Help me train the next generation of Alinskys and Obamas!
August 19, 2009 9:09 AM   Subscribe

Help me teach high school students how to be community organizers!

I got asked a few months ago to do a training for a community nonprofit's youth group on community organizing. The kids themselves put together the program for an anti-human trafficking conference, and they wanted to include a piece about community organizing and civic engagement. A friend from grad school asked me to lead the session and teach about organizing, as that's what I do for a gig.

I'll have 2, one-hour sessions with the kids, so I'll have to work pretty quickly. In the program for the conference they're attending, my sessions are called "Community Organizing 101."

Now, I am a community organizer, and I do trainings pretty regularly, but I don't often work with high school students. I'm hoping you all will be able to offer some insight on what would be the best way to teach them.

What tips, tricks, or gimmicks would you use to teach kids about community organizing? What handouts or visual examples would you use? What exercises might work?

So you know, I have a plan already, but I'm hoping to flesh it out some and get some additional ideas to make it cool. The help of the Hive Mind is appreciated!
posted by elmer benson to Grab Bag (2 answers total)
Best answer: I sponsor a Global Issues Club at the high school I teach at and my experience has been that the kids who are interested in things like how to be a community organizer are pretty keen students. You can probably use most of your usual stuff for adult workshops with the high school group. However, here are some things that I find work really well. Use anything that gets them up and moving. You don't want to just talk at them for a couple of hours. Facilitating discussion by getting them to move around the room is really simple but effective. I have signs around the room that say Agree/Unsure/Disagree. I read out a statement and they move to the sign that reflect how they feel and then discuss why they chose the group they did. Games are awesome. If you have a game of some sort that relates to your topic, they will like that. They also like personal stories. The guest speakers I have had in that get the best reviews are the ones that opened up and told their personal story. The students often bring up these speakers months later. Other than that be yourself and have fun. (If you are not having fun they certainly are not enjoying themselves.) Good Luck!
posted by sadtomato at 10:02 AM on August 19, 2009

Best answer: Cool!

It's been my experience that teaching youth is not all that different from teaching anyone else, really. Make sure to treat them like you think they are smart and capable. Youth like to be taken seriously, so don't be patronizing.

But they will probably have short-ish attention spans (especially if they have been in workshops all day), so here are a few tricks to keep things interesting/engaging:

*Role-playing and skits. Any time you can get people to role-play, the better. One way to make it more interesting is to have someone play a character that they are NOT (if they are a guy, play a girl; a liberal, a conversative; etc. - up to them). Be aware that this will take time, and no matter how much time you allot, it will probably never be enough.

*Invite them to talk about what they think and/or their experiences (without getting into anything too personal). It may be a good idea to have them break up into groups first, and then share back as a group.

*There is usually one or two over-enthusiastic kids. Inviting one of them to lead an activity (especially if they seem to be more on the popular side) might help keep others engaged.

*I would avoid giving out too many handouts, but if you can incorporate arts & crafts into your program at all, I would highly recommend it. Even if it's just like "draw what your ideal community would look like" or whatever fits with your curriculum.

Good luck - I'm sure you'll be fine.
posted by lunit at 10:14 AM on August 19, 2009

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