Unplug & Connect Mini-Grant Initiative


Unplug & Connect: Building Community & Connections for Health


2018-2019 Mini-Grant Awardees! 

These mini-grants strive to highlight the many organizations and initiatives in Central Texas that seek to foster positive social connectedness and healthy development of young people through the use of physical activity, nutrition-related activities, and other social-emotional learning approaches. The Collaborative granted 15 awards of $100-$500 to support new initiatives or current youth and families in programs, activities, or events that reduce non-productive screen time and foster community building and positive social connectedness. A big congratulations to our grantees below!

Austin Sunshine Camps

Camp Fire Central Texas

Central Texas Table of Grace

Creative Action

Del Valle ISD SHAC

DRUM the Program, Inc.

Forest Creek Elementary School

Generation Serve

LEAD in Del Valle

Linder Elementary School

People's Community Clinic

Purple Sage Elementary PTA

Salvation Army Williamson County Service Center

St. Austin Catholic School

Walnut Springs Elementary School


Unplug & Connect: Building Community & Connections for Health
Mini-grant Initiative
Michael & Susan Dell Center Community Collaborative for Child Health


Q:  What is ‘non-productive’ screen time?

A:  Excessive Media use in the following:

  • Mobile media use (e.g., texting and video-chatting)
  • Social media use (e.g., Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, Instagram)
  • Gaming (e.g., video, computer and mobile)
  • Virtual shopping
  • Watching videos/shows (e.g., television, movies, online videos)


Q: Why does reduction of ‘non-productive’ screen time matter?

A: Non-productive screen time is often associated with poor health in children. Physiological damages include, but are not limited to, alterations in brain function and structure. Reducing non-productive screen time can lower the risk of damaging cognitive processing and control that presents itself with regular exposure to an electronic device.1 


Q:  Where can I see examples of projects to reduce ’non-productive’ screen time?

A: Some examples have been listed below with links to organizations that focus on this topic.

  • Create “activity kits” that include small physical activity games/cards, art supplies, or other experiential toys that can be on the go and help parents/teachers keep kids entertained instead of reaching for a smartphone or tablet.
  • Create a challenge with incentives for children engaging in alternative non-screen time activities (students log activities). Some examples of activities would be to promote implementing “Screen-Free” dinners, create after school action plans (with activities other than screen time), and create a viewing calendar. See more from Alliance for a Healthier Generation or from the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood.
  • Implement a 5-2-1-0 program that adopts a specific intervention aimed to reduce screen time and improve the student’s overall health. “5 servings of fruits and vegetables, 2 hours or less of screen time, 1 hour or more of physical activity, 0 sugary drinks, and increased water consumption.”
  • Centers for Disease Control Screen Time vs. Lean Time includes tools to manage and track screen time.
  • NIH National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has guidebooks and curricula for reducing non-productive screen time.


Q: Why does building healthy relationships matter?

A: Developing healthy relationships lowers the risk of an individual participating in harmful behaviors such as smoking, excess alcohol and food consumption and risky sexual behavior.2 There are also health benefits in building a healthy relationship; social interaction reduces cardiovascular disease and stress levels for individuals.3  


Q:  Where can I see examples of projects focused on building healthy relationships?

A: Some examples have been listed below with links to organizations that focus on this topic.

  • The Minnesota Healthy People 2020 Project: Building Social Connectedness Report has many different strategies and examples of how to foster social connectedness in communities and build healthy relationships with communities.
  • Incorporate cooperative learning and team building-related strategies within and outside the classroom, such as a community circle for students to share their feelings and appreciation for others, low ropes-course type activities such as a ‘yarn throw’ to build communication, “green river” activity in which groups learn to cross the river with and without word, among others.
  • Stanford Children’s Health discusses adolescent relationship development.


Q: Why does promoting a sense of community matter?

A: Promoting a sense of community inside and out of the classroom will impact student academic performance, health and wellbeing. Students who feel connected to their schools are more likely to have higher academic achievement, including test scores, attendance and their commitment to continue their education. 4 An adolescent’s involvement and engagement in their community can also serve as a protective factor against tobacco, alcohol and drug use.5, 6  


Q:  Where can I see examples of projects focused on promoting a sense of community?

A:   Some examples have been listed below with links to organizations that focus on this topic.

  • Host community nights or “International Nights” that allow students to share their background/culture with traditional foods, exhibits and displays, parade of nations, etc.
  • Implement a service learning project in your own school, check out this classroom that built an electric wheelchair for their students that needed help getting across campus.
  • Partner with an organization or charity to get kids volunteering on a regular basis, or creating a service learning project that is more long term such as;
    • Learn what it’s like to experience homelessness, collect items to donate- which can allow students to become mindful of the diverse of economic backgrounds of residents in their community. Having students work alongside homeless shelters in their community fosters compassion and civic duty.
    • Fundraise for a charity by hosting a silent auction (student creates art to be auctioned off)
    • Revamp a community park by planting trees, building picnic tables, repainting items, repairing fences, which can foster civic responsibility, and generate pride when working on behalf of the public.
    • Fundraise for an anonymous scholarship that helps students with extracurricular activity fees such as yearbook, prom, sports, college visits, etc. This program is aimed to reduce social isolation and give every student the opportunity to be well rounded in their academic career.
    • See more examples from schools here.


Q:  What resources are available to assist me in understanding the tools to reduce ‘non-productive’ screen time?

A:  The following resources are available: 


Q:  What resources are available to assist me in understanding how to build healthy relationship?

A:  The following resources are available:


Q: What resources are available to assist me in understanding how to promote a sense of community?

A: The following resources are available:


Q: In what ways might I spend funds from a mini-grant?

A: Ways to spend funds from a mini-grant can include:

  • Materials and supplies needed for project, including incentives for students (materials and supplies can be consumable or reusable).
  • Trainings for teachers, parents and/or administrators.
  • Books for a classroom or school library.
  • Payment or stipend for a facilitator.
  • Entry fees for students to attend a ropes course, park, etc.


Q: Are there any books, brochures, websites, blogs, or articles geared toward parents to help them understand this topic?

A:  The following resources are available:


  1. Dunckley, Victoria L. Gray Matters: Too Much Screen Time Damages the Brain. Psychology Today, 2014. <https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mental-wealth/201402/gray-matters-too-much-screen-time-damages-the-brain?page=1>
  2. Leigh-Hunt N, Bagguley D, Bash K, et al. An overview of systematic reviews on the public health consequences of social isolation and loneliness. Public Health 2017; 151: 157-171.

  3. Cacioppo J.T., Hawkley L.C. Social isolation and health, with an emphasis on underlying mechanisms. Perspect Biol Med 2003, 46: 39-52.

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Foster School Connectedness. [PDF] U.S. Department of Health and Human Services 2009.

  5. Griffin, K. W., & Botvin, G. J. Evidence-Based Interventions for Preventing Substance Use Disorders in Adolescents.Children and Adolescent Psychiatric Clinics of North America 2010; 19(3): 505-526.

  6. S. Department of Health and Human Services. Preventing Tobacco Use Among Youth and

  7. Young Adults: A Report of the Surgeon General. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office on Smoking and Health 2012.