… continued from Fountainhead of Our Future
How do people discover their talent? Here’s one example.
Gillian Lynne, a British ballerina, dancer, actor, theatre director, television director and choreogra-pher born in 1926 and noted for her popular thea-tre choreography associated with the iconic mu-sicals Cats and the current longest-running show in Broadway history, The Phantom of the Opera, was characterized by her teachers in school as hopeless student. So her school wrote her mother a letter saying that Gillian might have a learning disorder because she couldn’t sit still and was always fidgety.
Some people today might say she had ADHD, but in the 1930s, the term wasn’t invented yet so it wasn’t an available ‘condition’ to label her with. Still, Gillian’s mother brought her to a specialist for diagnosis and once in his office Gillian was asked to sit on a chair while the specialist talked to her mother for half an hour or so asking what was happening to her in school.
At the end of it, because Gillian was disturbing them not quite being able to sit still, the specialist brought her to an adjacent room and asked her to sit quietly in a chair beside a table that had a radio turned on to keep her entertained. But the minute he left the room, Gillian was on her feet, dancing and moving about. He turned back and observed her more closely for a few minutes then turned to her mother and said, “Mrs. Lynne, Jillian isn’t sick. She’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school!”.
CONNECTIONS TO KNOWLEDGE
Gillian’s story is an example how one can address the educational challenge of finding more novel ways that help youth make those connections to develop themselves more fully. In this case, it was just a simple act involving observation. Somebody else would have put her under medication and tell her to calm down.
When youth care about what they are working on, the dynamic of teaching obviously changes. Rather than being “pushed” to learn, youth work on their own, and seek out ideas and advice. Youth are not only more motivated but they also develop deeper understandings and richer connections to knowledge.
Closer to home, what Sam ‘Haami’ Chapman does is an excellent example and one based on unflinching trust and faith in people. For over 40 years he has more than ploughed the field of developing communities; he has sown a harvest field of hope! He consistently sees beyond the rubble of homelessness, a child’s, a parent, a husband and a wife’s love deficit, an adolescent’s disdain for school, and the intimidation of the gang patch.
Instead, this 2010 New Zealander of the Year award recipient sees families living in their own homes, a child finally getting that hug and loving attention from dad, a husband unafraid in taking on the true mantle of manhood; just simply loving his wife, an adolescent loving the idea of learning and the mar-ginalised accepted for who they are underneath the rough exterior.
Watch and Listen To Sam in this Inspiring Video
Having to live for many years in Otara, Manukau City which Sam and his lovely wife Thelma rightfully calls their Oasis; they (with their four children and six grandchildren not too far behind) continue to be intrinsically connected not only to this community, but other communities at large. As founders of the Awhi Whānau Early Childhood Centre, board member of Clover Park Middle School, and Chairman of the Maori Christian Alliance; they are always gaining interest from key people, agencies and institutions not only in New Zealand but abroad also.
When it comes to community development, Sam’s vision is reflected in his own words. “I see communities being able to dream and turn those dreams into reality.” So instead of dwelling on the failures of people’s lives, he helps them focus on success by looking at the type of life they want to live and what will make it happen. These words are amplified even more today in the area of education after he became the first chairperson of Clubhouse 274.
VALUE AND RESPECT OF HARD WORK
Clubhouse 274 is a place that encourages youth to work on projects related to their own interests. It does this by focusing on “constructionist” activities – ones that encourage young people to work as designers, inventors, and creators. It is dedicated to offering resources and opportunities to those who would not otherwise have access to them. It also aims to create a sense of community, where young people work together with one another supported and inspired by older mentors.
Rather than playing games with computers and burning time away, young people at the Clubhouse learn hands-on to use professional software tools for design, exploration, and experimentation. They are encouraged to try for themselves what it’s virtually like to be an environmental architect or engineer, composer, new media communication specialist, digital journalist, scientific re-searcher, computer programmer, and a wide array of other professions that will help drive the modern 21st century workplace.
The young people in Clubhouse 274 learn how to express themselves through these tools. They learn not only the technical details, but the heur-istics of being a good designer – how to concept-ualise a project, how to make use of the materials available, how to persist and find alternatives when mistakes are made or when things go wrong, and how to view a project through the eyes of others. In short, they learn how to manage a com-plex project from start to finish.
An extensive body of research undertaken by members of such prestigious institutions like the Computer Museum of Boston, the Science Museum of Min-nesota and the MIT Media Laboratory backs up Clubhouse 274’s activities. These studies show that adolescents learn most effectively when they are en-gaged in designing and creating projects, rather than memorizing facts or learning isolated skills out of context.
But more importantly, that same research also highlights the importance of community involvement and how interpersonal relationships in those settings both aids and adds to the learning process. The result is that it enables these young people to become part of a community that values and respects their hard work.
HOPE FOR THE FUTURE
Our world today faces tremendous problems and challenges. We believe that our only hope for the future, especially for our youth, is to adopt a new construct of human ecology – one where we start reconstituting the conception of the richness of human capacity.
For many generations past, our educational sys-tems mined our minds in much the way we have laid waste and strip-mined the Earth for a particular commodity. Continuing to do that won’t serve us anymore. We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we are educating our children. Everything now may depend on it.
In this respect, Faith in Families is happy to be associated with Sam Chapman in these and other worthwhile endeavours by collaborating through synergistic approaches and initiatives and ones our Foundation has been bringing to light with the series of recent articles it has published in this website.
As elders of our youth, we may not be around to see that future, but our child-ren will.
Our job, is to help them make something of it.
Related Articles in this Series:
- Agents of Change
- Connected Communities
- On Empowering Our Youth
- Community Tech Centres-Part 1
- Community Tech Centres-Part 2
- Making Things Happen
- Looking At It This Way
- Digital Economies
- Mapping Your Communities
- Fountainhead of Our Youth
- A Chap Named Sam
- The Whāriki Project (to be published)