Young people learn important leadership lessons in the Earth Institute’s pre-college program

Young people learn important leadership lessons in the Earth Institute’s pre-college program

by Cassie Xu and Joan Lopez
|February 4, 2021

In the fall of 2020, the Earth Institute launched its very first non-degree programs, with professional learning and pre-university preparation offerings. The Earth Institute’s non-degree programs aim to prepare learners to understand, analyze, and apply cutting-edge research to the complex problem of our climate change. The pre-university program helps high school students develop important skills, advance their learning outside of school, and prepare for the college experience.

We have been blown away by the caliber of our young learners and their commitment and dedication to learning in a tumultuous time. Below, an instructor shares some of the ideas behind the workshop he led, as well as learners’ feedback on what they took away from it.

If you would like to learn more about our Spring 2021 offers for pre-college students, please visit our website. For Spring 2021, we are offering a Making Sense of Climate Data workshop moderated by Dara Mendeloff and a Communicating Climate Change Like Your Life Depends On It workshop moderated by Dale Willman.

The following is an article written by Joan Lopez, Youth, Peace and Security Program Manager at the Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict and Complexity. Lopez led the Let the Youth Lead workshop for pre-college learners in October 2020. The workshop invited young leaders to improve their existing practices, enthusiasm and knowledge in order to support and further develop their leadership roles. agents of change in local and global community efforts. .

Joán Camilo Lopez is responsible for the Youth, Peace and Security program at Columbia University. In the fall of 2020, he facilitated a workshop on youth leadership. Photo: Sarah Fecht

During the fall of 2020, I had the opportunity to develop and share a co-creation space with high school students from New York City. We called this space “Let the young people lead”. This space was created from the many years of practice-oriented research on youth leadership by researchers at the Earth Institute – Dr Beth Fisher-Yoshida (also Academic Director and Vice President of Faculty at the School of Professional Studies) and myself, Joan C Lopez.

In fact, there is an urgency for spaces like this, as those in positions of influence begin to understand and accept the need to collaborate more with young people; to include their energy, creativity and transformative ways of seeing the world, in the ongoing efforts to develop a lasting relationship between societies and their social and natural environments. We approached this emergency by providing high school students the opportunity to explore some of the tools and methods that Fisher-Yoshida and I use in our practice-oriented research among young leaders, such as dynamic systems theory, management coordinate sense and ethnographic study. method.

In the midst of a pandemic, seeing an array of social issues resulting from it, we recognized the importance of opening up a space for exploration and co-creation. On the first day of the workshop, we met a group of high school students concerned about the pressing social and environmental issues affecting their communities, and who wanted to take the lead in solving them. Our role as instructors was to make available to them the methods that we have developed and used in the field, as well as to show them some of the best practices that many young leaders around the world are using to solve social and environmental issues. in their respective communities.

Each learner came to the workshop with a project or a concern in mind. Some of the concerns and questions included: How to design and implement an anti-racist curriculum in New York City high schools; how to understand and shed light on the social and environmental problems associated with mass consumption; and how the communities living near the beaches can engage in a pedagogy around the contamination of the oceans.

Beth and I came up with a standard: we would share information, methods and concepts, and facilitate conversations around them; and together, instructors and learners, will co-create ways to implement these resources for each of the social and environmental issues the students wanted to address. And for three weeks, we invested our common energy on it.

Participants recounted their experiences since we embarked on this project, and here are some of their thoughts:

“Prior to participating in ‘Let the Youth Lead’ I fell victim to the idea that leadership only meant charting a unique path for others to follow. While a major facet of leadership is taking the initiative to set an example for others, this is only one facet of a complex and multidimensional mindset. Leadership extends from individual to individual, encompassing the very relationships that friends, family, communities and even strangers can share with one another.… Leadership involves connection…. Leadership involves listening…. I hope to continue to carry these new understandings into my community and beyond; our world could do with a few lessons in leadership. – Katie

“In the context of youth leadership – and any leadership – it is important to have an overview of the problems facing society before trying to find solutions … Another important part of leadership is to understand that there are many sides to a story.… I ask: is it possible to tell all the facets of a story? And if not, should we still try? … So it is important to see how our notions can often be wrong, and in our leadership we should show the world how we can listen to these untold stories and understand these other perspectives to animate and strengthen our understanding and leadership. – Ajani

“The awareness of these points (the critical points of the coordinated management of meaning) led me to take more time to make decisions when I got there, and to do a more in-depth analysis of my environment beforehand. to continue. I’m still trying to find ways to incorporate the LUUUUTT model, as it seems to require more training to master storytelling.… Overall it was a great experience and I was able to consolidate the political plans that I have. had for my reconstruction project. – Theo

“My favorite lesson from the Let the Youth Lead workshop was to ask ‘Why aren’t things worse?’ This is because in every problem-solving question, situation, or idea, we are always taught to approach it with the redundant step of first identifying the problem and then conjuring up solutions. Let the youth leader show us how to break down these two big steps into different steps that show us how to effectively approach problem solving the right way. Along the way, we’re encouraged to ask why things aren’t worse. This surprised me a bit because we are always taught to focus on the problem. As humans, our nature is to focus on the problems and weaknesses we have in order to have the best chance of survival. By asking instead why things aren’t worse, we are forced to think about what actually works, which is a positive attitude of course, and because often the answer is there! – Lily

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