The Importance of Storytelling

Earlier this year, GSK committed $500,000 to the Youth-Driven Healthy Recreation Centers Collective, an innovative 18-month partnership supported by a GSK IMPACT Grant and led by LiveWell Colorado. The partnership between GSK and eight nonprofits, including Earth Force, engages youth in three Northeast Denver recreation centers as change agents for a healthier community in NE Denver neighborhoods.

A critical component of the program is empowering youth leaders at the recreation centers to share their personal narrative as it relates to Healthy Eating and Active Living in their neighborhoods. To share their exciting progress, ah-ha moments, and lessoned learned youth leaders and GSK Collective partners participated in a workshop focused on digital storytelling.

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Swansea youth making fresh salsa.

Partners met with a group of young people who attend one of three local recreation centers: Swansea, Stapleton and St. Charles. Youth Leaders watched examples of videos created by high school students on a variety of different health-related subjects to get a feel for digital storytelling. After watching a few videos of their choice, the students critiqued them in small groups.

Next, students used Animoto to create their own digital story. One group developed the concept, Becoming a Healthy Couch Potato – Moving from Spud to Stud. Their story was about ways to be active and healthy even if you enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle. So clever!

The groups created a three-segment storyboard; they drew pictures of their hook to get the attention of their audience, the main message to their audience, and a final thought/image to leave with the audience. They started creating their digital story, choosing a background and music and overlaying their drawings, photos, and messages.

Youth and partners learning how to tell their story of change.

Youth and partners learning how to tell their story of change.

Storytelling is a mechanism for positive youth development. It also allows for students to process what they have accomplished thus far and celebrate their progress. At Earth Force, we often use storytelling and reflection interchangeably.

Groups will continue to work on their pieces, and we hope to share the completed stories earlier in the new year. Check back soon for updates!

Successful Colorado Gives Day for Earth Force and Others

Thank you to all of our amazing supporters who contributed to Earth Force during Colorado Gives Day. In total, we raised $15,245! The money raised will go to supporting young people as environmental leaders in their community through programs addressing watershed education, school sustainability, and healthy eating and active living.

Overall, Colorado Gives Day raised a record breaking $26.6 million dollars, a 28% increase over last year, to support nearly 1,500 nonprofits. The day resulted in 107,862 donations ranging from $10 to $300,000.

Thank you to everyone who gave on Colorado Gives Day. You help organizations like ours serve our communities and work for change to improve our world.

Tips on How to Better Ignite Youth Voice

Guest post from Genora Givens, Partnership Coordinator at Earth Force

The Alliance for Excellent Education hosted a webinar in mid-November focusing on using student voice to empower transformation. Here are some of the top take-aways from the conversation:

  1. Reflection is important. Take some time before you start the process to understand your own investment. Why do you want to give power back to your students? Why do you want them to have a voice? What do you feel comfortable giving back to students?
  1. Check in frequently with students. Is this working? If not, how can we adjust?
  1. Get administration and parents on board using research and reason. This is why reflection (#1) is important.
  1. Check your expectations. The first year(s) will be tricky. Stay the course.
  1. Students should share their stories. Earth Force does this in a number of ways including youth summits, digital storytelling, and community celebrations.
  1. Collaborate with other teachers AND students to develop lesson plans. It’s not what you can do with your students, but what you all can do together. Students should be collaborators in their education, not consumers.
  1. Deconstruct state standards with students and have them identify what Standards of Learning they will meet with their projects. Also, have them help to develop a rubric. What does ‘done’ look like for this project? One of our Earth Force educators in Alexandria, VA does this with her students, and it helps to create a shared vision and buy-in.
  1. Have fun! Don’t stress too much over change, especially before it’s even begun.

About the author: Genora helps to form and facilitate relationships with schools and organizations in the District of Columbia to promote youth civic engagement in environmental issues. Genora recently graduated with a BA in Environmental Science and has spent the past four years working on social justice issues in her university and the community at large. When not at work, Genora can be found in a dance studio or cartwheeling in a local park.