Freechild Youth Handbook

Freechild Youth Handbook: Get Engaged and Change the World by Adam Fletcher for the Freechild Institute

“Free children are not easily influenced; the absence of fear accounts for this phenomenon. Indeed, the absence of fear is the finest thing that can happen to a child.” — A.S. Neill

The Freechild Institute wants YOU —young people right now—to have the tools and examples you need to get engaged and change the world! This section of our website is The Freechild Project Youth Handbook, and it’s for YOU.

Table of Contents

  1. Inspire: Who inspires you? Read these stories to light the fire inside you »
  2. Knowledge: What do you know? What do you want to know? Click here to learn more »
  3. People: Who are the youth who can change the world? Click here to find details »
  4. Issues: Which issues do youth take action to change? Click here to get ideas »
  5. Places: Where are young people fighting for change? Click here to get ideas »
  6. Actions: What do youth do to change the world? Click here to explore »
  7. Strategies: What are the best ways for action to happen? Click here for examples »
  8. Systems: What are the levers to change organizations, governments and society? Click here to discover them »
  9. Scale: Do you think global and act local? Click here to learn how! »
  10. Planning: Make real change with purpose and create real change. Click here for tools »
  11. Celebrating: Look back, lift up, and make a difference. Click here for ideas »
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As you use our online Handbook, keep in mind this is supposed to help you change the world. If it doesn’t work, tell us! If you want to thank us, do that. If you’re inspired, share it with your friends!

The World Needs YOU To Change It Right Now!

Please Don’t Wait Any Longer.


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Stories of Youth Changing the World

Freechild Youth Handbook: Get Engaged and Change the World by Adam Fletcher for the Freechild Institute

The following stories are about young people who decided there was a need in their community, and then took action to meet that need.  Some projects were one-time, and some are on going.  These stories can inspire, infuriate, and empower youth to change the world, and adults to be partners.

1. Cleanin’ It Up and Changing Our Neighborhoods

Katie, 15, from Kansas City, Missouri, decided that her community’s streets were an eye sore and it was time to do something about it. “Cleaning up the streets is needed in my community because it looks trashy and I thought if we could clean it up, we could make a difference not only in my eyes, but other people’s eyes too.  I would like to see a nice clean community that people care what it looks like.”

2. Takin’ Care of Kids: Teens Helping Kids

Rachel, 13, from Nashville, Tennessee, and her friends are concerned about children who have serious emotional disturbance (SED) so they created a hotline for kids to call, get advice or just talk.  They also created a public service announcement about SED.  “The ‘Kid Counselors’ give information and resources to the callers.  We want to help bring awareness to the issues surrounding mental illness and help kids with SED to be accepted as an important part of our community.”

3. Voices of the Past: Recording the History to Affect the Future

Kristen, 14, from Glenshaw, Pennsylvania, records the thoughts and stories of World War II and Korean War veterans.  “I think it will give the youth of my community a better understanding of what happened during the war.  Hopefully, it will also give us a greater respect to the men and women who sacrificed their time, effort, support and sometimes lives so we can be free today.”

4. WE Own Our Communities: Knowledge is Power

Blair, 15, from Moorestown, New Jersey, has joined forces with community leaders to reclaim a neglected community center and continue to transform it into a library with computers for inner city kids.  “Volunteerism opens a myriad of different culture and races, we have a unique opportunity to look at the work through their eyes and ‘walk in their shoes.’”

5. Taking Care of Ourselves: Bringing Youth Towards Economic Independence

Shawneequa, 17, from Norfolk, Virginia, started Youth Empowerment Virginia.  The project is committed to assisting youth in reaching their academic, social and economic potential.  The program fosters independence and responsibility, empowering more youth with their own desires to become active, constructive caring members of the community through better leadership skills, social skills and educational services.

6. Project Unity: Getting Students Voice Heard Through Technology

Project Unity was founded in November of 1999 by a group of students from schools across Washington County, Pennsylvania. Project Unity’s goals are to allow students to discuss school, community, or family problems with each other and to find a solution that will benefit all involved. Using today’s technology, they wish to unite a county and the people within that county to save time, money, and lives. This group feels that they can make a difference by relying on the principles of honesty, hard work, leadership, and perseverance. These students are the leaders of tomorrow, and they’re starting today.

