By Guest Blogger Eva Jo Meyers, Spark Decks
According to an article published in Keshet this summer, crisis calls to the Trevor Project’s hotline doubled during the quarantine.
Prior to the pandemic, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s 2017 LGBTQ teen survey showed that:
In addition, according to CDC data taken from the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior (YRBS) Survey of LGBTQ students,
It is because of statistics like these that Spark Decks said, “Yes!” when we were approached about making a deck to support LGBTQ+ Youth Allyship. Or, actually, what we said was, “NO! But we will work with young people to create a deck BY youth, for youth.” And so that’s what we did.
Like the name suggests, Spark Decks are decks of cards. Each card contains one idea, or “micro-practice” that can be implemented in youth-serving programs. We have decks on topics ranging from SEL to Supporting English Language Learners, to Self-Care. Users pick one card at a time, try it out in their program, and then reflect on how it went.
But while all of our previous decks have been for adults, this one is different - because this one is for youth.
Thanks to the support of San Francisco’s Department of Children, Youth, and Their Families (DCYF), this past fall, prior to shelter-in-place orders, we hosted six sessions with Middle, High school, and Transitional-Aged youth, focusing on the question, “What can an ally do to support LGBTQ+ youth and staff at our school?”
We started each session with an icebreaker, then spent time discussing the statistics outlined above. Did these numbers match participants’ experience? (Yes!) Did any of the statistics surprise them? (Yes!)
After creating collages that illustrated allyship, (you can see parts of the collages on the box of the new deck!), we spent an hour doing a brainstorm activity to generate ideas about how an ally could be a support, and put those ideas into categories. It’s those ideas and categories that now live in our new “LGBTQ+ Youth Allyship” deck.
As with all Spark Decks, the new deck has 52 ideas, culled from the six sessions. Based the cards, here are a few actions youth in your program might consider implementing during the pandemic, and beyond:
Once the school year gets underway, Spark Decks will be offering Training-of-Trainer style workshops that teach staff how to run an allyship workshop using the deck either at their sites - or virtually.
And what did participants have to say about being part of the project? “That people will dedicate themselves to learning pronouns is inspiring.” “I learned that it is really important to be an EDUCATED ally.” “I learned that advocacy starts with communication and collaboration.” “Thank you for holding space for us to talk about this.”
I hope you will all join me in making space to “talk about this,” even - and especially - during the pandemic.
Eva Jo Meyers is the co-founder of Spark Decks and the author of the book, “Raise the Room: A practical guide to participant-centered facilitation.” She has held positions as a program leader, manager, and district coordinator for afterschool programs. To learn more about Spark Decks, visit www.spark-decks.com.
Check out My Pal, Luke! My Pal, Luke is designed to address many social emotional elements through his words and questions, including a check-in with kids. Luke also reads his favorite books and educates kids on how to make sense of current events and the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be easily embedded in distance learning efforts or used with in- person programming. To watch an introduction to My Pal, Luke, click here.
By Sam Piha
Kwame Scruggs, Ph.D is ED of Alchemy Inc. in Akron, Ohio. He was featured in the 2014 documentary, Finding the Gold Within. This documentary chronicled the transition of young black men from high school to college, the issues of racism they encountered, and the role of Alchemy Inc., an afterschool program in supporting this transition. We were so taken by the film, that we sponsored several screenings in the San Francisco Bay Area. (To watch or stream the documentary, Finding the Gold Within, click here.) Below are Dr. Scruggs' responses to our questions about the documentary and the strategies he has incorporated into his afterschool program, which serves boys of color.
Q: In the film, Finding the Gold Within, it portrayed the use of "talking circles" to provide support for the young men. Why do you believe that "talking circles" are an important strategy in youth work?
A: I think any format that allows youth a safe setting is important. A circle is ideal because of the symbolism of oneness, there is no real beginning or end, everything is connected. You can have order or non-order in a circle. Our circle is somewhat unique in that the youth sit in the circle by age, from youngest to oldest.
