging Differences Playbook (Berkeley Greater Good Science Center) – An evidence-based self-guided “playbook” focused on ways to close the gap between communities and people when we encounter difference. Topics include skills and strategies for bridging differences intrapersonally, interpersonally and in intergroup encounters. Ample national and online resources listed for each practice. Host small group processing sessions following a reading and utilization of the Bridging Differences Playbook. Contact Helen Wang ( with questions.
  1. Tips for Leading Productive Community Conversations

Concrete ideas, practices, and strategies to bring students together for the sole purpose of community building and fun while recognizing challenging times.

  1. Common Thread – Divide students into groups of four. Give each group 2 minutes to chat among themselves and find something they all have in common (extend the time if needed). It could be that they all love computer games, or they hate getting up early, or they love fall. Whatever the common thread, the conversation will help them get to know one another better. Have each group share their common thread with the whole room. Then, mix the groups up, and repeat as many times as you like.
  1. Phone Pics Show-and-Tell – Give everyone 3 minutes to flip through the pics on their phone and choose one to share with the group. Then, have them share their pictures one by one, walking around the room to show everyone while explaining why they chose this particular picture. You can give this game some structure by asking them to focus on a favorite moment, a place they’ve been, or a photo of family or friends.
  1. Minute to Win It – These games work for any gathering or meeting to break the ice and pass some time, while having some fun. Visit this site for over 200 ideas for all different crowds and gatherings.
  1. DoingWell Events Calendar – Share the calendar or coordinate bringing a group of students to attend events hosted by student groups and offices around campus.

Concrete ideas and practices that provide students an outlet and opportunity to reflect, channel their feelings, and express themselves.

  1. Dream House – Small group activity that invites participants to imagine a room as a way of articulating what they need from the community. Requires paper, markers, and Needs Cards. Contact: Thea Keith-Lucas (
  1. A Blank Canvas – Set up plain blank poster paper or an easel with markers or other art supplies and invite students to fill the space. You can leave the blank space unprompted or use one of the suggested prompts below.
    • Draw how you are currently feeling right now.
    • What makes you happy?
    • What would the opening sentence of your autobiography be?
  1. About me. – To disrupt common place introductions (name, major, hometown) and to really get to what matters, invite students to respond to the prompt: “On this index card, share a story that you wished more people asked you about.” In knowing this story, your peers will know something important about you that you want to share.  Offer 15 minutes. Frame that this is a story that they would be open to being shared.  On the unlined side, write a few words that describe this. On the lined side, write the story.  Collect cards, shuffle and redistribute.  Have each person read the card to themselves and then aloud to the group. Start with the unlined side first.Contact: Helen Wang

Concrete resources to be familiar with and support resources that are available to students.

  1. Utilize House Team Network (for undergraduate house teams) – Reach out to a member of your House Team Network (S3 Connector, Student Mental Health and Counseling Services Liaison, GradSupport, or the CARE Team) and invite them to a House Team meeting to discuss questions, concerns, ideas or ways that they can support you and your residents.
  1. Chaplains at MITMIT Chaplains provide religious, spiritual, and ethical programming, as well as confidential counseling and crisis support.
  1. Helping Students Cope with Challenging Times – DoingWell At MIT
  1. Teaching + Learning Lab Resources for Faculty and Instructors
  1. Additional Helpful Websites

Resources to communicate with students, facilitate meetings, and assess efforts.

  1. Sample Communication Templates
  1. Sample Meeting Agenda

Articles, readings, and videos to learn about the current situation in the Middle East. The histories of the current conflict, Antisemitism, and Islamophobia are deep. As with any topic that is nuanced, the resources below may not be perfect but are intended to provide a basic understanding of the situation.

  1. Trauma Triggers and Narratives on Israel and Palestine (Lisa Schirch)
  1. How to Talk About the Israel-Hamas War: Resources for Educators (Education Week)
  1. Israel-Hamas war in Gaza: What is the history of the conflict? (Reuters)
  1. How to start a hard conversation about the Israel-Hamas war – Article and Podcast from WBUR’s The Common, featuring Karen Ross, associate professor with UMass Boston’s Department of Conflict Resolution, Human Security and Global Governance sharing tips to having difficult conversations.
  1. Understanding Antisemitism:
    1. Antisemitism Training Film – Center for Jewish Studies 
    2. Understanding Antisemitism: A Three-Part Video Series – Hillel International
  1. Understanding Islamophobia:
    1. What is Islamophobia?
    2. American Muslims: Facts vs Fiction (2023)
    3. Watch the ‘Islamophobia is’ Video Series – (A Canadian series of short videos that gives a deeper dive into Islamophobic patterns)