Welcome to the Try It Tuesday Blog!

If you work with teens, you know that it can often be a challenge to keep them interested and engaged, especially if you are running a youth program. How do you keep them focused, excited and inspired?

Try it Tuesdays is all about bringing you resources, tools and strategies that you can use to re-invigorate your programming and get your teens excited to come in every day. Each week, we share a practical, concrete idea or strategy that you can experiment with in your work. We also post resources that will help you grow your skills as a youth development practitioner. 

Take a look at the overview webinar above where we look at what REALLY motivates people (it's not what you think!) and we provide a basic framework for thinking about how to engage with teens. You can get the slides and follow-up resources here

Then, scroll down for our latest "Try It Tuesday" posts. These are practical, hands-on tips, strategies and ideas that can spice up your group and individual work and help you keep young people engaged. We bring them to you every week, along with other great content and ideas. 

Try It Tuesday: Help Kids Fall in Love With Their Lives by Finding Their "Sparks"

In this incredibly powerful TEDTalk, the late Peter Benson talks about the research he conducted into understanding what animates and motivates young people. First, some key points from his talk:
  • Only 1 in 4 kids is on a pathway to thriving. It's no longer about purpose and hope. It's about being alone, empty, medicated, confused and lost. 
  • "Youth are not vessels to be filled, but fires to be lit." 
  • The best of development is from the inside out, not the outside in.
  • Thriving begins with the idea of the human spark--what gives young people joy and energy? What gives their lives hope, direction and purpose?
  • Through his research, Benson has found that 100% of middle and high school students get the idea of "spark" in a heartbeat. They say that they can point out the kids who have it and the kids who don't. You can see it in their face and in their body posture. 
  • But then these kids say--"No one has ever asked me about that before. Usually people want to know about our drug use, our sexuality, our predilection to violence, our approach to school."
  • 2/3 of America's young people can name at least 1 spark. Another 20% can name their spark with a nudge from a caring adult. 
  • There are three kinds of sparks as identified by young people--a skill/talent, a commitment (social justice, stewardship of the earth), or a quality
  • Knowing student sparks draws us toward them
  • Human development is about awakening--how we are seen, how we are known and how we are embraced by others
  • Our spark is not necessarily the work that we will do every day. Our spark is our "life orientation"--our way of being present in our own lives. 

Major Categories of Sparks

Benson found several major categories of sparks, including:

  • Helping, serving, volunteering
  • Leading
  • Learning a particular subject matter that was interesting to the teen
  • Stewardship of the earth
  • Athletics
The number one spark that he found was the creative life--arts, writing, dance, drama, music etc. This is the arena in which most kids say "I'm my best self." 

Finding Student Sparks

Here's the question we should be asking all young people and helping them to discover for and about themselves: 

Tell me what it is about you that gives you joy and energy. What's going on in those moments when life feels the richest and the fullest with purpose and hope? What is your spark? I'm dying to know. 

If you hear a teen name their spark, identify it. Tell them that you hear it/see it and thank them for possessing it because their spark is "good, beautiful and useful to the world." 

The Thriving Equation

According to Benson, thriving requires:

Spark + 3 Champions + Opportunity

Spark champions are caring adults--family, teachers, people in the community--who see the spark, name it, help young people see the spark in themselves and help them find opportunities to express their sparks. 

Great things happen when we enact this equation. Benson's research shows that:

  • Academic performance skyrockets
  • Engagement goes up
  • Compassion for others increases
  • A sense of purposes rises
  • Violence decreases
But only 50% of teens say someone in their family nourishes their spark. Only 1/3 say someone in their school is a Spark Champion and in the broader community, only 25% of kids report having a Spark Champion. 

So the big question for us as youth development practitioners is:

How can we put identifying student sparks and implementing this equation for thriving front and center in our work with youth? 

Additional Resources

  • Sparks Worksheet--Helps teens begin to identify their sparks and helps them with a plan for the thriving equation. This could be a good resource to adapt for your own work. 