Q: You also encourage the use of writing/ journaling. Why do you believe that the use of writing/ journaling is an important strategy in youth work?
A: Writing causes you to reflect. When speaking we often blurt-out the first thing that comes to our mind. Writing causes you to pause and give your thought more thought.
Q: People often comment that young African American youth do not like writing, therefore this is not a good strategy. Your comments on this?
A: I am not certain if this only pertains to African American youth. In our situation the proof is in the pudding, so it IS obviously a good strategy for us. There have been numerous occasions where our youth have informed me that it was opening-up their journals that assisted them through their darkest moments. It was the quotes and recalling moments in the myths that allowed them to persevere. It was their responses to questions that reminded them of what they thought at a certain moment and how that same thought would add comfort to a challenging situation.
To find where to view/ stream Finding the Gold Within, click here. For an update on the documentary protagonists, click here.
G. Kwame Scruggs, Ph.D is the founder and director of Alchemy, a non-profit organization in Akron, Ohio established in 2003. Alchemy uses mythological stories to engage urban adolescent males. In 2012 Alchemy was one of 12 programs to receive the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities—the nation’s highest honor for after-school and out-of-school programs. Alchemy was also the backdrop for the award-winning, feature-length documentary, “Finding the Gold Within.” Kwame has over 20 years of experience using myth in the development of urban male youth. He holds a Ph.D. and MA in Mythological Studies with an emphasis in Depth Psychology. Kwame also holds a MS degree in Technical Education with an emphasis in Guidance and Counseling. In 1993, after being formally initiated into the Akan System of Life Cycle Development (African-based rites of passage), Kwame became a Certified Facilitator of this process. In 2016, Kwame was one of seven recipients awarded the National Guild’s Milestone Certificate of Appreciation and one of three to receive the University of Akron’s Black Male Summit Legacy Award. Kwame is a recently appointed board member of the Joseph Campbell Foundation and serves on the National Advisory Committee of the Creative Youth Development National Partnership.
By Sam Piha
The Center for Promise is the applied research institute for America’s Promise Alliance. They set out to listen deeply to a diverse group of over 100 young people across the country about the critical program features driving their learning and development. The themes and insights that emerged make up the report entitled, All of Who I Am: Perspectives from Young People About Social, Emotional and Cognitive Learning. The report affirmed what we have known for decades, but it is always good to hear straight from youth. Below we quote the report's 6 critical program features youth name most essential to their learning and development.
To learn a little bit more about this study we interviewed Jennie Rosenbaum (EduCare Foundation's ACE Initiative Site Coordinator at Social Justice Humanitas Academy, LAUSD), who's youth participated in the study. Below she responds to our questions.
Q: How is it that you were selected to participate in this study?
A: Last spring, we received word from Jennifer Peck (Partnership for Children and Youth) on how to apply for an upcoming study by the Center for Promise. The Center for Promise wanted to include young people in conversation and research to better understand what young people felt was necessary to create conditions that supported their social, emotional, and academic growth.
Highlighting our extensive work in social-emotional learning since 1990, we at EduCare Foundation applied and subsequently received word that we were one of seven organizations nationally selected for the America's Promise Alliance's study. High school students at Social Justice Humanitas Academy, one of our outstanding LAUSD Beyond the Bell afterschool program sites and an EduCare ACE Initiative school site, were chosen by EduCare to participate. ACE Initiative school sites empower students, teachers, and parents to enrich themselves and their school community with kindness, empathy and human connection.
Q: What did you think about America’s Promise findings?
A: The America’s Promise findings reveal what young people need to feel safe, seen, heard, understood, worthy and loved--that which we all seek in order to thrive. In these times when inequities are even more prominently visible, these findings direct us towards a framework to re-invent educational spaces to meet everyone’s needs, not relying on youth to figure it out or to get lucky in a system that doesn’t always work in their favor.
Q: Would you comment on the critical features named in the report?
