We empower middle school students to explore and launch ideas that put empathy and imagination into action.


The three years of middle school are singularly transformative – a pivotal bridge from childhood to adulthood.

“Early adolescence is a distinct period of human growth and development situated between childhood and adolescence. During this remarkable stage of the life cycle, young adolescents, 10 to 15-year-olds, experience rapid and significant developmental change.”

Micki Caskey & Vincent Anfara – Developmental Characteristics of Young Adolescents

However, middle school students have been left behind, receiving little focused attention. Adjectives like “immature,” “hyperactive,” and “awkward” are the most prevalent when describing middle schoolers, even though “imaginative,” “energetic,” and “explorative” are more appropriate. Programming for early adolescents is often an afterthought, even though research identifies the unique importance of this developmental stage.

Since 2012, TomTod Ideas has countered this negative narrative with carefully crafted, developmentally-aligned programming that has empowered more than 2,000 Stark County middle school students. Our programming enables students to explore their innate abilities, connect to their community’s possibilities, and apply what they learn toward community impact.

Best practices in adolescent development call for a “whole child” approach that reaches both the head and the heart of participants. TomTod’s whole child approach is exemplified through our three pronged approach (highlighted above) and grounded in our 10 C’s:

These 10 C’s are grounded in extensive research by experts from a variety of backgrounds. The four on the left (creative innovation, critical thinking, collaboration and communication) are the four core skills of 21st Century Learning (see, for example, Battelle for Kids P21 Framework). The six on the right (caring, character, competence, confidence, connection and contribution) are grounded in Positive Youth Development research, pulling from a social work background.   The 10 C’s form the background of all of our curriculum, whether school-based partnerships, summer camps, or independent projects. 

This whole child approach was recently exemplified by the new Ohio Department of Education “Each Child Our Future” Five Year Strategic Plan. They identified four separate but equal learning domains and call for new emphasis on the areas of Leadership & Reasoning and Social-Emotional Learning. 

TomTod is a leader in creating the kind of consequential programming that educational leaders are currently advocating for.

Using a combination of thoughtfully created, developmentally-targeted learning opportunities, a focus on 10 core C’s that address a range of vital skills, and customized community explorations,  TomTod programming produces tangible results for both students and the community.

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