All posts by DIRT GROUP Global

Why we can’t hear each other

Why we can’t hear each other…

In 2004, Dr David Walsh did a study that determined kids ages 8-18 in the United States were consuming 40 hours of screen time per week. In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation did a follow up to Walsh’s study and that number had risen to 55 hours/week. Today that number is suspected to be over 60 hours per week. We learn empathy through the autonomic nervous system’s cranial nerves #5,7,9, 10, & 11—these nerves innervate the skin and facial muscles responsible for non-verbal communication as well as voice prosody (tone, intensity, speed of speech). I love my screen time but the math is pretty simple. 60 hours of screen time per week simply limits our ability to understand each other and what other people experience—to put ourselves “in someone else’s shoes”. As screen time has increased over the years so has emotional and behavioral dysregulation, suicide, and polarization of more us versus them thinking and behavior.


Cranial Nerves & Empathy

The autonomic nervous system (most commonly understood as the fight/flight and freeze system) has 12 cranial nerves, 5 of which are responsible/necessary for social engagement (a feeling of safety, restoration, resiliency, and a desire to connect with others and not isolate). These five cranial nerves #5,7,9,10, & 11, manifest in our facial expressions/non-verbals and our voice prosody (the patterns of emphasis and intonation in language)—this plays an important role in developing awareness of our own and others emotions and experiences and supports the development of empathy.

In 2004. Dr. David Walsh’s study revealed that kids ages 8-18 in the US were consuming 40 hours of screen time per week on average. In 2010, the Kaiser Family Foundation did a follow up study to Walsh’s which revealed that number had climbed to over 55 hours/week on average and its speculated now to be over 60 hours/week. I love technology but I think the math is pretty simple. When were consuming that much screen time it just leaves less and less time for lived experiences and the necessary exercise of these 5 cranial nerves to learn, practice, and master these skills which help us regulate our emotions and behaviors.

Neuroplasticity, or the process by which we strengthen or create (neurogenesis) neural pathways (as Aristotle said, we are what we repeatedly do) we do this through activities/exercises that are intentionally focused, experiential, redundant, visceral, novel, consistent, meaningful, and require action—sound familiar? Of course it does because although it’s not rocket science, we know that just like the dirt road forms due to repeated traffic, we learn stuff and get better at it until we master it—by doing it over and over and over —like learning to play the guitar for example—it’s strangely difficult to do this, if possible at all, without actually engaging ourselves physically or engaging others. I can look at the kettle bells next to my tv every day and think about using them but I can tell you not using them does nothing!!

How we get to “freeze”

When someone has experienced trauma, chronic overwhelming stress, etc. our “fight/flight” part of our nervous system stays in a state of hyperarousal, just like repeatedly getting punched in the arm eventually leads to bruising (physical/physiological changes) so does hyperarousal create physical changes in our nervous system and eventually our viscera (bodily organs) (see ACE’s Study) causing the autonomic nervous system collapse or to the “freeze” mode (immobilized, collapse, shutdown—often manifested symptoms of depression and anxiety) promoting isolation, withdrawal, and a slowing of metabolism, etc.

So it’s not difficult to understand how someone who has experienced these things can have a collapse response. But there are lots of kids who haven’t experienced trauma that struggle with emotional and behavioral dysregulation due to a lack of lived experiences which are necessary to develop the ability to work through frustration, bounce back from disappointment, sit in and through discomfort—because these experiences teach sticktoitiveness (tenacity), perseverance, and grit—these are skills that prepare us for actually living life beyond the screens at a visceral and nervous system (neuroception) level.

DIRT GROUP Paradigm Clinical Training Series

The DIRT GROUP Paradigm Applied Clinical Training Series

“Thanks for the soap! Amazing program! I’m very inspired. Great knowledge of trauma, brain science and integration of therapeutic practice.”
-2019 Workshop Attendee


The DIRT GROUP Paradigm

“Cutting edge”, innovative children’s mental health and education training series in Minnesota

Summer/Fall 2019 Session:
This training will engage and inspire you to incorporate this dynamic and award-winning approach in your practice/work with children and adolescents. This training is for mental health practitioners/professionals, teachers, educators, medical professionals, etc. 

Saturday August 17th:                    9am-5:30pm     (8 CEU’s)
Saturday September 21st:            9am-5:30pm       (8 CEU’s)
Saturday October 12th:                 9am-5:30pm       (8 CEU’s)

The DIRT GROUP Paradigm: Growing to Learn, Learning to Grow. Creative innovations in children’s mental health and education.

