What would you teach?

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    mark foster

    I am doing some (pro bono) work for a Youthbuild/E-corps organization.  Both groups are non-profit and dedicated to guiding young adults toward achieving GED’s (high school diploma for those no longer in high school).  Both programs also teach job skills: Youthbuild is geared toward construction, E-Corps is geared toward conservation and all things green. 

    The campus is several acres of vacant brownfield in the city core, and contains several indoor classroom buildings.  They have quite a bit of open space available for outdoor classrooms, which is where I come in..

    I want to stretch the program in these outdoor spaces to include as many learning opportunities as possible.  My question is this:  What would you want to see in such an outdoor space, to help facilitate their learning? 

    Anything from specifics, references, existing examples, or philisophical rambling are welcome. Political restraint is appreciated.


    Andrew Garulay, RLA

    The best job skills to learn are those that apply to available jobs, in my opinion. That would be the first consideration. The second consideration should be to self evaluate to determine what you are most suited to teach that applies to the first consideration. That is a philosophical answer.


    Following that philosophy, you are in a better position to understand the community and the opportunities within it which should be able to short list the subjects most appropriate to teach these specific students. You again are in a better position than most anyone else to determine your strengths in order to give your best  to maximize their opportunities.


    Sometimes basic skills and knowledge are the most effective and yet are so often skipped over in any subject including this one.

    Tanya Olson

    First of all – good for you! Thanks for doing this work with kids!

    I’ll second the basic skills comment by Andrew.

    One thing I’ve done in the past with at-risk kids at an alternative school, which may or may not be who you are working with, is just teaching them to vegetable garden – about soils, a little about design (but really about abstract thinking, which was incredibly challenging for these kids who had never been encouraged to think creatively or abstractly) about plants and what they need to grow, plants as food, etc. It won’t necessarily get them a job, but it sure will give them the idea that they can feed themselves….’teach a man to fish’, so to speak.

    Another thing the kids I worked with didn’t seem to know is anything about the natural world – gas, water or nutrient cycles, solar and lunar cycles, etc. The kids I worked with really had an incredibly limited view of the world as a result of _____(take your pick of abuse, teen pregnancy, drugs, gangs, non-conformity, etc) and it really helped them to re-open that world view which in turn opens up opportunities for them.

    Does it help them pass the GED? My experience was that it helped them pass because it kept them interested.

    mark foster

    Thanks Andrew and Tanya.

    Andrew– “Basic” and “available job” is right on.  

    Tanya– I believe preparing for,and passing, the GED is a core part (maybe a requirement) of both programs.  That said, there is a work component–the participants work on various projects out in the community.  


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