Rural Youth

A learner who is homeschooling for social change

Growing up in small villages and towns or on farms and in other rural areas can present young people with considerable challenges. However, rural youth can be vital to transforming their communities, building ownership and engaging young people to stop the rural brain drain.

There’s no reason why children in inner cities or rural areas do not receive the same quality education or opportunities as those in suburbs or wealthy neighborhoods. If we truly believe in giving all citizens a chance to pursue happiness and pursue their goals, then we cannot continue to marginalize entire groups of people. — Al Sharpton

 

Ways Rural Youth are Changing the World

Youth as Recruiters — Building their own opportunities to transform their environments is essential to children and youth engagement. After they’ve planned engaging programs and activities, young people can recruit their peers, younger people and adults. As facilitators, evaluators and decision-makers throughout their communities, rural youth can change the world.

Youth as Mentors — Engaging youth as mentors can allow children, other youth and adults in rural to become meaningfully influential and purposeful. Substantive activities for rural youth can focus on fostering community, building youth/adult partnerships and transforming organizations, schools and rural areas.

Servant Leadership — Learning to lead others can mean learning to serve, too. Servant leadership can build the humility, empowerment and engagement of young people throughout rural areas in unique ways. They can become more capable and involved than before, and can develop the ability to meet the needs of their areas in unique and important ways.

 

"It's a very important thing to learn to talk to people you disagree with." - Pete Seeger

 

Things Rural Youth Need to Change the World

Training — Learning practical skills and relevant knowledge they can apply to change rural communities is essential for children and youth. Whether focusing on communication, teambuilding, networking, problem-solving or change management, young people can be essential partners for community development in rural areas.

Technology — Weaving together the power and potential of young people in rural areas can be easier through technology. Cell phones, texting, social media and the Internet can be powerful tools to reach across broad distances and other barriers.

Inspiration — Discovering the roots of action and finding motivation to take action can move young people from being passive recipients of adult actions towards becoming active partners in social change.

 

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Youth and Racism

Freechild Project youth protest in Seattle

Youth and racism are wound together, depending on each other to unravel the pain, hurt and despicable enduring nature of racism. Being “against racism” is to be against any system based on some kind of supremacy, including white supremacy, racial supremacy of any kind, tribal supremacy, class supremacy, even male and female chauvinism. Young people are taking power action against racism and making their communities more powerful, empowering places for all people to live in.

Washing ones hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral. — Paulo Freire

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World focusing on Racism

Youth-Led Activism — When adults won’t partner with young people or when young people want to take immediate action without permission, they can lead their own community organizing projects and rallying their peers to create change, or take action on their own. Picketing, sit-ins, boycotts and social media action are just some of the ways youth-led activism can affect racism.

Service Learning — Studying the social effects of racism, young people are building communities through service learning. Programs focused on white privilege, empowering communities of color and more can teach students about racism in distinctly effective ways. When facilitated effectively, service learning encourages students to apply their learning throughout their lives.

Youth and Incarceration — Young people are challenging the school-to-prison pipeline, long-term incarceration, incarcerating youth with adults, and solitary confinement within prisons, all wrapped together with analysis focused on the disproportionate incarceration of people of color. Youth and incarceration shouldn’t be synonymous, and youth can change the world when they focus on ending the racism which makes this happen.

 

The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide by Adam Fletcher
Order The Freechild Project Youth-Driven Programming Guide!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World focusing on Racism

Education — Learning about the history of racism isn’t enough. Young people need to understand their role in white privilege and racism, whether they’re people of color or white. Learning how to see privilege, dismantle white supremacy, overcome structural racism and fight against dominant cultural norms is essential, too.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Creating intentional relationships designed to foster trust, communication, mutual investment and meaningful involvement can effectively engage youth in changing the world focused on racism. Young people can transform communities and organizations through youth/adult partnerships, increasing effective action and building support along the way.

Opportunities — Young people need substantive opportunities to take action against racism. Schools, neighborhood groups, nonprofits, government agencies and other organizations can create opportunities. Young people can create their own opportunities through youth-led community organizing and youth-led programs, too.

