New Alternatives for Children: Innovative Field Trips and Discussion ActivitiesEach month, the ACT for Youth Center of Excellence spotlights the work of a STYA provider. Our thanks go to Rachel Block, who shared this month's story.
At New Alternatives for Children in NYC, we call our STYA program: New Horizons for Kids. In New Horizons for Kids, we always start by telling the youth, "Everything we do has a purpose." Our program may look a little different from other STYA programs, in that we operate in cycles. We meet with one group of 10-12 youth on Saturdays (or when youth are out of school) for about 11 weeks, and then we start with a new group of youth. We offer our Component 1B activities and Component 2 discussions within each group cycle. Although it may seem like a short period of time, in those 11 weeks our youth make new friends, gain new experiences, learn skills to combat bullying, explore techniques to raise self-esteem, and gain an understanding of the importance of keeping an open mind. We integrate innovative field trips throughout New York City and facilitate discussion groups that give youth the opportunity to explore new ideas and experiences. We provide transportation to all of our activities, as well as offer lunch and snacks. These perks help to keep attendance rates up and are initial incentives for families to gain an interest in learning more about the program.
Some of our most successful activities and discussion ideas are listed below:
Staten Island Ferry Field Trip
We take advantage of the summer months by exploring the free outdoor services New York City has to offer, such as riding the Staten Island Ferry. A simple and free transportation method for many New Yorkers becomes an adventure for our group, as many of our youth are for the first time experiencing a boat ride, while enjoying a spectacular view of the Statue of Liberty! Sometimes when we arrive on the Staten Island side, we set up an area by the water to have a picnic, do arts and crafts, or play sports. One time, we walked a little way down to explore the Staten Island Museum. Another highlight was when we walked over to the Staten Island Yankees Stadium and watched a minor league baseball game.
Tour of Columbia University
Recently, we took our group on a tour of Columbia University. The privately-led tour pointed out to youth the array of opportunities they have in their future. The tour was meant to inspire and motivate our youth to do well in school so that someday they can go to the college of their choice! We learned about the history of the university, famous alumni who graduated from Columbia, and the different majors the university offers, ranging from political science to art. Our youth were whole-heartedly engaged during the tour, taking notes and asking questions.
Activity-Integrated Discussion Groups
During our discussion groups, we always incorporate activities that help to engage the youth and keep them focused, allowing them a chance to express themselves in ways other than just talking. We do this through arts and crafts, breaking youth into teams to form a "game" setting that encourages participation, or inviting youth to contribute by writing thoughts on the board. We have also merged discussion groups with field trips to provide a hands-on experience that will lead to a meaningful discussion. For example, we honored Black History Month by visiting the Brooklyn Historical Society and African Burial Ground. Both sites educated youth about African American history and the abolitionist movement. The field trips initiated conversation about human rights and the importance in treating all individuals equally.
Previous SpotlightsThe following documents are in PDF format:
Spotlight 1 - Engaging Youth: Bronx-Lebanon Hospital Center
Spotlight 2 - Involving Parents: Niagara Falls Housing Authority
Spotlight 3 - New Experiences: Orange County Youth Bureau
Spotlight 4 - Engaging Youth in STEM Workshops: Mount Vernon Youth Bureau
Spotlight 5 - Connecting Youth to Community: Committee for Hispanic Children and Families
Spotlight 6 - STEM Zombies and Mad Scientists: Boys & Girls Club of the Bellport Area
Spotlight 7 - Collaborating to Build Skills: Metro Council for Teen Potential
Spotlight 8 - Cultivating Civic Responsibility and Creativity: Central Queens YM & YWHA
Spotlight 9 - Exploring the Meaning of STYA: YWCA of Syracuse and Onondaga County