In fact, each time I build a youth program, I ask myself this question: How can I build an inclusive learning environment? We know from research that programs serve youth best when the learning environments in which they function are intentionally inclusive. But the word inclusive can be rather hollow if you are not sure how to apply it. Here are some tips to consider when building inclusive learning environments.
- Mind your own language
The way we speak about young people reflects our attitudes and influences what youth programs can achieve. Use language that honors youth. Phrasings such as doing things with youth, rather than for or to youth show that you value young people and that you do not view them merely as recipients of programs or problems to be fixed. According to Nicholson, Collins and Holmer, collaborative language can lead to stronger youth-adult relationships.
- Talk about culture and race
- Create a sanctuary
Chang et al. So, co-create a safe environment with youth that affirms the identity of each young person, is a sanctuary from discrimination, and is a place where youth can thrive in developing a strong sense of self.
- Create a youth-centered atmosphere that is embraced by the community
There are many more practices to consider. The art of building inclusive learning environments is a perpetual process of improvement. Here are few resources you may be interested in exploring: Teaching Tolerance, Reclaiming Youth International, Intercultural Communication Institute.
What do you do to build inclusive learning environments? What resources have you used?
While you are thinking about that here is an Olympics trivia question: What does YOG stand for?
Answer: YOG is an acronym for Youth Olympics Games. The games are for young people ages 14-18. They are held every four years in staggered summer and winter events. The first such event was held in Singapore in August 2010 and the next will be held in Nanjing, China in 2014.
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