Imagination has power. One way to set yourself off on a positive direction for the year is through writing a “Letter from the Future.” This is an activity you can do personally or use with groups to activate the visioning capacity. Begin by choosing a time a year from now or at the end of a current project. Think of someone who takes great pleasure in your success and wants the best for you. This could be a friend, a colleague, a family member—even someone who has passed away. Using the technique of freewriting, write a letter to this person, from the vantage point of the future, describing the past year as a positive experience of meeting your goals—even outdoing yourself.
Freewriting means that you write without worrying about punctuation, spelling, or grammar. You simply let the words flow from your mind onto the page. No looking back and no crossing out. Keep your pen moving and if you don’t know what to say, just write “What’s next, what’s next, what’s next” until your next thought comes. Encourage people to be as descriptive as possible. What does it feel like and look like at the end of this project? Who are you working with? What has unfolded? Let people know they will not have to read their letter aloud to anyone.
If you are leading this activity, give participants 5-7 minutes to write the letter. If you are doing it on your own, spend as much time as you want. Once the letter is complete, read it to yourself and circle ideas that you like. If you are with a group, invite participants to share ideas from their letter with a partner or, if they want, to read their entire letter. If you have a group of 10 or less, participants often choose to read their letters to the entire group. It’s inevitably exhilarating and motivating. Here are a few situations where I’ve used this activity with great results:
- Youth or adult participants in a leadership training imagine how they will apply what they’ve learned
- Members of a team imagine their ideal team culture
- Board and staff members of an organization imagine their vision for the organization
- Team members of a project imagine how the project will unfold
Freewriting opens channels in the brain though which your inner brilliance can flow. Have fun and expect to be surprised by the results!
—Peggy Taylor, Co-Founder and Creative Director, Partners for Youth Empowerment
As we enter 2018 we are celebrating and remembering the incredibly rich and far too short life of our dear friend and lead facilitator, Theophillus Booi. Theo was born and raised in Cape Town, South Africa. He was magnetic, fiercely intelligent, and a gifted artist. He chose to offer his gifts to the young people and communities of Cape Town as a creative facilitator, through Goof Edutainment, an organization he founded with his closest friends and collaborators Thandile Giyama and Siyanda Mahlahla.
Our cofounder Charlie Murphy was the first PYE facilitator to meet Theo and was immediately excited to include this brilliant young man in our network. Theo, like Charlie, had committed his life to the belief that all youth should have access to education that makes them feel alive, appreciated and open to their own gifts. Theo was a dear and precious friend and we, like many, many others, feel the deep pain of losing him suddenly. But this note to you today is to remember something that will never be lost. These are three lessons from Theo that he was always teaching not only with his words and actions but in the pulse and vibration of his being.
- You can be happy. Theo had learned through the most difficult of life circumstances that we can (and must) be happy even when we are sad and angry. The world can be viciously unfair, and there are many things we cannot control. But we can take responsibility to find the moments, even fleeting, of happiness even in the hardest times. This is how we uplift ourselves and our communities. This is the dignity of our humanity.
- Create a moment. Theo could make any moment feel exciting and dramatic, full of limitless wonder. He would remind us not to focus on comfort or following rules but to reach out to life with abandon and make a moment, a memory, no matter where we were. Even if it feels weird, even if it’s a bit scary, especially if you don’t know what will happen, jump into life with both feet. Feel into all of it. That presence creates memories, and stretches us into unknown possibility.
- If you want to be a penguin a penguin you will be! This was a line from a hilarious group song that Theo loved to lead, and he would lead it over and over again, each time more ridiculously silly than the last! But it’s also a great image for the amazing life he led. Nothing was impossible for Theo. He lived a life of magical self-belief and belief in others. If you want to be a penguin (or anything else), if you want it and focus on it and take the daily steps to create it, moment by moment…a penguin you will be.
Theo was the most amazing penguin. He lit up any space he was in. He had an uncanny ability to know exactly what to say, whether he was facilitating, cracking jokes or consoling a bereavement. Sensitive, powerful and joyous; his gifts spread very far in his twenty-six years and we are deeply happy even in the midst of terrible sadness to remember them and share a little of them with you now.
Nadia Chaney, Director of Training, Partners for Youth Empowerment
Many people ask about the difference between CF1 and CF2. In a nutshell, Creative Facilitation 1 introduces models and techniques for bringing the arts into your work, while Creative Facilitation 2 is all about you as a facilitator.
CF2 will enable you to develop the key competencies and communication skills required to lead powerful learning programs. We take you “behind the scenes” and show you the secrets of how to make the magic happen with your groups.
Like CF1, it is highly experiential training, you have the opportunity to practice facilitating in a safe supportive environment and gain valuable feedback that will elevate your skills.
