Discovery Youth Evaluation 2002 - 2003
Discovery Youth has had an enormously positive impact on the youth it has served. In focus groups, interviews, and surveys participants have demonstrated meaningful introspection, personal growth, and increased confidence. They have learned about specific health topics and have also learned how to make healthy decisions.
One way to look at the key successes of Discovery Youth is to analyze specific accomplishments within a higher-level framework of four "C's". From an outsider's perspective, it is clear that Discovery Youth is:
Discovery Youth is Caring:
The following are quotes from Discovery Youth participants describing their relationships with the program staff.
“[The staff] are both really good role models, they treat us like people. They understand us; they don’t look down on us.”
"I feel like I can tell them anything...They are somewhere between friend, parent and teacher, but they really care about us"
"They can understand our feelings, they can come to our level and talk with us"
"They talk to us like we're their family"
"They give us their opinions and share what they feel, they treat us like we are their equals"
One of the absolute successes of Discovery Youth is the supportive, caring, and positive relationships that the participants have with the staff. The staff help participants build confidence, discuss answers to sensitive questions, and give youths responsibility and respect that they do not experience elsewhere. The participants consistently cite their relationships with the staff as the best part of Discover Youth; these relationships far outweigh the fun they have learning technologies and working on projects with their friends. The CDM team should take tremendous pride in their accomplishments of building an environment where these relationships can be built and nurtured.
Discovery Youth is Challenging:
Creating high quality multimedia projects is hard work. Discovery Youth work on large and small teams with people who are different from themselves. Many hours of writing, editing, and producing go into the creation of short films and animations. At Discovery Youth, the participants expect to do good work and are challenged by each other and by staff to produce products worthy of showing to the public.
Learning new technologies and new ways of working is hard for people at any age. But more important than learning specific technologies is the fact that participants learn how to learn new technologies quickly. As new technologies emerge, the participants will be well-positioned to pick up the skills necessary to use these new technologies well.
“If school were like this, I’d be getting all A’s” - DY Participant
"This program has helped give me the confidence to move from middle school to high school. I won't be afraid of talking to new people...I won't be afraid if a teacher asks me to e-mail homework" - DY Participant
Participants also recognize that they are learning things outside of school. They realize that they work on teams with different people, that they collaborate on projects, that they can learn new technologies quickly, and that they have the confidence to recognize that what they learn in Discovery Youth can be transferable to other learning experiences including school.
Additionally, participants love the challenge and responsibility of teaching younger visitors in the Zoom Zone and throughout the Museum. One participant said that she enjoys the Zoom Zone because she "feels like I am helping the community and making a difference." This same young person said, "I take teachers more seriously now because I realize how frustrating teaching others can be."
Discovery Youth is Creative:
In Discovery Youth, participants have creative control over their projects. This is a major responsibility that differs tremendously from their projects in school where topics are usually assigned. In the "Super Safety" video that demonstrated safe behaviors in a variety of settings, it was the participants who came up with the scenarios and created the dialogue to develop the video. They took the responsibility seriously and produced a project that could be used with younger children in the Museum and in the community.
The participants have gained the skills to be creative in a media - rich environment. Not only are they developing their imaginations and storytelling skills, they are learning how to express themselves with video, animations, and images. The self-portraits provide a valuable look at how participants see themselves. Building on this project, staff could encourage participants to keep an image journal - creating self-portraits of themselves as important events in their lives arise.
Finally, the participants wrote, designed, and performed a large-scale puppet show for multiple audiences. Again, they had control over the design of the puppets and the content of the skit. For many DY'ers, this was a sharp contrast from similar projects in school where much of the content was already in place.
Discovery Youth is Collaborative:
"It's so much fun to work with others instead of sitting around and gossiping" - DY Participant
"I'm more open to working with strangers...to meeting new people" - DY Participant
At Discovery Youth, participants work in a group distinguished by its diversity of ages, skill sets, ethnic backgrounds, and interests. Furthermore, most of the participants go to different schools and each brings his or her own experience from school to the Discovery youth group. The participants teach each other new skills and provide each other with a supportive network that doesn't exist in other parts of their lives.
Many of the projects that Discovery Youth create require the help of others. Obviously the puppet show and the videos required multiple people to work many hours to complete the projects - they simply could not have been completed in an environment that did not value teamwork. Even while creating the self-portraits, the participants shared expertise and ideas to help each other through the project.
This report was written by Dan Gilbert. Feel free to contact him at email@example.com