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Elsewhere Online

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support youth changing the world in your community or organization, contact us.

Why Play Games When There’s Work To Do? Fun, Games and Social Change

SoundOut Summer Camp Participants

“There are at least two kinds of games.  One would be called finite, the other infinite.  A finite game is played for the purpose of winning, and an infinite game is played for the purpose of continuing to play.  The rules of a finite game may not change; the rules of an infinite game must… The finite game player aims to win eternal life; the infinite player aims for eternal birth.” – James P. Carse, as quoted by Dale LeFevre*

 

“We must abandon completely the naive faith that education automatically liberates the mind and serves the cause of human progress; in fact we know it may serve any cause. It may serve tyranny as well as freedom, ignorance as well as enlightenment, falsehood as well as truth. It may lead men and women to think they are free even as it rivets them in chains of bondage… In the course of history, education has served every purpose and doctrine contrived by man; if it is to serve the cause of human freedom, it must be explicitly designed for that purpose.” – George Counts*

 

There’s so much to do!  Communities seem like they’re falling apart; and young people, old people, brown people, black people, poor people, and lots of other people aren’t getting the respect or power they deserve.  Why play games when there’s so much work to do?  There’s a lot of reasons to look at, but first let’s define what we’re talking about.

 

What Are Cooperative Games?

Cooperative games emphasize participation, challenge and fun rather then defeating someone. Cooperative games focus on fun and interaction rather than competition and alienation. Cooperative games are not new.

Some of the classic games we played as children are classic because they focused on play. There may be competition involved, but the outcome of the competition is not sitting out or losing. Instead, it may involve switching teams so that everyone ends up on the winning team.

 

What Are Initiative Games?

Initiative games are fun, cooperative, challenging games in which the group is confronted with a specific problem to solve. Initiative games can be used for several reasons.  The games can be used to demonstrate and teach leadership skills to people, which helps to promote the growth of trust and problem-solving skills in groups.  Games demonstrate a process of thinking about experiences that helps people learn and practice responsibility.

Some people avoid calling them “games,” choosing “activity,” “challenge,” or “problem” instead.  Whatever a group chooses to call them, these games can boost our efforts to create powerful, lasting community change.

 

Why Play Games?

When a group of people are preparing to participate in social change, there needs to be some breaking down of inhibitions before they become group participants.  “There is no ‘I’ in T-E-A-M” and all that.  Before a group can build effective solutions to the problems facing their communities, they need to trust each other and communicate.

Cooperative games also help set the tone of an action.  Social change work is often hard-driven and energy-consuming.  Many groups find that cooperative games offer a brisk, friendly way to couple passionate task-oriented goals with driven, group-minded teambuilding.  In other words, fun and games help propel social change.

Another purpose of games is to get people to think together, as a team, so that everyone in the group has input and shares ideas.  When we have input we have ownership, and when more people have ownership there is more success.

 

Aren’t Games Distracting?

When used right, games can actually accentuate the purpose of your day’s work or your group’s purpose.  Through a technique called “framing,” games become relevant and powerful tools to break down barriers, build up focus, and make your group’s process more effective and inclusive of all involved.

In all settings games should be used to build a sense of purpose, passion, and opportunity.  Without those pieces as goals, games become pacifiers for the grown, as their potential to stave off the appetite of a group that hungers for power is immense.  In classrooms where teachers use games as “fillers” the students mope lazily back to their desks, as they know the grueling pain of continuity is about to continue.  In classrooms where teachers use the games in context of the lessons, students aim to learn with eagerness and a sense of purpose.

The purpose of the games is often set during the introduction, or framing, of the activity.  Participants may be forewarned of the deeper meanings, or the activity may be introduced as a metaphor.  Another way to inject purpose into activities is in the reflection or debriefing of the activity.

