Can youth club combine forces with the internet to create a modern desirable youth service?

The internet… the world in which many of us now live in. People can access the internet from near enough anywhere in the world, young people are growing up in an age where access to the internet is increasing and alongside this is their access to social media, gaming, online study, shopping and a whole host of other things.

Upon reflection of my own experience (I am considered a young person) I can remember back to my Primary School education where we had one computer for the whole school to access which meant that we used it around once a fortnight or possibly even less, this changed during High School when I had I.T lessons at least once a week and a library with constant free computer access. Now in 2012 I feel strange if I cannot access a computer/the internet for one day, everywhere I go there is computer access, my home, my phone (for when I’m on my travels), my family and friend’s homes, university, work, the list goes on…

If I can take an example from one of the youth clubs that I work in, we have 2 computers for people to use with an internet connection speed of around 0.2mbps (only a slight exaggeration). So as you can imagine people don’t come to us to use our internet!! They come for other things such as sport, cooking, arts and crafts and mostly for social, chill out time in a comfortable place. But for every one person who comes to youth club in our area there must be at least another 100 that don’t attend. Are they all hanging out on social networking sites such as facebook? Browsing the internet or playing games on consoles that use the internet to create gaming communities such as the Xbox live?

The reason that I am reflecting about this is that I can see a drop in the number of attendees at youth club which my team and my manager have discussed. My manager believes it is because young people are all on Xbox live and I have come to the conclusion that while we do not ‘compete’ with the internet for young people’s interest the internet is definitely an addictive, exciting place to be! So will we get with the times and become partners with the internet in the way that we work (for example utilising it for it’s benefits and combining this with our work to create a more tailored youth service) or will we soon end up in a history book/online document?

*Note I am aware that some youth services have already utilised the internet in their work with young people and if you would like to share stories of this please do so.

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What does popcorn and garlic have in common at youth club?

The answer is that they both end up on the floor!!

Last week a couple of young males went into the kitchen took garlic from the cupboard and threw it at their friends (meaning it went all over youth club). It’s surprising how quick a clove of garlic gets EVERYWHERE at youth club!!!

This week (film night) individuals had popcorn, which a different group of young males decided to throw around at each other, causing a mess that took them half an hour to clean!

In order to encourage these members (who are very nice valued members of youth club, they just like throwing food at each other) to take a more responsible approach to being at youth club we have decided to invite them to our planning meeting next term. We are hoping that planning the terms activities with us will encourage their understanding of how the youth club runs, possibly giving them respect of the centre and the activities that go on there. I also hope this will give us as staff the opportunity to  build relationships with them outside of the general youth club activities (as general youth club is quite manic).

Eventually we are hoping to have a ‘take-over’; through consultation we have established that a few members are interested in this already, the take-over would be the young people’s opportunity to completely run the club. For this to work though I think we will need to build organisational relationships with the whole group (around 40-50 people). I would hope we can do this by joining with a different small group of them every term to do the planning, slowly giving the larger group as a whole the responsibility of the club.

If anyone has any similar stories or advice/feedback I’d love to hear it,

Thank You!

Children eating, cooking and creating their own future? That’s right we don’t always have to do it for them!

The BBC News has reported on two studies which show that cookery classes encourage pupils to recognise and become more accustomed to ‘healthy’ foods resulting in a desire to eat more fruit and vegetables. Cooking isn’t just a fun, social activity it’s a skill which can be used again and again, making it a very productive form of education. Within this article a survey of 2,500 participants of the ‘Let’s get cooking’ project showed that 92% of them used their learnt skills at home.

Read the full article here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-16854572

How can this be related to our current climate?

