In conjunction with National Arts Education week this week, Americans for the Arts (AFTA) is hosting a weeklong blog salon dedicated to exploring important next steps for the emerging creative youth development sector. Throughout the week AFTA’s Arts Education blog will highlight issues related to research, programming, evaluation, funding, and advocacy, and will explore the insights and puzzles presented from leading voices in the field. MCC’s own Erik Holmgren kicked off the series by making the case for investing in creative youth development and articulated a number of the tangible benefits — educational, social, and economic—that derive from investing in youth through the work of this sector.
Follow the conversation throughout the week and contribute your thoughts via AFTA’s blog or on Twitter (using the hashtag #creativeyouthdevelopment). Happy National Arts Education week!
Every young person that goes through Lowell Leaders in Stewardship has the right to say, “I am a scientist.” In fact, they are encouraged to do so. From raising snapping turtles in the classroom to monitoring water quality in local rivers, young people are learning what being a scientist means. Gwen Kozlowski, Stewardship & Education Manager of the Lowell Parks and Conservation Trust,speaks of a participant who surprised the team while working on a tree-planting project. Gwen said, “The young man’s mouth ran a mile a minute and we had thought anything we said went in one ear and out the other. But we were blown away when he said at the end of the 10-week session that watching our tree had made him look around and watch the leaves on his dad’s tree open. He had never realized how fast they grew! This small observation study had transcended other places in his life and opened his eyes to the amazing sights of spring.”
The Lowell Leaders in Stewardship programs offers a place for students to expand science learning in different ways than occur within the school day. They are presented with hands- on experiences. They are able to develop their own project ideas and then complete them. The impacts, however, go beyond science learning. They grow and learn how to become leaders and how to feel like they are making a difference in their community when participating in stewardship activities. This experience can expand their visions of what might be possible for them. Kris Scopinich, Education Director at Mass Audubon’s Drumlin Farm, shared a story of young girl in the program who was not planning on attending college. This young woman was working in the field one day with her group, studying water quality in a local river when she told a staff member that she thought that maybe she wanted to do this in college. She said she really enjoyed what she was doing. She was encouraged by the staff to pursue this dream. She learned that she is capable of being a scientist and her possibilities are endless. She changed her initial plan to going to school for environmental science.
According to Gwen, “The most rewarding aspect of the Lowell Leaders in Stewardship Program is the connection young people make to the Lowell community and other students. Friendships form and deepen through the meaningful work that is completed. Our group has often been called a ‘family’.” This is one of the key aspects to the success of creative youth development programs. This sort of feeling can be achieved using many mediums, so long as the program is safe, welcoming, inspiring, and provides a place of learning, growth, and connection. The Lowell Leaders in Stewardship program embodies all of these aspects through environmental studies and giving young people the skills and confidence to declare, “I am a scientist, and I am a valuable citizen of Lowell.”
Lowell Leaders in Stewardship is a program of the Mass. Audubon Society in partnership with Lowell Parks and Conversation Trust and the Lowell Public Schools. This post is an excerpt from a longer case study by Jenny Beers, a student at Mass. College of Liberal Arts.
Welcome and Opening Remarks from the Summit: Laying the Foundation
Friday, March 28, 8:30 – 9:45am
Summit Caucus Progress Reports
Friday, March 28, 2:00 – 3:30pm
Closing Celebration: Announcing the Agenda and Launching the Campaign
Saturday, March 29, 2:30 – 4:00pm
Comment on the proceedings and the emerging agenda in real time. Comments received during the Friday sessions will be passed along to the caucus chairs to be added to the discussions going on in Boston. Pledges of support for the agenda received during the Saturday session will be added to the public declarations voiced in Boston and will be cataloged along with those received on-site in the published report on the Summit.
Join the conversation on twitter. Use the hashtag #cydsummit14 to follow the Summit and add your voice to the discussion.
New Research Sets Stage for Boston Summit to Advance Emerging Field of Creative Youth Development Out-of-school programs that develop the creative capacities of young people are uniquely positioned to drive civic and social progress in their communities, according to new research. The research report, Setting the Agenda, is drawn from surveys and interviews of adults and young people from more than 150 youth arts, humanities, and science programs nationwide.
“Today, youth are increasingly becoming disconnected from their communities and the means to make a successful transition to adulthood,” the report states. “At the same time, creativity is growing in its importance to addressing changing economic, social, technological, and environmental challenges. In this context, creative youth development programs are an asset, and supporting and increasing their impact is of great importance.”
