Oh the Places You’ll Go…With a Little Guidance!

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her previous posts here.

Do you know the Dr. Seuss book Oh the Places You’ll Go? It’s a story many graduating high school students know well, whether they have read the book or not: the struggle to reach goals and go far in life. Sometimes, those long travels start with a step, sometimes with unsure footing. For example, I can clearly remember my college application process during my senior year of high school. I thought I was going to drown underneath the waves of papers that were consuming my desk, my bed, my bedroom floor, and also (much to my parents’ dismay) the living room coffee table.  I was completely overwhelmed. Without a guide, the college admissions process can be a confusing and convoluted path for many high school students. I can’t even tell you the things I would have given for someone to tell me exactly what a college admissions representative would be looking for in my application, or even just to answer the one, big question: which college do I choose?

This week in the Youth Imagine Project, our volunteers received a special visit from Meredith Gadd, an admissions representative from the University of New England. She talked with the students about the things they should consider when choosing a school, so that they would find the best fit. She discussed the growing trend of students getting their two year degree at a local community college before getting into a Bachelor’s program at a four year university. She also talked to students about admissions requirements, such as SAT scores and grades. Meredith then took questions from the students, many of whom plan on furthering their education in nursing programs at local universities and technical schools.

Perhaps what I’m trying to say is that there is a fine print to Dr. Seuss’s message. Yes, you can go very far. It will be hard, and you can work through it, but sometimes a little help goes a long way.  Contrary to the words of the late, great Dr. Seuss, we are not all alone in our journey for greatness. We were very thankful to have Meredith’s help this Tuesday, and she did a wonderful job! Our volunteers found her information very useful, especially as many of them are juniors and will be starting the college application process in the fall!

Looking to the Future

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her previous posts here.

This week during the Youth Imagine Project, a few students picked dates for their projects or for personal meetings to discuss their projects further. We also focused some more attention on job applications, and a few of our students even applied for the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine’s Youth Ranger position! As our students begin preparing for summer, many of them have more and more questions regarding college as many of them will start the college application process when they return to school in the fall. To help our Youth Imagine volunteers, we have reached out to our friends at the University of New England, who will be sending an admissions official to discuss the application process with our students. More updates on that later!

This week, Jamie and I are also starting work on making the Youth Imagine Project a sustainable program. Thus, these next few weeks are going to dedicated to creating policies and procedures for future Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine staff. It’s a great time for Jamie and I to sit down and think about what worked about the Youth Imagine Project, and what still needs to be changed a little bit. We’ll be covering everything from recruiting and applications to the actual workshops volunteers participated in. We can’t wait to go over every detail!

Big Plans Ahead!

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her previous posts here.

It’s been a crazy couple of weeks! It’s SAT weekend for high school juniors (good luck to all you wonderful high schoolers who are taking them!) and it’s finals week at USM. Needless to say, both the Youth Imagine volunteers and I have been extremely busy!  Despite our hectic schedules, we had a successful meeting at Portland High School this week. Here are some things are wonderful Youth Imagine volunteers are doing:

  • Elfriede is about to start work on her painting. It will detail all of the different vegetables and fruits in our greenhouse. Isn’t that awesome?
  • Munira and Hindia are going to work together to do a theatre/storytime program about bullying and culture – more updates later on!
  • Samia is going to help out with some tea programs that we have at the Museum. She knows how to make Sudanese and Egyptian tea. Make sure to come in this summer when she is doing these tasty programs!
  • Alias is going to help in the putting together of our new greenhouse.
  • Suzan wants to do a language program about Arabic. We are thinking she might write a visitor’s name on a piece of paper for them in Arabic, which they can then decorate.

This last week the Youth Imagine volunteers have been participating in a professional development workshop about job applications and resumes. It’s the time of the year when high school students are looking for part-time and summer employment. Do you remember what it was like to get your first job? Wasn’t it exciting? Sometimes the process of finding a good job in high school can be confusing. How can you tell what an employer is looking for? How can you market yourself when you don’t have any job experience? These are some questions we tried to answer on Tuesday.  We cruised around some online job listings, and discussed what types of jobs were appropriate for high school students, and what types of companies hire seasonal employment. Next week, we will be focusing on resume writing. Some of our kids have already gotten a head start on their resumes, which is awesome! We hope that these types of workshops will help our kids enter the job market. It’s a tough thing to get started in for a lot of high school students! 

I also hope that next week we can start picking dates for our students to come in and do their programs with our visitors, or work on the projects that will be displayed in the Museum. I can’t wait to see how all of their projects turn out!

We’re Going Through Some Changes!

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her previous posts here.

Last week Jamie and I sat down and really discussed how we can make the Youth Imagine Project more accessible and convenient for both us, the administrators of the project, and for our students. We also wondered how we could streamline the drafting process of student projects, and make it more structured.  So, two lattes and a lunch break later, Jamie and I feel we have come up with a few new adjustments that will make this project even better for both students and the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine!