Cooking is a great way to educate children, young people and even adults on what food choices they have available, where to get them, how much they cost, what exactly they can do with them and how to use ingredients. Young people at the centre where I work love to cook, however we don’t just run cooking sessions due to the recession and budget cuts we tend to run ‘cooking on a budget’ sessions. Where we make wholesome meals (and sometimes desserts) which cost less than £5.00 for a group of people (on average I’d say around 10 people but it depends on what we cook)! So far we’ve made wonderful rice, potato and pasta dishes as well as experimenting with pancakes, chocolate, honeycomb and porridge (not all at the same time I might add!) The young people who participate are now experts at flavouring rice dishes, in love with porridge and can make their own oven chips from scratch, this week we plan to be making chicken burgers which I hope will go well (even if a session doesn’t go a 100% to plan it’s still a learning experience which can be built on).

If no-one in the group has experience of cooking a particular dish we use this website http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/. If anyone can suggest any other sites please comment below, and especially mention it if you know a recipe which will cost less than £5.00 to feed a group (we’re always on the look out for new things to try).

Thank you

Forming a Youth Service Directory (my working placement for university)

Forming a directory is something I have never done before, not only have I never done it but I have also been asked to do it outside of the area that I work. Why? The reason the directory was proposed to me is that staff and young people of the area would benefit from knowing what is out there for young people to access so that it can be used as a form of partnership referral for any needs/wants that young people have.

Who proposed this idea to me? A youth development officer (YDO), who then arranged for a local community education officer (CEO) to supervise me. During my discussion with the YDO I was very clear about the fact that I didn’t want a CEO who would constantly tell me what to do, as this placement was to demonstrate my own management and development skills. When they explained that I would be to contact all the local youth services, clubs and groups I said yes that sounds like something I can do. What I didn’t explain at this stage (and wasn’t aware of myself) was the fact that I have only ever completed one piece of community work previously (a community profile) which I did as part of a group not by myself and on an area I had more knowledge of.

Now that I am in placement I am realising how my previous confidence  in my own ability and determined attitude to do ‘a good job’ in order to get this project done has made me overlook a few key aspects of it.

-The biggest aspect is that I have completely overlooked young people and their community’s view on this directory (as stated in a previous reflection: https://pedagogyuk.wordpress.com/2012/01/12/had-a-meeting-today/). After some thought I have put posters up in the local youth/community centres in order to encourage participation and introduce the idea of what is going on. As pointed out by blogger http://yourideasredditch.wordpress.com/ this may not be as effective as I’d like. Very easily it could be ignored, misunderstood and overlooked meaning that it isn’t very accessible to people.

The reason behind this lack of youth input into the project is the result of another issue…

-I don’t have enough time, due to work commitments in the evening to go to their youth clubs, streets, community centres and such. I am only in their community during the time they are likely (depending on age) to be in education, training and work. One of the ways I hope to combat this is to ask the youth and community staff to become involved in the project. As much as I dread asking people to do something for me (especially as I have never met them) I will have to try and ask the local staff to introduce people to the project and find out their opinions on it; what they think should go in there, how it should be laid out/accessibly, who should have access to it and so on.

I do worry that when I leave something in someone else’s hands I cannot guarantee the effectiveness of their work, we are different people and we work in different ways. However their way is probably best as they are the local youth and community workers who will be supported by their CEO’s on this (as I am writing to them explaining the project as well).

-The last key aspect of this directory is that it was not initiated by the local community (as far as I am aware) or if it was then not though my own work. The fact that I have started this project with no previous contact with the community is a shame and I wish that I had tried to instigate this contact sooner.

That’s all my blogging for this moment, please feel free to comment and add your opinions/suggestions to further my personal development and hopefully make this project run more smoothly.

Thank you

Had a meeting today…

…and figured that throughout my university placement which is ‘forming a directory for young people’ in three local areas that I have focused on finding all the info myself and doing all the work myself hence not actually asking any young people what they think. What a great ‘youth worker’ I have been!! Not only is it not giving young people an opportunity to suggest local services that they would like to feature in the directory but I’m probably selling myself short of information as it’s their area and not mine -so they may have a much better idea and maybe even some contacts!!

This shall be rectified, posters will go up inviting suggestions for the directory and if there’s interest maybe a focus group…any other suggestions? 🙂

Thank you!

The art of conversation

Many writers will state that conversation is the key factor of youth/community work (Batsleer, 2008; Jeffs and Smith, 2005; Young, 1999).