Käthe Swaback, Program Director at Raw Art Works in Lynn and Project Leader of the Boston Youth Arts Evaluation Project, is about as enthusiastic about logic models and quantitative assessment as anyone I know. (She’s even more enthusiastic about measurement than I am!) Recently, Käthe shared with me here renewed passion for finding ways to measure joy and engagement in young people who participate in arts, humanities, and science learning programs afterschool. She reminded me that “nearly half of high school dropouts in the nation report quitting school due to boredom. …. Seems like a lot of research has gone into assessing sadness and anger, but joy and passion?”
Here is Käthe’s ode to finding ways to measure joy and engagement:
They seem to find it easy to take a ruler to my sadness
Aren’t afraid to confine my mental madness
And yet my joy, my joy they say is not worth measuring?
They can quantify my syntax but cannot see my passion?
We become so willing to deny our native tongue,
We are told that a fork looks enough like a paintbrush, so paint with it.
Our songs are dissected into crumbs that tumble to the ground
Those numbers cannot seem to define us, bind us, or even find us at times,
But the metaphor knows more than the poet
And can address, access, and undress in an instant.
For the arts unlock the well-worn slammed-shut doors
And, like the smell of your mamma’s pancakes
Wafting through the cracks in the walls,
Your songs, paintings, and plays
Invite us to awaken, to engage, to connect
To the then and the tomorrow,
And shouts of the NOW of today
We know we know we know
With our whole being
With the same skill that tunes a C sharp
And can see the difference between turquoise and teal
We need to be able to describe the excitement in the eye of Marcus
As he reaches for that note and holds it.
Shayla, with charcoal all over her face,
Renders her hand on paper, deeply seeing every line,
And falls in love
With that pulse that beats in the in-betweenness of things.
We know we know we know
With our whole being
Let us ignite, unite, and fight
With resonant songs
That sing the stories with precision greater than numbers profess
A vibrant but often silent language
Holding the heart-thumping humanness
That recognizes that grin
From ear to ear
– Käthe Swaback 2013
Harvard Medical School professor George Vaillant points out that, “negative emotions help us to survive individually; positive emotions help the community to survive. Joy, unlike happiness, is not all about me—joy is connection.” Kathe eloquently cautions us about being seduced into measuring things that are easy to measure or bullied into measuring things that others say are important. We need to continue to struggle to find ways to measure what is truly important, to our programs and more importantly, to our young people, to our communities, and to their success.
Art Reach at the Provincetown Art Association and Museum and the Boston Children’s Chorus were each presented with a 2013 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award by First Lady Michelle Obama during a ceremony in the in the White House’s East Room on November 22. The award is the nation’s highest honor for outstanding after-school and out-of-school programs.
Art Reach at Provincetown Art Association and Museum is a free, multidisciplinary afternoon immersion program providing substantive arts and humanities education for youth aged 13 years and up.
Boston Children’s Chorus provides intense choral training and performance opportunities in order to harness the power and joy of music to unite Greater Boston’s diverse communities and inspire social change.
The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) will celebrate the 20th anniversary of its YouthReach Initiative with a series of events that culminate in a national agenda to propel the field of creative youth development into the next decade. In March the agency will host a national summit, in partnership with the President’s Committee on the Arts & the Humanities and the National Guild for Community Arts Education, that brings the best and the brightest working at the intersection of the arts, culture and youth development to Boston. Leading up to the summit MCC will also hold regional celebrations throughout Massachusetts beginning this evening with a youth showcase at the Museum of Science, Boston. And today we launch a this new blog, Seen & Heard, where we will tell stories of young lives transformed through creativity and of the skilled practitioners who made those stories possible.
I suspect I will be referring to this report and its findings for a long time as I help people build new programs and reflect on current work.
Among the highlights:
Understanding that in choosing afterschool opportunities, teens and ‘tweens are consumers (whether programs are paid-for or free, young people are shopping with their time) and programs need to meet the young people where they are.
The market research offers some highly actionable insights on what the consumers are looking for (and NOT looking for).
The success principles for quality programming stress the importance of addressing artistic excellence AND youth development principles — the either/or is a false dichotomy.
There is strong alignment between what the consumers (young people) say they want in a program and what providers (practitioners, program people) say are the elements of success (safe spaces, opportunities for mastery, sense of belonging, presenting to larger world…).
The title of the report is also pretty great.
I think this is a really terrific contribution to the field. What do you think?