A: I most liked the interdependence and intersectionality of the six themes. Growth and self-actualization does not happen in a vacuum. The best lesson taught by the most renowned teacher passes over the head of the student who has no connection to the person teaching them or the people sitting to their left and right. Even then, the lesson stays in the student’s head, leaving no impact on the world, leading to no change if the student lacks agency or a way to apply it meaningfully.
Q: Can you give an example/ practice of how “agency” is promoted?
A: Our school supports agency through a summer bridge program to help incoming ninth grade students build new relationships with teachers, peers and near-peer mentors, learn the expectations and supports offered at their new school and acclimate to the school culture in a low-risk setting. In the second week, teachers offered students options in STEM, Art and ELA through which students explored their identity and their goals for themselves and their communities.
Q: Can you give an example/ practice of how “intentionality” is promoted?
A: Our school reinforces intentionality through its partnership with EduCare’s ACE Initiative in which we start each school year building relationships with team building games, problem solving challenges outside of our comfort zones, goal setting for the year and beyond, and reflective talking circles or “heart talks.” For our students, this frames their way of starting their school year and their lives by developing greater personal leadership, empathetic connections, and a compassionate school culture in which they can be supported and thrive.
We'd like to share the latest project from Temescal Associates and The How Kids Learn Foundation- My Pal, Luke. My Pal, Luke is designed to address many social emotional elements through his words and questions, including a check-in with kids. Luke also reads his favorite books and educates kids on how to make sense of current events and the COVID-19 pandemic. It can be easily embedded in distance learning efforts or used with in- person programming. Check out episode 1 here or follow the My Pal, Luke Instagram for updates.
By Sam Piha
Being a youth worker is a very difficult job. They face a variety of challenges and dilemmas, as they work with a diverse group of young people. We collected a number of questions from youth workers and promised to engage experts and field leaders for their answers. Below are some of the questions we received and the answers that we sought out from field leaders, content experts and innovative practitioners. If you want to submit your own question, click here.
This blog is part 3 of our Q&A series. To read part 1, click here or part 2, click here. Stay tuned as we continue to explore questions from youth workers. (Note: we know that there are many answers to any question. Below, we offer some well-thought-out answers that we received. Because schools and agencies may have specific policies, we recommend that youth workers share their questions with their immediate supervisor. At the bottom we provide a brief bio about the respondents.)
Q: When an elementary student has different feelings about who they are sexually, how can we as a staff go about addressing the issue in a positive manner without being offensive toward the student? - Youth Worker, San Joaquin County, CA
A: “Most importantly, don’t intrude on the student if they do not want to talk about it. If they do want to talk about it, best strategy is to listen and then reflect positively about all the different ways people feel about who they are sexually. If you’ve observed their different feelings yourself but they haven’t expressed them, still take the opportunity, if available, to offer the same reflections with a number of students together, not connecting it directly to that specific student but as a learning moment for all students.”
- Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D.
Q: Regarding sexuality, how should you respond to a child (elementary school) "coming out" to you directly. What is appropriate and what should be avoided?
- Youth Worker, Kanawha County, WV
A: “If a student is sharing with you their sexual identity or attractions, it typically means that they trust you. What is appropriate is to first listen and also ensure confidentiality. Second, explore what support or help that student would like from you (e.g., helping them talk to their parents). Third, make sure the student is feeling safe and has not met up with any negativity. And most importantly, mirror back to them positive regard. What to avoid: negatively judging them for their feelings; offering support you’re not really able to provide.”
- Diane Ehrensaft, Ph.D.
Q: I am new in a program but I do have one kid who is really bossy. I am still unsure how to manage that kind of behavior since she even wants to tell me what to do in each activity. I only spent a day with that group because I was new and then the school shut down but I am still thinking about that kind of behavior and how to manage it. She is only 7 years old.