Paulo Freire claims that conversation/communication and experimentation are at the heart of an individuals learning (Freire, 2010).

So then what is the key to conversation? How do we maximise the amount we learn from each other? My suggestion today is by asking as little questions as possible!

Yes it’s true, during recent Child Protection training we were told to wait and converse at an individuals pace and to not ask questions. Instead using simple acknowledging words or sounds lets the other person know you are listening. Questions guide conversations, for example when you ask how someone’s day went they will begin to tell you, if you then ask them what they plan tomorrow they will then begin to let you know this…however, maybe if you left a pause at the end of their first answer they would have thought of more about that topic and continued speaking -leading the conversation more naturally.

Although to some people this suggestion may seem natural and to others it may seem alien, all of us should reflect on our conversion skills and improve them. Through conversation we make realisations, through reflections we develop and through communication we share information. As an informal educator and a reflective practitioner it is my job to ensure that I encourage expression in others, I hope this will help me in doing so.

Thank you

A participative outlook on work

Youth work within it’s aim is hugely participative.

Many texts on the purpose, origins and explanations of what constitutes youth work/informal education and what defines it explore that participation is one of the most important factors of work with young people. The choice to come to youth club or talk to a street worker is a leading factor in the relationship between an adult and young person not beginning negatively. Tony Jeffs, Mark Smith, Janet Batsleer and Kerry Young are all within the list of youth work authors outlining the importance of participation and relationship. Within the Youth Work Curriculum Statement for Wales participation is valued as one of the four pillars of youth work, giving youth workers the guideline that ‘education’, ‘participation’, ‘expression’ and ’empowerment’ are paramount to the delivery of youth work.

Within my own experience I can remember looking back on my training as a volunteer by my local authority, we are given these four pillars as a bases for our work and youth work was hailed as a changing form of education which was important to the development of people’s lives, we were encouraged to begin measuring ‘small outcomes’ of our work for example: during a cooking exercise people need to use skills such as reading, measuring, planning, cleaning, team working and communication. Alongside this consultation was to be the beginning of every piece of work: here is where the participation came in, young people were asked what they would like to do and we would plan (preferably with them) how to go about it.

After a switch in line-management due to a promotion of my previous boss although much consultation was done, and many options arose they were often considered as too expensive or discouraged from continuing, this in fact had the opposite reaction of what many youth work authors describe youth work as; the young people began to ‘lose faith’ in our youth service and began to believe their ideas and hopes would not become a reality.

It has been many years since that time, I actually left the youth club in question as I couldn’t handle the oppression I felt and that I then had to put on young people, I had given up on the youth service. Luckily I was talked into other voluntary opportunities by friends/colleagues and eventually gained another job. If I had the management I had back then in my new job I would surely feel more confident to challenge it, thankfully I do not! However, I still feel the financial pinches of working within a government service which is being drastically cut.

This year a project group I work with has looked for external means, firstly they applied for funding which was unfortunately dis-continued without explanation and secondly they have written to a local counsellor for help with their aims (currently pending reply). I hope we can gain external help so that the group beings to achieve some of the aims they’d like to. These are a group of 10-20 people aged 10-17 whom are looking to create local sporting opportunities in their own areas of interest and for their own leisure/development.

In order to gain more internal and external support for the youth service pressure seems to be on practitioners to provide membership numbers and recorded outcomes from their services. I feel measuring outcomes is great but also I think something important is over-looked ‘partnership work’ and getting outsiders to look into our work and influence it. Parents, teachers, health professionals, police, fire workers, charitable youth provisions, and all the other social groups that aren’t just ‘young people’. If we could integrate these people in our work and let them know exactly what we do and how we do it I think we would have a much more recognised profession. In this way I am suggesting that youth work becomes slightly more community focused in approach however I would never suggest we take the ownership young people feel over youth centres and projects away, that defeats my point.

Please feel free to feedback, comment and make discussion, I am no expert just a pratictioner looking for ways to improve my field.

Thank You