Creating Opportunities for Youth to Observe

Staff should create opportunities for youth to observe models of successful work.

Through modeling, staff demonstrate skills youth need to learn for their projects (e.g., carpentry or speaking skills, skills for planning and problem solving) and expose youth to models of successful work that set high expectations (e.g., youth learn about projects from prior years, novices work with veteran youth or expert staff).

Staff should provide examples of the skills youth are learning. There are always adults who are experienced experts in the fundamental skills of the program, whether it be designing and building wooden boats, developing outdoor survival skills, or learning to overcome fears of public speaking.

Staff can also intentionally model skills by having youth join them in authentic, real-world situations. Sometimes modeling skills is woven into a mentoring relationship.

Quote markWe recruit staff and volunteers with experience as mentors and facilitators capable of relating to our youth and building trusting relationships. This mentoring relationship is critical as staff will lead youth through sensitive issues and challenging self-discovery.

Modeling is both part of explicit training and something integrated into ongoing daily experiences. In at least half of the SEL Challenge programs, older or more experienced youth serve as role models for newer youth. Staff cultivate a culture of action in which novice youth learn from veterans and exemplars of successful work are highlighted. The presence and involvement of veteran youth participants helps to reinforce the culture and expectations for the novice youth. This concept is enacted in various ways. At The Possibility Project (TPP), the Production Team is a group of returning youth who make decisions about the production, help to facilitate rehearsals, and write the script. At YOB, the Working Group is a smaller team who apply to be leaders and are responsible for making decisions about the campaigns and activities for the larger Steering Committee. At Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory (PWBF), returning youth work together on more challenging designs. They are in the same space at the same time as the novice groups and sometimes mentor the novice apprentices.

Further Reading

Join the Discussion

In your life, who did you look to for guidance on how to solve problems? How did these individuals approach them?