York leads experiential education pilot program in Ontario high schools

York University’s Faculty of Education is leading an experiential education pilot project in high schools across Ontario that aims to build students’ capacity for civic action.

The Youth in Politics (#YiP) Project is led by Nombuso Dlamini and co-led by Uzo Anucha, both associate professors at York University, and hypothesizes that student-facilitated and student-structured civic activities encourage parental election interest. The project therefore supports and builds the civic capacity of students to engage parents in local governance issues, using the school board trustees election as a case study. It also aims to support teachers with best practices around experiential education built on youth engagement.

Participants in the Youth in Politics Project

#YiP builds on and extends Ontario-based youth civic engagement studies with projects implemented by Dlamini: Engaging Girls, Changing Communities (EGCC) and by Anucha: New Opportunities for Innovative Student Engagement (NOISE). These studies illustrate that youth who are civically engaged tend to do well in school, have a strong sense of belonging and contribute to the general well-being of their communities.

The project is multifaceted and framed by a community engagement approach that is centred on principles of shared authority. It facilitates youth political action, giving youth the power to examine their schools and communities, thereby deciding what works and what they want to change.

#YiP has five interconnected and overlapping methodological phases that are designed to meet the project goals and objectives:

  • #YiP supports students to successfully lead the trustee elections.
  • #YiP supports civics teachers and leaders of experiential learning by offering a professional development workshop, and by offering online teaching and learning resources.
  • Students who participate in #YiP will have the opportunity to learn and explore what it means to be a responsible, active citizen in the community of the classroom and the diverse communities to which they belong, both within and outside of the school.
  • #YiP supports students to engage and mobilize their families to participate in school board elections and, as a result, to increase overall voter turn out.
  • #YiP is explicitly collaborative and works within a framework of shared authority and decision-making, and promotes collaborative relationships with students and their families, teachers and the community at large.

The #YiP Project is piloted in schools in Toronto, Ottawa, Windsor and Thunder Bay, Ont. The pilot schools have high numbers of trustee positions and are characteristic of Ontario’s population diversity. Teachers from participating schools shared their civic teaching experiences during a #YiP workshop on Sept. 14, and were provided with tools that develop and support students’ civic action initiatives.

For more information, visit yipproject.com.

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