 

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Youth and Public Health

Seattle students in a Freechild workshop discuss issues with an adult ally

Public health is made of organized efforts around the world that aim at to prevent disease and promote health across our communities. Tied together through education, action, evaluation and advocacy, youth and public health are addressing a lot of issues, including HIV/AIDs, smoking, pregnancy prevention, and more.

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito. — Source unknown

 

Ways Youth can Change the World focusing on Public Health

Youth as Teachers — Young people can be some of the best public health educators, whether teaching their parents, their siblings, other young people or adults throughout their communities. Engaging youth as teachers can quickly normalize activities, knowledge and attitudes that are different or new for their communities in ways adults cannot, and can reach people others can’t, either.

Social Media — Texting public health messages and sharing public health knowledge with their peers and other throughout social media can help youth be powerful communicators and recruiters. Social media can also help youth educators build community around their issues, roles and regions, too.

Youth-Led Activism — When adults won’t listen to youth voice or allow youth participation, young people can make their voices heard through activism. Whether they are organizing communities, leading sit-ins, advocating for policy change or building online movements, young people can be powerful activists for issues that matter to them.

 

The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!
The Practice of Youth Engagement by Adam Fletcher!

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World focusing on Public Health

Education — Young people should know the basic, elemental parts of public health all of the time, no matter who they are, where they live or how much money their families and communities have. However, to change the world with public health, children and youth should learn critical thinking skills, build their knowledge base, and expand their abilities.

Youth/Adult Partnerships — Working with adults as partners is a sure way to change the world through public health. Young people can teach adults about issues that matter while receiving the support, encouragement and knowledge of adults.

Funding — Securing and sustaining funding is vital for youth-led public health action. Changing the world through active engagement in the issues that affect them most, children and youth deserve the fiscal support they need for programs, activities and outcomes that reflect the importance of public health throughout our lives and communities.

 

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Youth Participation + Social Change

Youth activism expert Yve Susskind taught Freechild that youth participation was something young people can do on their own. Adults can involve youth, they can engage youth, but they cannot participate youth. Youth participation can happen through sports, schools, faith communities, and throughout communities. It can also happen in homes and among friends. Youth participation can be formal or informal; when its formal, youth may not choose to attend something, but they choose whether to participate. When its informal, youth choose to join in on something.

Ways Youth Can Change the World through Youth Participation

Youth as Recruiters — Young people can be the greatest peer advocates and community builders. Choosing activities and issues they are passionate about gives children and youth immediate investment in a program; allowing them to connect with people they want on board gives them the opportunities they need to influence people. Youth participation in recruiting can lead to the greatest outcomes for every project or program.

Social Media — Using technology they are comfortable with allows children and youth to assume influence, motivate others and propel social movements forward. Social media in all its forms answers this call, giving young people a doorway into participating in vast global conversations, and opening doorways to action offline, too.

Youth Authors — Young people can participate in social change through writing. Whether they are developing ebooks for young audiences online, writing articles in the local newspaper, or using texts to blast out messages to their friends and families, young authors can participate in social change in active, meaningful ways.

Things Youth Need to Change the World through Youth Participation

Opportunities — Often denied access to become meaningful participants in their own lives, children and youth need opportunities to participate. Whether happening at home, in nonprofits or local government, through school or in national organizations, youth participation can require door openings.

Inspiration — The inspiration to become active in their own lives escapes many young people who have been historically denied that right. Inspiring these children and youth can lead to substantive, impacting youth participation throughout communities.

Education — Once youth participation happens, its important to introduce and expand the knowledge, power and abilities of young people. Providing skill-building training and facilitating knowledge-sharing activities are key to improving youth participation.

You Might Like…

Elsewhere Online

  • Youth Participation in Community Planning by Ramona Mullahey, Yve Susskind and Barry Checkoway for the American Planning Association
  • Youth participation” by United Nations Youth
  • Youth Participation Guide: Assessment, Planning, and Implementation” by YouthNet and Family Health International for Advocates for Youth
  • Community Club Toolkit  – Designed for sports clubs, community groups, youth centres or anyone trying to organise community events, sports activities or structured programs for informal groups and young people. A free resource with lots of ‘how to’ hints and useful templates to save your club time when: running meetings; helping club volunteers and members; engaging youth in decision making; membership (succession) planning; and running the day to day jobs within a community committee.