1)      Location, Location, Location

We have found one of the biggest troubles we are having with this project is the location. While the Children’s Museum & Theatre is awesome for playtime, there is very little space for a group of 10-12 teenagers and two adults to sit down and actually discuss new ideas. Thus, we are hoping to move our meetings to Portland High School. The Program will still run at the same time, but it will be easier for our students because they will only have to walk down the hall to meet with us, instead of having to walk a few blocks. Also, PHS has a lot more space for us to meet in!

2)      Structure

We’ve found that the actual projects that the students are creating need a little more structure than we had initially planned. While our students are brilliant, they need a little more guidance than a blank page. We are now hoping to structure their projects around cultural programs that can be done with visitors at the Museum. So many of our students have expressed interest in sharing their culture with others that we feel this will be a good fit for both the students and for us, as we are trying to create more culture focused programs.

This has been a learning process for sure, but we are so glad that our students have been patient with us and are so brilliant! They always bring something new and awesome to the program to share with us, and we hope that these changes will benefit them! Stay tuned for new updates next week!

Lesson Plans

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her previous posts here.

An aspect of the Youth Imagine Project is giving students professional skills that will help them achieve success, no matter what path they may choose to take in life. This Tuesday, Rahma and I drafted a rough draft of a lesson plan for her Where Does Your Food Come From? program. A lesson plan details the objective of your program, the materials needed and the script for the program that tells the reader things that they can say and do with the visitors. Basically, a lesson plan is a description of your project that can be used by others who want to do your program themselves.

Lesson plans are usually used by educators, and some of the things you learn by writing one, such as the format and content needed, are specific to the task.  However, some of the skills that come with learning how to write one can be used in almost any discipline. Writing a lesson plan means learning how to write clearly and concisely, which is valued in any discipline that requires communication.  Writing clearly is one of those things that appear easy, but once you start doing it you learn it is harder than it sounds. Clear writing includes correct spelling, grammar, and appropriate vocabulary. Can you think of a time someone didn’t communicate clearly? Wasn’t it confusing?

Next week, Rahma and I will work together to edit her lesson plan so that it is as clear as possible. In general, writing is a process, and creating a lesson plan is no different. Check in next week for more exciting updates!

Sketches & Erasers

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her first post here.

This Thursday I got the chance to meet with Elfriede, one of the Youth Imagine students I have mentioned in prior blogs. She brought in a sketch of the painting she is going to make for us, which details the different types of plants that you can find in our brand new greenhouse! It looked really awesome, and we are working out the details as to how large it can be, as well as what painting supplies we would be able to give her. Soon, she will be coming in to work on it, and it will turn from a pencil sketch to a permanent piece of artwork.

Like Elfriede’s plans for her painting, the Youth Imagine Project is still in the sketching stage. It’s a pilot program, which means certain plans will have to be erased and replaced with more manageable and relevant ideas. This does not mean that the project is doing poorly. On the contrary, alterations are merely an indication that this program could become permanent once it is perfected. Much the same as any piece of art, perfection takes a lot of eraser marks. I guess what I am trying to say is that you don’t fix something just to throw it out! You want to keep it around!

The biggest change we have made to the Youth Imagine Project over the past few weeks is the scheduling. We’ve found that our students have taken on a great amount of responsibility, and have many interests that manifest in other settings than the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine. For example, many of our students are participating in Portland High School’s International Show.  While this is a very exciting opportunity for our students to share their culture with the community, their practices were at the same time as the Youth Imagine Project! We are flexible though, and decided that this was the perfect opportunity to change how we structure the meetings with our students. We’ve found that one-on-one time is most beneficial for both the students and the people who are working with them. This is hard to do when you have 10-12 amazing students in one room. We’ve decided to change the scheduling of the program from one 2 hour group session, to multiple small group or individual meetings that are scheduled in different time slots during the week. We hope that this will make our program more convenient for our busy students, but if not, we will just alter it one more time!

We can’t wait until this volunteer program is perfected, but until then, we will slave over the sketches and make changes until our figurative erasers are merely nubs that we hold between our nails as we scratch the paper trying to make a change. We want to make sure that this program is a perfect fit for the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine, but also a perfect fit for the youth that participate in it. Stay tuned for next week for new and exciting updates!

What’s in the Greenhouse?!

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her first post here.

Have you peeked out into our backyard lately? Have you noticed a new addition? We have a greenhouse now! Isn’t that exciting? We have started planting lots of new fruits and vegetables for our garden, but how will you know what is what? I mean really, how many people know the name of every type of vegetable and fruit (and trust me, we picked some awesomely unusual ones!) and know exactly what it looks like? I’m betting not many!

