Discovery Youth Evaluation 2002 - 2003
The challenges that Discovery Youth has faced are not insignificant. One of the most encouraging aspects of the whole program is that the staff -- and some participants -- recognize these challenges and are trying different strategies to meet them. As has been shown throughout the program year, the CDM staff and the DY participants care about each other, care about the program, and care about doing good work. Furthermore, they all care about making the program better.
Below is a list of the major challenges that Discovery Youth has faced this year.
Quality versus Quantity of projects:
Throughout the program year, the staff have focused on leading DY participants through the process of creating high-quality educational media. The tradeoff has been that the Discovery Youth did not produce as many projects as they had outlined in their original proposal.
Staff explained that it was more important to examine complex issues thoroughly with Discovery Youth participants than to rush through the media creation process. One staff member commented:
For the older kids, because the topics were so heavy we got into a ‘revolving door’ of discussion and development process, and then didn't’t quite have enough time to complete the videos. It is important to know what did the kids get out of the process of discussions. For example, we had a long discussion about eating disorders, didn’t make a video out of it, but we had a meaningful dialogue. What did they take away from it? How did they feel about it? How is this forum different from other places to discuss these things?
Handling Staff Turnover
“It's challenging because every time somebody leaves, the kids go through loss and rejection feelings” -- DY Staff member
"I understand why they leave, and I'm happy for them, but I wish they would stay a little longer..I miss [him]" -- DY Participant
Twice in the past year, DY staff members have left because of the economics of living in Northern California . While the participants and staff understood why the staff members left, they still realize that a lot of time is spent building new trusting relationships.
A real positive for the program is the high level of enthusiasm that the new staff member has shown. She commented, “I’m incredibly excited about next year, especially if we have some good planning time...I definitely feel a part of the team..I feel totally accepted with the newer kids."
Producing radio and web projects has less appeal to participants and staff than video, animation, and digital imagery.
So far, Discovery Youth has not produced any radio or web based projects. As in the first program year, two main reasons can explain why this is the case. First, the participants were most excited about making videos and less excited about other technologies; using video cameras sounded much more fun than using computers to design web pages or recording their voices for radio spots. Secondly, the program staff’s skill sets were better matched for video than radio and web projects.
On the other hand, youths worked in other areas to create health awareness projects. The finest example was the puppet show that they created for the banquet honoring Carroll Spinney, the creator of Big Bird and other Sesame Street characters. In the future, Discovery Youth would be well served to committing to developing projects without specifying the media that these projects could take.
Recruiting Consistent Participants
"We lost a solid group of folks early..by the end we had a lot of really new participants and a lot that couldn't come all of the time - some could only come on weekends, and others only on weekdays...we had to chuck our original model of doing tech training during the week and activities including museum floor stuff on weekends" - DY Staff
Keeping consistent participation has been a challenge for DY during the past two program years. On one hand, there is a core group of youths who add a tremendous vitality to the projects and the environment in the Media Studio. On the other hand, the staff have been slightly frustrated by continually exploring the same skills and content to participants who come sporadically.
Some good news is that staff are already planning new ways to get a higher level of commitment from participants. one idea is to have a participants and their parents sign a commitment to come to Discovery Youth.
Develop ways to measure increased confidence, emotional health, and attitudes outside of DY setting
For the first time this year, Discovery Youth used a web-based survey to measure the attitudes and skill sets that participants have. Unfortunately, the follow-up survey was derailed by logistics (staff turnover and changes in evaluator's time i.e. I had a baby:). In future years, DY should build on the original web survey and try to capture stories of how Discovery Youth has helped participants in other parts of their lives. for example, It would be wonderful to have more stories of adolescents that can point to their time in Discovery Youth as a reason for success in school.
Continue high level of service in the Zoom Zone and throughout the program.
“I am teaching a lot of people a lot of things.” - DY participant
Discovery Youth has accomplished so much it will be a challenge to achieve this level of success in future years. At focus groups and in interviews, the participants continually expressed a high degree of satisfaction working in the Zoom Zone. Moving forward it will be important for Discovery Youth to build on the success of giving adolescents the responsibility of teaching younger children.
This report was written by Dan Gilbert. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com