J Smarts is a Canadian program dedicated to reducing the frequency and severity of preventable injuries amongst Canadian youth. The organization provides youth activities that build awareness, educate and provide experiential learning opportunities that teach the principles behind injury prevention. Their focus is on health promotion, injury prevention, risk management and risk education of youth aged 10 to 17, the ages during which preventable injuries are most likely to happen.
Acknowledging that unyielding disapproval does not alter a teenager’s behavior, J Smarts avoids rule based education approaches. In many cases rule based risk prevention achieves the very opposite results it sets out to reach – leading youth to experiment far beyond their boundaries for the sheer thrill of breaking the ‘rules’.
Ultimately, kids will make decisions for themselves. So the primary objective of J Smarts is to build upon the capacity in participants to identify, assess and manage their own risks while maintaining an active lifestyle, participating in the activity or sport they choose.
The program is “Circle Check” – a powerful tool that enables youth to assess risk without compromising on thrills, fun and an active lifestyle. It involves asking four simple questions: Should I? Could I? Would I? What if?
”Circle Check” teaches youth to train their powers of observation and consider both their external circumstances and their internal landscape. Then, understand which injuries are most common in their sport, how injuries occur, what forces are at work while participating in sports and how these forces might impact the body.
Through targeted outreach activities and collaborative partnerships, youth will have an opportunity to “Think it Thru” and apply their risk management and injury prevention knowledge in the context of sport participation.
According to their website, J Smarts is not an acronym. J Smarts is a name that embodies the spirit of a generation; youth who have the confidence to question information and messages, to take ownership and responsibility for their personal safety and life choices, who demonstrate leadership and compassion and who understand the positive side of taking risks. A promising approach which deserves consideration in the U.S.