- Youth Worker, Imperial County, CA
A: "So, kids' behavior always makes sense, if only we knew the rest of the story. This kid, and others like her, have a need behind their drive to control things. Sometimes it's because they are anxious about the unknown and if they take charge, then they can control the narrative which makes them feel less anxious. Another example would be kids who have trouble following direction or instructions (lots of kids with learning glitches have this issue) so they get "bossy" because they if are the deciders about how something is going to be, they don't have to be able to "follow" a set of instructions which is actually hard for them. This happens a lot when kids want to control the game and the rules when they are playing with peers---it's easier to lead on their own terms than to understand when someone else describes how it's supposed to work. And yet another example would be a kid who is given too much authority at home and is used to that role, thinks it's expected of them, so that's how she operates outside of home too.
The best approach to handling this is to have compassion for the child (as annoying and disruptive as their behavior might seem) and recognize that there is actually a vulnerability or confusion that kid is having that is prompting the "bossy" or controlling behavior. Rather than challenging the child or pushing back on the behavior, thank the child for his or her intentions to be helpful and clarify "how it works' (i.e, that actually YOU are going to be directing things. For example, "Thanks for your ideas and help, but I have a plan in mind and I'll be the one leading the activities today. If you have some ideas you'd like to share with me, you can let me know about them at the end of the day and I'll be glad to consider them for another time." Meanwhile, keep an eye on that child to see if he or she is struggling in the role of "follower" or even "equal" because it's either difficult for them to process the rule or because they don't have the social skills to manage until they feel on top. Help them learn."
- Sheri Glucoft Wong, LCSW, Berkeley, Ca
Q: I have a student (elementary school) who is always doing some type of motion out of the ordinary and makes noises. He himself doesn't catch what he's doing, the rest of my group notices and from time to time gets frustrated. How do I deal or go about this situation?
- Youth Worker, San Joanquin County, CA
A: "This sounds like a child with some neuro-physiological issues. Perhaps this student has tics, which can be single repetitive motions or "marching tics" which are a series of various "out-of-the-ordinary" movements. There are also vocal tics (throat clearing, yelping, sniffing, etc) which may explain the noises. It's sad for the child when other kids respond with frustration or alienation since more often than not, these behaviors are involuntary. That's why the student himself isn't aware of them.
I would share your observations with the adult(s) in this child's life by simply describing the motions and sounds you have seen, as well as describing that the child doesn't seem aware of them and that you are concerned because other children are having a negative response to behavior they don't understand. Ask the adult if they are aware of it as well. If they are, perhaps you can discuss ways to manage the situation that won't embarrass the kid with the tics (or whatever the issue might be)---for example "Sometimes his body or voice expresses itself in ways he didn't mean it to, and he is so used to that happening that he doesn't notice. His family has learned to work around the motions and sounds and we're going to learn to do that too." You can see it as an opportunity to support acceptance of differences with kindness and generosity. If the student's grown-ups weren't aware, you may be giving them info they didn't have and can let them know it would be helpful if they checked in with the pediatrician to understand what might be going on so you can work with them to better support the child in the social setting of your program."
- Sheri Glucoft Wong, LCSW, Berkeley, Ca
A: I agree with Sheri's answer above, with one additional thought: parents can be very touchy when learning of information about their child that they may view as "negative". These are very delicate conversations. It is best if you only share your observations and maybe concerns, while avoiding any medical terms or diagnosis.
-Sam Piha, MSW, Temescal Associates
Dr. Diane Ehrensaft is a developmental and clinical psychologist, Director of Mental Health at the Child and Adolescent Gender Center and Associate Professor of Pediatrics, University of California San Francisco. She has been a frequent contributor to our LIAS blog and the How Kids Learn conference. You can review her blog responses here and view a video presentation here.
Sheri Glucoft Wong is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker and family therapist. She’s known nationally for her parenting workshops and consultations with school leaders. In addition to her clinical practice, she has led workshops and seminars for childcare centers, medical centers, and private industry for over 30 years.
Sam Piha is the founder and principal of Temescal Associates, a consulting group dedicated to building the capacity of leaders and organizations in education and youth development.