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A Review of Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution

A review of Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution by Derrick Jensen

One of the most important components of both education and activism is contextualization. As Paulo Freire argued, learning must be rooted in the context in which education takes place. For a sixth-grader in the US, that would be their local community; for a elderly person, that might be their family. For Derrick Jensen, that place was in classrooms at a university and a maximum security prison, where he was taught creative writing to Washington state college students and prisoners convicted of robbery, rape, and murder. In this book Jensen shares stories from those places as a guise and guide for the larger lessons, both hinted at and carefully detailed throughout this book.

The lessons here are truly revolutionary. The author begins by writing,

As is true for most people I know, I’ve always loved learning. As is also true for most people I know, I always hated school. Why is that?

 

With this opening line, Jensen begins a more-than-casual assault on traditional schooling, railing on everything from classroom seating arrangements to grading; from teaching methods to attendance. The lessons here a resonant of the teachings of both John Holt and John Taylor Gatto, the latter of whom Jensen credits greatly, and they give anecdotal meaning to some of the wisdom of by Grace Llewellyn and William Upski Wimsatt.

Through his lessons, Jensen gives substance and validity to many peoples’ feelings of alienation and disconnectedness in school, and offers a brilliant guide to creative writing along the way. Jensen writes,

Throughout our adult lives, most of us are expected to get to work on time, to do our boss’s bidding…and not to leave till the final bell has rung. It is expected that we will watch the clock, counting seconds till five o’clock, till Friday, till payday, till retirement, when at last our time will again be our own, as it was before we began kindergarten, or preschool, or daycare. Where do we learn to do all of this waiting?

 

The answer, of course, is school. School, Jensen says, is the “day-prison” where we learn to be “a nation of slaves.”

He then follows this daring declaration with another story from his prison experience, where he created “an atmosphere in which students wish to learn…”, which included asking both prisoners and college students to be uncomfortable in their search for meaning through writing. Throughout this book Jensen includes several useful writing tips that offer a unique twist to this book: while a significant diatribe against historical approaches to education, it provides useful methods for self-education and learning through life.

Ultimately Jensen achieves Freire’s challenge of sharing with students the goal of “reading the word through the world,” and in that is Jensen’s greatest success. This book is vitally important to any person seeking inspiration for learning outside the lines, both for its practical advice, and for the fact that it is coming from a seasoned educator.

I believe that it can also be important to young people particularly, because through his intelligent, accessible thinking, Jensen acknowledges what many youth believe: school isn’t relevant to young people today because teachers can’t be relevant to learning today. They just don’t know how. However, more importantly, Jensen himself disproves that, and may actually inspire young readers to look into places of higher education for the vital allyship and mentorship that adult educators can potentially offer.

As Jensen ponders the weight of the world throughout the book, including wrestling with conservatism, hopelessness and apathy, war, and many other feelings, he leaves readers with a challenging thought that easily summarizes the motivation of this book, and lends this book its essentialness in the activist library:

There is much work to be done. What are you waiting for? It’s time to begin.

 

It is time to begin. Thank you, Derrick Jensen, for giving us a roadway to get started.

 

Book Details

  • Title: Walking on Water: Reading, Writing, and Revolution
  • Author: Derrick Jensen
  • Publisher: Chelsea Green Publishing Company (2004)
  • ISBN: 1931498482

 

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A Review of Making Space – Making Change

Making Spaces Making Change by the Young Wisdom Project of the Movement Strategy Project

Responding to a crisis is not easy work. People who spend day in and out working for the good of other people are often taxed to the extremes: selflessness and empathy override their commitment to themselves.

That is why it is so rare to capture a succinct yet powerful overview of youth activism today: democracy is in crisis mode, and those who are struggling for its life are being pushed to the extremes. That is why Making Space – Making Change is the most important document focusing on young people and social change to come out in recent times.

This new publication from the Movement Strategy Center in Oakland profiles five youth-led and youth-driven organizations from across the U.S. It provides insightful details on how these organizations started, how they build youth leadership and power, deal with challenges, and how they make real change in their communities.