Try It Tuesday: Interview with Sannii Crespina-flores (Part Two)

Interview with Sannii Crespina-flores, Do Remember Me and Yram Collective--Part Two from Michele Martin on Vimeo.

Last week we brought you Part One of our interview with Sanni Crespina-flores of the Do Remember Me Project. This week, Sannii is back, sharing more of her favorite tips and strategies for engaging with young people, including how she does her own personal outreach to invite students to be part of her projects. 

Try It Tuesday: Interview with Sannii Crespina-flores (Part One)

Interview with Sannii Crespina-flores from Michele Martin on Vimeo.

Earlier this summer, we shared the Do Remember Me project with you and talked about how you could connect your teens to young people around the world, as Sannii Crespina-flores does through Do Remember Me.

We caught up with Sannii a week after she took her students to the UN to learn more about her work. Today she shares with us how she started both Do Remember Me and a companion project with young women called The Yram Collective. She also discusses the impact of her work on both her students and herself. From using cell phones to create presentations and do research to how students react when they connect with teens from Paris and Nigeria, we covered a wide range of topics. We had a blast and you'll see why the students she works with love her and the work she does with them!

Try It Tuesday: Do IGNITE Presentations!

Many of us have students do presentations to end a program or unit of learning. But often these can be kind of dull and teens may really resist making their presentations.

One way to bring some more fun and excitement into the process is by having students make their presentations as IGNITE talks.

An IGNITE talk is really simple. It is:

  • 20 PowerPoint Slides
  • 15 seconds of talking per slide--the slides advance automatically, so students must time their presentations to keep up with the moving slides. 
Each talk lasts only 5 minutes, so students must learn to be concise and succinct in their presentations. With the slides advancing automatically, this also makes it easier to hold kids to the time limit without feeling like you're interrupting or rushing them. 

Take a look at the presentation at the top of this post to get an idea of how an IGNITE talk works. And then go through the presentation below for some tips. 

Best Practices for IGNITE Presentations

Here are some best practices to keep in mind as you work with students to create their IGNITE talks:
  • Help students identify the main point of their presentation and key ideas they want to cover. This format requires them to be clear and succinct, so helping them to clarify their ideas first can make it a lot easier to create the presentation. One way they may want to think about it is do they want their presentation to inform, motivate or entertain
  • Encourage them to tell stories. Probably the most powerful way to structure an IGNITE is to have it revolve around a story that conveys a student's messages. Help them find stories that will make their points. 
  • Slides should be visual--go for photos that capture a main idea, not a bunch of bullet points! A good rule of thumb is to have no more than 3-5 words on a slide. 
  • Use the Notes view in PowerPoint to write a script. This is one presentation format that requires you to know what you're going to say and how long it takes you to say it. By creating a script, students can be sure that they stick with the 15 seconds per slide requirement. 
  • Practice! And then practice some more! Getting the timing right is key in doing an IGNITE presentation. They also want to get comfortable with their scripts so they are looking at the audience and using comfortable body language, rather than staring down at their notes. Make sure students have time to practice their talks so that they know where they have to cut and where they may need to add more. 
  • Have fun! The IGNITE format is meant to be fun and entertaining, so encourage students to use this as an opportunity tap into their creativity. 

IGNITE in Action

I run the Youth Leadership Academy in Delaware County for HS sophomores and we use IGNITE presentations as the culminating activity for our 3-day event. Because of the limited time, we have students work in teams of 3-4, having them create a presentation on what they have learned about leadership. You could do something similar, having students work in teams to address a particular question or topic from your program. 

I will point out, though, that IGNITE works best if teens are enthusiastic or passionate about their topic, so look for topics or questions that provoke or excite them

We do give students a lot of latitude to put their presentations together. I don't see them until they present, unless they have specific questions they want to ask. I'm invariably blown away by what they produce. 

After they present to our leadership group, they present to an audience of their parents and teachers. This is something else to consider--having students present to an external audience. This adds some extra excitement to the process. 

Finally, we record their presentations. Although we haven't done this, you could record and then upload to YouTube. An IGNITE makes a great addition to an online portfolio or to your website. 

