Tag Archives: #rootstobranches

Inspiring Change Within

In a recent conversation with one of our youth group facilitators and a superintendent to schools, we discussed how the value of learning is really only met when a student can personally connect with the subject and make it meaningful. This led us to what we, as facilitators and teachers, need to do to inculcate this personal connection to learning within a classroom and student environment. We realized that in order for learning to be personally meaningful to students, the act of teaching had to be just as (if not more) personally meaningful to teachers and educators. Here is an emailed paragraph from one of our facilitators before she left to attend a Changemaker Workshop:

“When I think of future generations, what concerns me is their disconnection – from self, community, and the natural world – especially with the increasing use of cell phones and computers. It’s up to us to pass along to our children what it means to be connected, what it means to be a compassionate humans living in a way that serves all beings in the web of life. 

To further explore my role in that vision, I currently facilitate youth leadership and nature programs, where I support young people on the adventure to be their authentic selves, find their voice, build meaningful relationships, and experience themselves as important contributors to the community of life.
Will you join me in saying yes to empowered youth, yes to a healthy and harmonious world, and yes to a planet where all life thrives?”
When I read this, I can’t help but feel the excitement, personal connection and passion that she brings to her work with youth. Imagine if all educators could tap into this and share it with others? Our hope is to create dynamic learning experiences, both within and without the classroom, to teach youth to have the passion to bring their gifts into the world to make it a better place. We had better start with ourselves.
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The Art of Unplugging

Recently, we were tasked with the re-opening of a Youth Center in an existing town community center. The premise was to create a place for youth to come and hang-out after school, do homework in a collaborative environment, and utilize services available to them. When we talked with local youth about what activities they envisioned in a Youth Center, we were given a list of items: pool table, ping pong, computers with internet access, video games, etc. Seeking to establish credentials with the youth by providing items on their list as quickly as possible, we procured two items immediately available: a donated pool table and an X-box 360.

Since opening a month ago, we have noticed a steady shift in the youth that started coming to the Center. The first wave of youth were excited at the possibilities of accessing homework portals, yet due to unforeseen bureaucratic red tape, items such as internet enabled computers to access Edmodo and  Google Docs are still in the works. The results have been a focus shift in users – youth unable to access online information for homework either go elsewhere or have been drawn to the X-box. As facilitators overseeing how the Center is being utilized, we noticed that many of the students who originally started using the space for homework began dwindling away, and more youth who were excited at the prospect of joint gaming began showing up to do homework as quickly as possible and then “plug in”.

The dilemma this shift has caused is now in acute focus. As creators of what we call “dynamic learning environments”, R2B believes youth need to learn in many contexts with many tools. This includes the belief that in order to empower the inherent learning abilities in a student, sometimes we need to “unplug” the learning environment from technological portals so a student can see the world through their own eyes. An example of this came when we noticed students who showed up at the Center to do homework were increasingly distracted at the noise and energy of the video gaming, even when it happened in an adjoining room. We also noticed that when gaming took place, the students begin speaking to the game and not to each other. We recently watched the documentary Play Again about youth overuse of technology, and it showed a fascinating statistic stating youth engage in approximately 3 minutes of meaningful dialogue with parents on a given day, yet have over 500 minutes of “screen time” per day.

The discrepancy between leveraging what youth want and what we believe youth need is a large one. In order to engage a youthful audience and gain their trust, we need to speak their language and acknowledge their interests, without sacrificing the values that we believe to be vital for a sustainable future. Our approach at the Youth Center began by engaging youth in what their interests are, yet based on our experience with the video games, we need to begin creating models of how youth can “unplug” in order to “reconnect” to themselves. This begins next week, when the X-box will no longer be available, and youth will need to find alternative ways of “hanging out”.

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