An easy way to see the relevance of reflection is to picture games as a circle: you start with an explanation of the activity, framing its purpose and goals to the group.  The activity progresses, with the facilitator taking a more hands-on or less guiding approach as needed.  Finally, the group reflection helps participants see how they met the goal, and to envision the broader social change implications.  Then the group has come full-circle.

 

What Games Should We Play?

Games can be chosen to meet almost any purpose.  The following games mentioned are all in the book mentioned below. Does your group need to develop its teambuilding skills?  Try the Caterpillar.  Do you need to work closely and get used to each other’s physical space?  Try Sardines.  You’ve been inside all day, sitting on your butts and thinking, and you just want to play?  Check out Blob Tag or Human Scissors-Paper-Rock .  Your group needs to trust each mentally, emotionally, and physically?  Use the Trust Circle.  Learning, trusting, feeling and thinking together are the goals of these games.  Its helpful for every group to remember that.

 

Many people use games as an introduction or a closing to their activities.  However, its a good idea to add them throughout your day, between or as a part of a larger event.  Games are a great way to break up the monotony of a long day’s learning, or a hard day’s work.  They are also a great way to keep small children busy, and big children happy.  You may want to play a game to reinforce teamwork after a sucky day (because they happen) or play a game to relieve some group stress or build the scenario to work through a problem.  Games are actually tools that a skilled facilitator has at their fingertips in a time of need.

 

Great! How Do We Get Started?

Below is a list of easy-to-use games.  They come from a wide collection of games available from the Freechild Project’s FireStarter Youth Power Curriculum.  Check out this list and go visit FireStarter for more!  You can also look up the bibliography listed under the Facilitator’s Guide there.

For many more resources on cooperative and initiative games, visit the links on the right, and read some of the great books available (especially those by the greats Karl Rohnke and Dale LeFevre.  Play safe, play purposefully, play fun and play hard!

 

Selected Games

Check out our free book, The Freechild Project Guide to Cooperative Games for Social Change. This insightful new guide will help community workers, teachers, activists, and all kinds of people find fun, engaging, and powerful activities that promote teamwork, communication, and social justice.

Sources
  • LeFevre, Dale (1988) New Games for the Whole Family. New York: Perigee Books.
  • Counts, George S. (1963) Education and the Foundations of Human Freedom. Out-of-print.

 

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Share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how The Freechild Project can support cooperative games and teambuilding in your community or organization, contact us.

Youth Action Library

Young people, community workers, classroom teachers, organizers, and others are often left lurching around the Internet looking for tools to promote youth taking action. Following is a whole library of free and cost publications, including books, articles, monographs, and more!

Involving young people in decisions is a way of showing respect, of saying their opinions and ideas count. To accomplish this, both youths and adults will need adequate preparation and training. Loring Leifer