This training series will provide an understanding of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), the corresponding 12 cranial nerves, how trauma, chronic stress, and adverse childhood experiences impact us at a nervous system level.  This series examines neuroscience and applied theory that promotes healing, attachment, attunement, and well-being manifesting in social and emotional intelligence. Through a combination of lecture, experiential exercises, and discussion, this series will explore six major theoretical foundations, innovative applied strategies, neuroplasticity, and the importance of social context and group skills work with children and adolescents.

*All hours are clinical content hours
*All sessions have their own learning objectives, description, and post-test
*Kenny is a Minnesota Board of Social Work approved CEU Provider

$120.00/day or $300.00 for all three days

Register HERE:
Secure payments through PayPal
Payment plans are available, for more information call or email:

(320) 220-2551

Feedback from previous workshop attendees:

  • “Great information! Presenter had good awareness and passion very clear! Thank you!”
  • “Wonderful!”
  • “This model can also build community capital – community organizing, etc. Was packed with possibility – a little overwhelmed.”
  • “Very exciting to see a tangible hands on approach.”
  • “Great info! Presenter had great energy. I would love to go to a longer training on this topic.”
  • “He was very passionate and that made me want to listen to him.”
  • “Awesome and inspiring. Thank you!”
  • “Excellent energy, education, and totally new information. Fantastic workshop!”
  • “The best thus far. Wow. Thank you!”
  • “This was very invigorating.”
  • “Best talk ever. Personable knowledgeable helpful.”
  • “More time. Amazing. Also combo self care. Awesome, more time?”
  • “Great presentation, great concept, very passionate.”
  • “Kenny’s passion for his work is contagious. Excellent application value!”
  • “Kenny is kind, caring, and passionate about all people! He is an incredible person and wants the best for each and every person!”
  • “Interesting, but if this could be applied to other types of programs with adults – golden!”
  • “Excellent!”
  • “Wonderful work you do and wonderful presentation! The world needs more people like you.”
  • “Thank you for giving handouts for this material! Such an interesting and fantastic program – hope you keep expanding.”
  • “Best ever – wow!”
  • “First session in which I didn’t get out my phone.”
  • “Kenny is fantastic! I don’t know how he makes all these pieces work together! Fantastic and groundbreaking.”




Soothing the Autonomic Nervous System

The DIRT GROUP Paradigm manifesting today at our metro site. Lavender & Mint Herb Sachets and Soaps – Cranial Nerve #1


Growing to Learn, Learning to Grow and the

Polyvagal Theory

Cranial Nerves 5,7,9,10,11 Soothing the autonomic nervous system & promoting social engagement. #dirtgroupusa #mentalhealth #socialwork #social-engagement

#neuroception #naswmn social and emotional learning

intentionally focused, redundant, experiential, visceral, novel, meaningful/purposful, aerobic, and consistent group skills training #dirtgroupthemarinade #dirtgroupparadigm #iaswg

C O O K I E S !!!!

4BubbasFoods’ What the Cluck Food Truck…waaah!!???

Kids making gourmet cookies and learning math, science, writing, marketing, economics, design, entrepreneurship, agriculture, connection, inclusion, a paycheck, & more.

DIRT GROUP Global: Growing to Learn, Learning to Grow

The Prairie Soil Youth Cooperative is coming…

Social & Emotional Learning

The DIRT GROUP Paradigm

The DIRT GROUP Paradigm

Litchfield/Hutchinson DIRT GROUP’s made Lavender soap from the lavender we grew together…intentionally focused, redundant, novel, experiential, visceral, aerobic, sense of purpose/meaningful, consistency…social & emotional learning requires lived experiences

Grounded & informed in applied theory in practice: experiential learning, social learning, strength-based, symbolic interactionism, & ecological systems theories; DIRT GROUP is a resiliency informed, children’s mental health application based in social and emotional learning in the context of a group experiential gardening, farming, foods, & creative arts project. DIRT GROUP is in Hutchinson, Litchfield, Minneapolis, St. Cloud, & Willmar. What the Cluck Food Truck, 4BubbasFoods, Hooganaga Family Farms. Tangible outcomes, skills which prepare participants for life, pride & ownership, the “BIG ripple effect”

(opportunities to participate and make a difference in community), social context/social inclusion. Human development. Community Development. Economic development, rooted in social justice.


Prairie Soil Youth Cooperative

#socialworkwithgroups #iaswg #executivefunction