Now, perhaps more than ever, educators and parents are struggling to keep young people engaged in learning. Whether we like it or not, remote education is becoming a part of our reality, and we can either sit and complain about it or take the steps that will help our children grow and create opportunities for them in the future. So how do we continue developing our kids while they stay at home with limited access to communication and nearly unlimited opportunities the world of the web presents to us? Project-based learning might be the answer we are all looking for.
Youth practitioners, teachers, and parents across the globe are coming to realize the positive effects of project-based learning on middle- and high-school students throughout the world. They see that through this approach children grow exponentially developing their own unique skills and discovering their passions. What is project learning after all? It is a nontraditional educational model that makes learning come alive for children, that creates opportunities for them to work on something they care about while learning essential academic and life skills and also interacting productively with their peers.
So not only do students gain knowledge and understanding of specific concepts, but they also develop collaboration, critical thinking, and communication skills while using and enriching their creativity. As a result, young people learn who they are and what they care about, which helps them find their purpose in life and, interestingly, also improves their academic performance. Project-based learning helps students make connections between subjects they are learning in school and the reasons behind learning them. Someone who discovers an interest in computer science through the project they worked on, for example, understands the value of math and therefore puts more conscious effort into studying it, which of course, always produces better academic results.
In January 2021 Dignity of Children is officially launching IDEAS Empowered by Youth – a project-based learning program designed to help young people imagine and execute local solutions to real-world problems by engaging them with topics that matter to them personally. IDEAS: Empowered by Youth curriculum is rooted in the “Sustainable Development Goals” established by the United Nations and includes the following four modules: “Health and Wellness”, “Financial Wellness”, “Entrepreneurship”, and “Climate Change”. The UN Developmental goals provide a framework for students to think about local solutions to global problems, so the curriculum is specifically designed to help bring positive change to their communities.
The Entrepreneurship module was originally piloted in the spring of 2019 with Dignity of Children’s program “Young Sharks” sponsored by DYCD. It was wildly successful. Students from participating programs formulated their own business concepts and presented them to a panel of business professionals in a culminating final event. The second pilot of “Young Sharks” took place virtually in the spring of 2020 and was once again sponsored by DYCD. For this school year 2020-21 the winning teams for Entrepreneurship will be paired up directly with professional mentors from Barclay Ventures, who will assist them in taking their business model to the next level. In Summer 2020, Dignity of Children successfully piloted all 4 curricula from Ideas: Empowered by Youth program in the SYEP Summer Bridge initiative with over 2000 young people ages 14-21. Over 300 children participated in the Financial Wellness Module and were connected with professionals from a wide range of fields. Again, the pilot was incredibly successful and received amazing reviews. Participants were very impressed with IDEAS and said things like: “This program exceeded my expectations. I learned new things and explored new career options I never knew existed. My summer was more worthwhile and productive than my previous summers.”
We are looking forward to offering IDEAS to educational institutions and individual families with the hope to not only enhance the learning environment for children and youth across the country but also to inspire positive change in the world. We believe that our children are brilliant, that they have the answers to the most complex problems humanity is facing right now. Adults just need to get out of their way, let go of the outdated, ineffective educational models and allow them to express their creativity and through that to shine their light upon the areas of life overcome by darkness. And we believe that IDEAS: Empowered by Youth offers this possibility.
If you want to learn more about IDEAS and discuss ways to incorporate the program or one of the curriculums into your school or individually into your child’s homeschooling process, please contact us via email: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org