Monographs, Articles and Books

  • The Freechild Project Guide to Social Change Led By and With Young People — Centering on the “Cycle of Youth Engagement,” this publication is a summary of the social change issues and actions addressed by and with young people around the world. A great primer to the Freechild website.
  • 15 Points to Successfully Involving Youth in Decision-Making — By Youth On Board. The essential information any organization needs to begin and develop their youth involvement program, this manual is the expert resource for organizations across the US and around the world. In more than 10 years Youth On Board has trained 1000s of young people and adults in youth voice and involvement, pushing the field five steps forward. This book is their finest collection of information available.
  • Youth Voice: A Guide for Engaging Youth in Leadership and Decision-Making in Service-Learning Programs — The purpose of this guide is to provide service learning practitioners with basic information on youth voice – how to engage youth in leadership and decision-making in programs. This guide highlights what youth voice is, why it is important and models of youth voice that have been implemented by service learning practitioners.
  • Making Commitments Matter: A Toolkit for young people to evaluate national youth policy — The Toolkit offers youth a starting point for determining what has been done to better the lives of young people since 1995. Take a look at this practical resource and put it to use in your community.
  • The Freechild Project Guide to Cooperative Games for Social Change — by A. Fletcher with K. Kunst. This short booklet provides an insightful tool to help community workers, teachers, and activists of all ages incorporate initiatives, teambuilders, “funners,” and closing activities into their work for social change.
  • Navigating International Meetings: A pocketbook guide to effective youth participation — This guide gives concise information about the structure and process of United Nations meetings, looks at the different avenues available to youth for participating, and offers practical information for surviving a large meeting. The Guide also touches on important questions regarding the impact of international meetings on the local, national, and international level that every past and potential participant should consider.
  • Youth Service America Publications — YSA always offers easy-to-use interactive series of questions and templates that allow you and your friends to plan your service project or program. At the end, you will be able to print out your own Project Plan, Funding proposal, Press Release, Service-learning reflection plan, and other helpful resources.
  • Take Action! A Guide to Active Citizenship — by M. Keilburger and C. Keilburger.  An easy-to-use guide that provides young people with a readily-accessible plan for action.  Includes 7 steps to get involved, and a large “how-to” section for new activists.
  • The Kid’s Guide to Social Action — by Barbara A. Lewis. This is the first book of its kind to give a hopeful, energetic picture of young people taking action for social change. Features 10 steps for kids to take action, a long list of issues young people are addressing, and important how-tos.
  • Youth!: The 26% Solution — by Wendy Lesko.  This easy-to-read book provides a broad overview of young people taking action around the US in a variety of areas, and includes resources, tips, and stories to motivate action.
  •  Equal Partners: Organizing “For Youth by Youth” Events — by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Today’s young people are in a unique situation. Organizations, governments, and the population at large are recognizing that it’s absolutely vital to involve them in planning and organizing events and projects for young people. They are taking notice of not only what young people have to say, but of their awesome capabilities too. It can be challenging for adults to work side by side with young people. Young people are often unfamiliar with adult work settings, structures, and systems, which adults often manage easily, without thinking. While it’s true that young people lack the experience to fully comprehend the adult world, it’s also true that adults do not understand young people as they understand themselves. This guide is intended to support what, for many adults, will be a new way of working with youth. It will also assist young people in developing and running youth-focused events.
  • The Declaration of Accountability on the Ethical Engagement of Young People and Adults in Canadian Organizations — by First Nations Child and Family Caring Society of Canada. This document shares a wide-ranging perspective of youth involvement, calling for organizations and communities to see beyond past activities and to identify and practice powerful ethical approaches to engaging youth. Despite the reference to Canadian organizations, this document is useful communities around the world.
  • University of Kansas Community Toolbox — The Tool Box provides over 6,000 pages of practical skill-building information on over 250 different topics. Topic sections include step-by-step instruction, examples, check-lists, and related resources.
  • OxFam America’s Just Add Consciousness: Guide to Social Activism — This guide provides some basic strategies for activism. Before using any of these strategies, be sure that your group/organization has already done some groundwork, including researching and educating yourselves on the issue; identifying key people and institutions you are aiming to influence; setting clear, focused, and realistic goals and objectives.
  •  How To Be an Activist — How to be an Activist: An introduction and portal to activism, education, community involvement, and social change across the internet.

 

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The Freechild Project Youth Engagement Workshop Guide

Youth at a Freechild Project workshop in Seattle

The Freechild Project Youth Engagement Workshop Guide features 24 workshop outlines designed to help learning groups explore different aspects of Youth Engagement. All exercises are hands-on, interactive, and focused on practical applications. The workshops are designed for learners of all ages, including youth-only and adult-only groups. There is also a great introduction on how to facilitate youth engagement workshops, as well as detailed directions for leading every workshop!

Topics featured in the workshops include:

  • Youth Engagement
  • Youth Voice
  • Youth Involvement
  • Readiness
  • Stereotypes
  • Media Bias
  • Being Youth Authentic Self
  • Language
  • Listening
  • Feedback Techniques
  • Jargon
  • Power, Trust, and Respect
  • Ground Rules
  • Group Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Expectations
  • Appreciations
  • Action Planning
  • Problem Solving
  • Staying Solutions-Focused
  • Roadblocks
  • Letting Go & Taking Charge
  • Ideal Partners
  • Creating Roles for Youth and Adults
  • Brainteasers
  • Reflection exercises
  • And much more!

All this and more is covered in the time-tested, youth-approved Freechild Project Youth Engagement Workshop Guide.

 

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