For readers of Paulo Freire, bell hooks, Peter McLaren, and other critical educators, there are many familiar points- but with an important focus on social change led by young people. Early in the introduction to youth-led action, the authors state,

“Instead of approaching the question of youth-led organizations as an either/or situation, it’s helpful to think about youth leadership and governance as a continuum with a spectrum of possibilities – something that can develop and change over time.” (p 15)

 

This echoes bell hooks recent book, Teaching for Community: A Pedagogy of Hope, where hooks extols readers to look beyond either/or and towards with/and. The authors of this report provide an important bridge to many critical thinkers, applying much-needed theory to the powerful, practical work of youth activists.

Rather than simply providing another toolkit, this report allows the details to tell the stories. The feature on the Lummi CEDAR Project, as all of the stories, paints a vivid portrait of a community responding to the dilemma of keeping cultural pride and community alive by engaging youth. This project highlights the power of belonging and identity, a trait that consumerist culture increasingly denies to many young people. As in other stories, the report is frank about the challenges facing the CEDAR Project: Creating a youth-led structure for an indigenous context; adapting organizational development models; and creating a culturally relevant youth organizing model in a rural Native community.

However, the summaries are always hopeful – realistic, for sure – but hopeful. As one of the youth directors said,

“It’s really awesome to me because our community is a small tribal community, and we have eighty young people trained now. So we have a broad network living a healthy lifestyle, caring about their community, inspired, motivated, and have this drive to make a positive change in their community. And that impacts their family… We’re just building a collective movement…” (p 41)

 

Making Space – Making Change is an important tool for young people and adults allies who are ready to put their principles into practice. It is a more important tool in the growing library of publications that support young people leading social change. Important analysis, detailed findings, and powerful personal connections can only promote a stronger, more effective future for social change led by and with young people. Thank you to the Young Wisdom Project – we’re all moving forward because of your work.

 

Book Details

 

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Youth, Parents, Parenting and Families

Society changes for a lot of reasons, and the outcomes of those changes. Family structures have been better and worse, good and bad and otherwise. Youth, parents, parenting and families are real issues that intermingle and relate to each other. Young people change the world in positive, fair and healthy ways when they understand parents, parenting and family for themselves.

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World Focusing on Parenting and Families

Positive Parenting — Learning what parenting is, what it is not, why it matters and how it can be successful is a powerful tool for young parents. When this education is focused on positive parenting practices, including teaching children, engaging families and transforming communities, young parents can change the world.

Youth as Parenting Educators — Engaging young parents as educators can be an effective, engaging way to change the world. Young parent teachers can speak practically to the realities, challenges and opportunities that exist for other young parents.

Youth/Parent Partnerships — Traditional family relationships are hierarchical, with subvert and explicit suggestions that parents always know best and children should always be subservient. Youth/parent partnerships allow for trust, communication, meaningful involvement and real investment to be at the forefront of households, allowing for transformative relationships between parents and their offspring.

 

Courage, dear heart. - C. E. Lewis

 

Things Youth Need to Change the World Focusing on Parenting and Families

Inspiration — Young parents and youth in general can benefit from honest, open inspiration that means to motivate them to action to change the world. Stories, incentives and cultures that engage these young people can be the most inspirational tools, but there are many other ways to inspire, too.

Mentoring — Creating healthy, engaging relationships among young parents and older parents can foster healthy communities, empowered children and meaningful opportunities for everyone involved to affect one another.

Education — Creating real opportunities for young people to learn about parenting and their parents through education can transform communities and change the world in countless ways. Children and youth can learn how economics, education, social class, healthcare and other affects on families, and how social change can benefit everyone.

 

Discover our Youth/Adult Partnerships Tip Sheet at https://freechild.org/yaptips/
Discover our Youth/Adult Partnerships Tip Sheet!

 

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Order FACING ADULTISM by Freechild founder Adam Fletcher!

Youth and Poverty

Poverty means having very little money, wealth or possessions. Poverty can also include having limited educational, political, social, cultural and physical power. The reality of youth and poverty is that many young people around the world face poverty, and other young people want to do something to help people facing poverty. Children and youth addressing their own poverty are actively changing the world; young people who are trying to help others experiencing poverty can change the world, too.