The IGNITE format can be a powerful and fun culminating activity for students, one that challenges them to be creative and succinct. Let us know if you try this with your students. Better yet, record their presentations and share them with us. We'd love to feature them on the Try It Tuesday Blog!

Try It Tuesday: Have Your Students Create a Virtual Field Trip

Most teens love the idea of using video to tell a story. Why not have your students use their smart phones to take people on a virtual field trip!

What is a Virtual Field Trip?

At its simplest level, a virtual field trip is a video exploration of a location that educates people about that space. You could have students give guided tours of their neighborhood, their schools, of a workplace or any other location connected to what they are learning in your program. 

You can also extend the idea of the virtual field trip by using video to explore "A Day in the Life" of a particular person. This could be a great way to explore occupations ("A Day in the Life of a Designer") or social issues ("A Day in the Life of a Homeless Person"). 

Planning the Virtual Field Trip

Discuss the virtual field trip concept and share a few sample videos with students. You can search YouTube or check out this article on virtual field trips to get ideas. 

Brainstorm with students about how they could use the virtual field trip concept to explore places or people related to your program and learning objectives. Depending on your topic, you could have students do a combination of field trips that include both people and places so that as a class, they explore different aspects of the topic. 

Discuss guidelines for creating the virtual field trips. Some questions to consider include:

  • Do you want a time limit on the length of the field trips? If it's your first time doing this, 5 to 10-minutes is a good starting point. 
  • What key questions should be addressed? 
  • Are there specific roles that students should take on within their teams? What are they and what will be expected of each role? (At a minimum, you will need a camera person and someone to give the tour if you are touring a specific location) 
  • Will students be able to edit their videos or will these be "one-take" virtual field trips? (If you want to let students edit their videos, here's a link to several free video editing options. If you are using Macs, they can use iMovie and for PC there's Windows Movie Maker. There are also several more robust options you can download.) 

Identify topics and have them form 2-4 person teams to plan for how they will document their field trip. Questions they should consider include:

  • What will they be exploring? If it's a place, what are the key areas they want to document? What are key learning points they want to bring out?  If it's a person, who will they be talking to and what do they want to learn/document about that person?
  • What research do they need to do ahead of time to plan for their virtual field trip? 
  • If they will be doing a "A Day in the Life" video, what questions do they want to ask their subjects? And what do they need to do to prepare their subject and capture that day in the life footage? 
  • Who will be the "on-camera" person (the person who gives the tour) and who will film the video? What roles will other people play? 
It's a good idea for students to draft a "script" for their virtual field trips. They want to plan out the order of their trips, what they will talk about at each point and how they will conclude their videos. 

Sharing the Virtual Field Trip Videos

Once students have filmed their virtual field trips, upload them to YouTube. Note that YouTube has a 10-minute limit on video uploads, so don't make them any longer than that. 

You can then create a Playlist on YouTube that gathers all the videos together in one section. 

If you wanted to get fancier about it, use Google Sites to create a basic website that explains the theme of your virtual field trips as well as any other information you may want to share--an introduction to the teams that made each video would be a nice addition. You can then use the embed code from YouTube to embed the videos directly into the website so that viewers could watch everything from your site. 

Give it a try! Let us know how it goes and share your links with us!

Try It Tuesday: Strategies for Capturing Greatness with Melissa A. Rowe (Part Two)

Try It Tuesday: Melissa Rowe on Strategies for Capturing Student Greatness (Part 2) from Michele Martin on Vimeo.

Last week we shared with you Part One of our interview with Melissa A. Rowe of Capture Greatness. Melissa is a WHYY American Graduate Champion who works with young people on college readiness, helping them to prepare their personal essays for college admissions and scholarship opportunities. 

This week we bring you Part Two. In this segment, Melissa talks about personal branding and how she works with young people to help them identify and communicate elements of their personal brand for both the college admissions process and for employment. She also shares with us the Branding Worksheet she uses with students in her workshops and individual sessions.