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Education Beyond School Walls

Posted on March 13, 2019
By Glenda Cooper

Education Beyond Walls 53What do you do when you have children craving adult attention in a neighbourhood with disconnected adults fearful of ‘trouble-making’ youth? A school in Wisconsin, USA conducted a community survey and learned that the community did not know anything about the school.  What the neighbours did identify in the survey was that there were young people running around the neighbourhood causing trouble. The survey results prompted the school to ask: How do we extend education beyond the walls of the school and utilize the gifts and the assets of the neighbours, organizations and institution in the community?

In a recent article by Julie Filapek and John McKnight, the authors demonstrate how Asset-Based Community Development can illuminate the educational possibilities that exist in neighbourhoods, and how a neighbourhood and a local school can grow stronger together. In walking through the process of discovering a neighbourhood’s assets within an educational context the guide offers lists of assets and ideas to help a community to identify their gifts, skills, and experiences in terms of their potential educational value. In addition to providing practical resources for mapping the educational assets of the people, agencies and institutions in the neighbourhood, they remind us of the universal truths in any asset discovery process:

  • Relationships, face-to-face conversations is where magic happens
  • Creating an inventory is not the goal but a side benefit; connections between people is the goal
  • Every single person has something valuable to contribute
  • Remember young people! They have assets to share too

What is so brilliant about connecting youth with the individuals, organizations and agencies in their neighbourhood is that these relationships are essential to helping a young person “grow up healthy, caring, and responsible.” Research indicates that relationships with caring adults and feeling valued by and connected to the community are among the 40 Development Assets essential for children to thrive. By inspiring a community’s adults and agencies to get involved in a young person’s life by sharing what they know and are passionate about, the resilience of the neighbourhood’s young people naturally strengthens.

Relationships are reciprocal; remembering that young people also have gifts, abilities and knowledge to contribute the community opens up new possibilities. Imagine a neighbourhood where retirees organize a summer sports league and teenagers offer coaching and skill development sessions, where a neighbour with woodworking equipment invites youth to learn woodworking and together they build outdoor furniture for their neighbourhood, or where a senior centre seeks teenagers to teach technology skills. What other possibilities might emerge in such a neighbourhood?

So, what do you do when you have children craving adult attention in a neighbourhood with disconnected adults? Bring them together.

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Education, Blog, Cities Deepening Community, glenda cooper


Glenda Cooper

By Glenda Cooper

Glenda has her Master of Arts in Community Development from the University of Victoria and brings 17 years of community development experience to the position. She has seen firsthand the magic of neighbourhoods and the power of communities. She believes wholeheartedly that communities know best what they need and how to go about making life even better for everyone. She values courageous conversations, knowing that when communities dig deep and lean into each other, new possibilities emerge.

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