Poverty reduction is not only about meeting our basic needs, it’s also about participation, influence and power. — Hanna Hallin

Poverty is not an accident. Like slavery and apartheid, it is man-made and can be removed by the actions of human beings. — Nelson Mandela

 

Ways Youth are Changing the World through Challenging Poverty

Youth as Producers — Instead of waiting for other people to make things for them, young people can produce things for themselves, their families and their communities. Learning how to grow food, make healthy meals, build things, develop websites, sell online and other production can allow children and youth to defeat poverty. It can also change society’s perceptions.

Critical consumerism — Making intentional choices to support the end of poverty can mean shopping local, buying fair trade items, and bartering or trading others. Children and youth can do these things on a large scale, influencing local economies, their families and others by raising consciousness among their friends, younger people and adults.

Youth-Led Programming — When children and youth have opportunities to create and support themselves, their peers, young people, their families and their communities, they develop the abilities they need within them to challenge poverty. Youth-led programs can provide the positively enabling conditions young people need in order to act on their own behalf and for others. This can allow them to overcome poverty.

 

Tools for Change

Opportunities — Children and youth who grow up in poverty can often feel the burden of community depression and the oppression of social stigmas. Creating meaningful opportunities for them to engage with poverty in a critical light can be essential to engaging, empowering and compelling them towards helping themselves and others, too.

Technology — While technology of any kind is not an immediate fix for poverty, it can be a powerful tool. When young people have access to the Internet, they can find information they need in order to become critical consumers and education that can lift them out of poverty. They can also learn how their cultures, heritage and backgrounds can be empowering, and without running away from where they are at, they can learn to improve life for their communities.

Education — Few young people actually learn what economics are and how they are affected while they are young. Instead, they are treated as passive recipients of a large system they cannot challenge. Education about economics, from practical budgeting and getting paid to higher concepts about national economies and globalization, can help children and youth discover active, engaged and effective roles for themselves throughout society.

 

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Youth + Social Change through Farming

Gardening, farming and otherwise raising food can be a powerful way for young people and adults to work together. Teaching essential lessons about sustainability, production and hard work, engaging youth as farmers can be an exciting way to change the world.

Ways Youth + Social Change Happens through Farming

Youth-Led Agriculture — Engaging young people in directing and teaching farming can be a dynamic, empowering way to promote healthy communities through urban and rural agriculture, community gardening, food security, and related environmental justice activities.

Community Gardens — While community gardens engage youth in growing their own food, they can also teach youth how to market food. Growing their own foods and becoming entrepreneurs can foster youth learning about their contributions to local food systems, too.

Out-of-School Time — On the evenings, the weekends and over the summer, young people can grow, manage, and otherwise operate gardens and farms of their own and with adults as allies. Youth leadership can transform communities, ensure healthy foods for rural and urban places, and transform their relationships within themselves and the world around them.

“People wish to be settled; only as far as they are unsettled is there any hope for them.” ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

Tools for Youth + Social Change through Farming

Apprenticeships — Traditional agricultural apprenticeships weren’t formal, and didn’t have much room for youth voice. Today, these learning opportunities can be formal or informal, and should be driven by youth/adult partnerships. Both young people and adult farmers can learn from each other, and engaging youth in changing the world through agriculture is one way that can happen.

Education — Farming is woven deeply in human heritage from all cultures around the world. Youth farmers can be essential partners in moving this heritage towards the future, with meaningful educational opportunities and the empowering sharing of knowledge from previous generations.

Stories — Stories of youth as farmers can be vital tools for engaging youth in agriculture. Young people can learn values, history and different perspectives on food and farming, and can see themselves as part of the ongoing arc of human evolution. This identity allows them to see deeply into the past, and understand where they can guide their communities and the world into the future.