This is where one of our Youth Imagine students, Elfriede, steps in. She is thinking about painting a picture of all of the different plants in our greenhouse, including kale, carrots, melons, broccoli and so much more! Along with the image, she will also label each plant with its name, the amount of time it takes to grow, and also the vitamins that you can get from eating it. We aren’t exactly sure where this painting will go just yet, but you can be sure it will be located within sprouting distance of the greenhouse so you can reference it.

It will still be a little while before the greenhouse is all set for our visitors. Soon, the plants will all be in their raised beds, and children will be free to explore it and participate in a variety of programs that are being designed specifically for the greenhouse. (Plus, it’s still chilly out, so it wouldn’t be nearly as fun to play in it right now!) When you do get a chance to poke around in it, make sure to keep an eye out for Elfriede’s painting!

Polishing a Project

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her first post here.

It’s mid-term week at USM, which means I’m in the dregs of research and outlines for papers. Personally, I think the best part about doing a presentation, or writing a paper, is polishing them until they sparkle, and just finding that perfect phrase to get my point across. It’s really the little details that matter. This Tuesday, a couple of students began putting the finishing touches on their service-learning projects, and even picked the dates for their programs!

One of our students, Rahma, has decided to do an education program called Where Your Food Comes From. She wants to teach children that their food does not just come from a grocery store, or a kitchen, but is actually grown in a garden first. She hopes to do this program in the Explore Some More room, and then bring the kids to our new greenhouse to show them the plants we are growing! It’s very exciting!

Another one of our students, Suzan, wants to do an education program focused on language. She hopes to teach the kids a little about her own language, Arabic, by teaching them some Arabic letters, and showing the kids how she writes them. Did you know that Arabic is written from right to left, instead of left to right? Isn’t that awesome? Suzan is thinking about doing this program in the We Are Maine exhibit.

These kids are really getting to the point where they can focus on the details of their projects. For example, we asked them how they would keep kids excited while doing their projects. Their answers ranged from food, to art, to music!  Hopefully, next week, we’ll have more amazing ideas to share with you!

Service Learning & Student Voice

Stacy Normand is a Cultural Programs intern at the Children’s Museum & Theatre of Maine. She is blogging about the Youth Imagine Project. Read her first post here.

This week, the Youth Imagine Project focused on proposal writing. We discussed how a proposal is used, the different sections of a proposal, and then the students began writing their own for their service learning projects. While talking about introductions, I asked the students to think about what makes their projects important, why should someone pay attention to what they are doing? They came up with many awesome answers, but it got me thinking, why is the Youth Imagine Project important?

There are many benefits to service-learning projects. Studies have proven that it can lead to higher graduation rates because it keeps students more engaged with the classroom by connecting academics with real-world experiences. However, as a whole, Portland’s drop-out rate is better than the national average, and our students’ school, Portland High School, has drop-out rates that are better than many other high schools in Maine. In other words, while higher graduation rates are grand, they aren’t exactly the biggest concern. There are many other statistics that prove the benefits of service learning, and the ones most relevant to the Children’s Museum and Theatre of Maine share the same factor: voice.

Looking back on my high school years, I can honestly say that one of my biggest frustrations with school was a lack of voice. Even the student government, the voice of the entire student body, really didn’t seem to have a say in the decisions that affected us, and it really hurts student morale and confidence. One of the great benefits of service-learning projects is that it gives students voice, especially in the case of the Youth Imagine Project, in which they design their own project. Studies have proven that service-learning projects that allow students to have their own voice lead to students participating more in political engagement and are more connected to their community. One study has even stated that students become more accepting of differences, which I find poignant considering that many of our students are designing projects centered on the idea of teaching children about accepting cultural differences, and the prevention of bullying.

Snowflakes and Thought Drops

Normally, as a college student, I welcome any snow day so that I can forget my academic responsibilities, remain in my pajamas, drink hot cocoa, and just enjoy a day’s worth of relaxation. Not so this winter. As the Community Engagement Intern, I found myself wishing that the snow would stop showing up on Tuesdays so that we could get the Youth Imagine Project up and running.

The Youth Imagine Project is an exciting new program which works with immigrant high school students from Portland High School to develop their own service-learning project within the museum, while simultaneously offering them professional development workshops to help them gain skills for college and the workforce. It’s exciting not only because we are working with a new age bracket of students, but also because…well…these kids are awesome and have so many ideas to share with the Children’s Museum and Theatre staff and visitors!

You can imagine our excitement when the snowstorms stayed at bay, and our group of students was able to show up for a brainstorming session. Our kids came up with so many great ideas (what I sometimes like to call, in the spirit of weather metaphors, “thought drops”)! They are taking so many awesome avenues in their projects, including psychology, technology, tradition & culture, gardening, music, and drama.  Many of them expressed interest in running education programs with our visitors, while others are thinking of other ways to use their skills and interests.

We can’t wait until next week when we freeze these thought drops into more solid project ideas! I’ll be writing posts weekly, so stay tuned for further developments!