Classroom Characteristics Supporting Youth Voice

This week I’m working with Catalyst Miami training facilitators to use my SoundOut Youth Action Curriculum. In Miami they’re delivering the curriculum in 22 sessions. It is focused on engaging youth voice in action throughout the community, including schools, nonprofits, and other places. Catalyst Miami will be working with dozens of youth throughout the school year to teach the curriculum in their Youth Leadership Training Institute. It is revolutionary for many reasons.

The SoundOut Youth Action Curriculum engages learners in intentional roles that provide deep hands-on opportunities to develop sophisticated approaches to social change. A service learning program at heart, SoundOut uses real-world applications to encourage youth to continue in real world scenarios after the curriculum is completed.

In order to be successful in implementing an effective youth voice classroom, today I taught the facilitators about creating nontraditional learning environments within a school. Meeting in a teacher’s lounge or principal’s conference room is good; meeting in an open classroom or activity area is great. However, the space is not as important as the climate of the classroom.

The characteristics of a learning space supporting youth voice are…

  • Focus – Instead of meandering through purposeless activities and focus-less personal activities, every lesson is designed to be a concise, deliberative engagement of multiple intelligences, broad perspectives, and varying experiences. Youth voice remains the central issue throughout the curriculum, and is the focus of every activity.
  • Supportive – Youth and adults alike are committed to working together without fear of retribution or alienation. All youth are partners with each other and adults in the lessons, and work together for the common cause of engaging youth voice.
  • Engaging – The experiences, knowledge, ideas, and opinions of youth are validated and substantiated with meaningful learning experiences that infuse youth interest with a new capacity to visualize, analyze, create, and engage youth voice.
  • Critical – As co-learners within a community of learners, youth provide vital insight in the learning and teaching process for their peers and facilitators. These democratic interactions are actively encouraged and supported by all members.
  • Transparent – There should be no mysteries about what the purpose of the SoundOut Youth Voice Curriculum is, or what the outcomes of the lesson will be. The curriculum offers numerous ways to make goals, outcomes, and activities fully understandable to youth.
  • Decentralized – SoundOut Youth Voice Curriculum emphasizes the common experience of all participants as learners, and empowers youth to engage fully throughout the learning process.

These characteristics combine to create a powerful climate for learning about and engaging youth voice. What do you think?

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