You Might Like…

Elsewhere Online

  • Youth-Led Farming Handbook by Felege Hiywot Center
  • GRuB – Garden-Raised Bounty
  • Offers empowerment programs that focus on building youths’ nutrition, self-esteem, community connections, and academic enthusiasm. These programs are in the form of academic and employment opportunities to these youth, primarily between the ages of 13 and 19 in Thurston County, Washington.
  • Durham Inner-city Gardens – A youth-driven urban market farm and landscaping business.  We empower ourselves by learning all that we can about organic gardening, healthy business practices and responsible leadership. We break down racial and cultural barriers through communication and understanding within our diverse crew. We grow produce using organic techniques and sell it at the Durham Farmer’s Market. And we promote and maintain open green spaces within the city.
  • Seattle Youth Garden Works – Empowers underserved youth through garden-based education and employment.  We are a youth market gardening program for homeless and youth-in-need ages 14-22 in the University District and South Park neighborhoods. Our goals are to connect youth to housing, health care, education, jobs and community.
  • The Food Project Youth Program – Agriculture, enterprise and service are combined to create a rigorous, practical and integrated experience. Through all of our youth programs, people of all ages bridge communities through farming and food and discover their interdependence with ach other as well as with those who purchase and receive their produce. Youth and adults in Lincoln, Nebraska and Boston, Massachusetts learn that work on the land can be a powerful equalizer, teacher and catalyst for personal, local and global change.
  • Mo Better Food – This student-led organization works in the West Oakland, California seeks to establish a self-sufficient network between African- American farmers and predominate African- American communities; to preserve and improve Land owned by African-Americans by networking with African- American farmers in the Southern states; and to educate the predominate African- American communities of their history concerning land ownership and farming.
  • Literacy for Environmental Justice – An urban environmental education and youth empowerment organization created specifically to address the unique ecological and social concerns of Bayview Hunters Point, San Francisco, and the surrounding communities of Mission, Potrero Hill, Visitacion Valley, and Excelsior, California.

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Youth + Social Change through Youth Makers and Youth Producers

Freechild Project youth in Seattle

Producing, creating, manufacturing, designing, redesigning, recreating, identifying, specifying, and otherwise making anything is at the heart of the maker movement. Engaging youth as makers can mean empowering them with the resources to build what they want, what communities need, and what the world is calling for.

The best way to predict the future is to invent it. — Alan Kay

Ways for Social Change through Youth Making and Youth Producing

Youth as Builders — When youth are engaged as builders, they are creating, designing, assembling and manufacturing things the world needs. They may make devices, computer programs, instruments, mechanisms or other technology. These things can change the world when they answer unmet social needs.

Youth Construction — Constructing the physical spaces humans live in in an example of youth as makers. They may design and build parks, buildings, indoor spaces, outdoor places and other areas humans and nature occupy, literally changing the world and compelling people to live better, do better and be better through intention.

Youth Internships — Working with adults as learning interns can allow young people to build their knowledge and skills while contributing to maker works. Whether happening in the textile arts, metalwork, woodwork, or technology, maker internships should be focused on youth/adult partnerships that recognize young people teach and learn while adults learn and teach, and that in maker culture, it’s never an either/or situation.

Needs for Youth + Social Change through Youth Making and Youth Producing

Technology — Practical training and unique exposures to a range of applications and organizations can allow young people to use technology to in powerful, meaningful and substantive ways. Where 3-D printers can allow young people to design physical objects like prosthetic limbs and housing materials in real time, handheld devices can allow them to create apps and construct physical spaces on their own.

Maker Spaces — Maker spaces are places with people, tools and opportunities for youth to become makers. Through equipment, community, and education, young people can design, prototype and create things they might not be able create otherwise. Providing access is key to maker spaces, and young people’s engagement and empowerment can be a key to making them work for everyone.

Training — Training young people how to make things, whether through manufacturing, creation, or otherwise, can engage youth voice in exciting new ways. Building the skills and knowledge of young people is vital, and can compel young people to get engaged and change the world!

You Might Like…

Elsewhere Online

  • Invent to Learn by Sylvia Libow Martinez and Gary Stager
  • YoungMakers – Participants ages 8-18 and of varying backgrounds, interests, and skill levels, work together in small clubs throughout the season to design and make a youth-chosen, open-ended project, culminating in an opportunity to share and exhibit at a showcase event.
  • YouthBuild – In programs across the United States and across the globe, low-income young people learn construction skills to help build affordable housing and other community assets such as community centers and schools.
  • Youth inclusive product development” by Youth Economic Opportunities
  • Youth producers” by Central Washington Animal Agriculture Team
  • Simphony Productions” by Youth Impact HUB Oakland

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Other tools are out there, too – share your thoughts in the comments below! For more information about how Freechild Institute can support youth+ social change through youth making and youth producing in your community or organization, contact us.