In CF2 you will learn:
- How to relate and respond to challenging participants
- How to create a safe space for honest and creative expression
- How to present yourself comfortably, clearly and confidently to a group
- How to design and deliver effective lessons, workshops and meetings
- How to help a group come alive and develop a high level of participation
Creative Facilitation 2 is for you if:
- You really want to up your game as a facilitator and deepen your level of connection with your groups
- You’ve always wanted to lead creative programs for diverse groups but didn’t know how
- You have already created and run group programs, with varying degrees of success, and you want to take it to a much higher level
What People Say
“The Level 2 training gave me increased self awareness. I was able to try a new way of structuring activities, with greater intention which will make the learning even more transformative for my students. The feedback from the group showed me small tweaks I can implement that will make a big difference when working with my groups.”
Anjana Grarez, Cáceres, Spain
“I have attended many training programs across the globe. This has been by far the best – not just in terms of learning alone but in the way it has transformed how I facilitate my own programs.”
Business Leadership Program, School of Inspired Leadership, India
“The fantastic tools learned will become a vital part of our work and will also be useful within our work as between colleagues in the office. We will use Creative Facilitation to get groups to open up, participate sooner and better.”
Anthoulla Koutsoudi, Director of External Relations, WAVE Trust, England
“The Creative Facilitation training has taught me so much about myself – strengths and weaknesses, about working with other facilitators and managing and responding to participants’ needs. It was fantastic!”
Jenna Waite, Guidance Counselor, Jamaica
“The MyBnk trainers have found the PYE creative facilitation training really useful in helping deliver effective and engaging education programmes to young people. The PYE staff facilitators have been excellent in illustrating the links between educational theory and practice. Many of our trainers have been on the training and I’m sure many will continue to go on it in the future”
Lily Lapenna, Founder & CEO MyBnk, England
“As a result of this workshop I am going to invite my groups to be creative and imaginative as an integral step of every activity/game.”
Ben Losman, Independent Facilitator, Toronto, Canada
“My team was absolutely blown away by the Creative Facilitation training – they want more!”
Harlequin Foundation, Cape Town, South Africa
“The activities that you taught us have become a key component of the daily community-building efforts of our program.”
Ashoka Youth Venture,Washington D.C.,USA
If you are serious about developing high performance learning communities that support creativity and social and emotional learning then we encourage you to apply for CF2 training.
Join a CF2 training this year:
Still not sure if this training is for you? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org with your questions and we will be happy to discuss your individual situation
You’ve just called your participants back from small groups. The conversation in the small groups was alive and excited, but as soon as you ask for report backs, the energy drops. Small group report backs are inevitably boring, and yet facilitators ask for them anyway as if they are a required course. Here are two ways to harvest small group learnings while keeping your whole group engaged:
- Rather than ask for people to report on what happened in their group, ask participants to share something they learned personally or an aha they had from working in their small group. Be clear that you want people to speak for themselves not for other members of their small group or for their entire small group.
- Invite each small group to come up with a creative way to share a learning from their group time. They could do short skit, write and share a poem, create a group drawing, or do a group sculpture using their bodies. The creative presentations can then lead into a large group discussion. When you get into the discussion, remind participants to speak for themselves about their own learning.
Jenna Waite is a Guidance Counselor at Ferncourt High School in Jamaica. She took part in the One Love Youth Camp in Jamaica in 2016 and 2017, organized by PYE in partnership with the Bob Marley Foundation and Ben & Jerry’s, and in the Culture Jam camp in 2017 organized by the Oregon Country Fair. Jenna shares her experiences with us below.
We had three days of Creative Facilitation training before the One Love Youth Camp where we learned the skills and tools we would need to follow the Creative Communities Model and formed a strong bond of community among the staff team. I was surprised at the intense enjoyment I felt from participating in the activities and this joy gave me the confidence to present these activities to the camp participants.
I watched closed, scared and shy students transform into friendly, confident risk takers over the course of the camp.
The community building games and creative workshops helped to build a sense of safety and acceptance. This combined with the warm and comfortable environment at the camp site made for a real group bonding experience. Students used dub poetry, singing, drumming, knitting and dancing to create an electric Music and Dance evening. They really opened up to each other, the facilitators and I believe to themselves. I watched closed, scared and shy students transform into friendly, confident risk takers over the course of the camp.
Speaking to Mrs Roxanne Williams, the principal at the Bob Marley Primary and Junior High School whose students went to camp, she shared that “the camp participants have become more sociable and more willing to get involved in school activities.”
Photo credit: Ella Cooper. Campers “signing” the community agreement they drew up with a hand clap. These community agreements are co-created with the camp participants and help create a safe environment in which young people can express themselves.
The Creative Facilitation training has taught me so much about myself – strengths and weaknesses, about working with other facilitators and managing and responding to participants’ needs.
This year  I took part in the second level of Creative Facilitation training [CF2]. We learned so much about how to conduct workshops, lead different activities and create the right environment for participants to have a fulfilling camp. The Creative Facilitation training has taught me so much about myself – strengths and weaknesses, about working with other facilitators and managing and responding to participants’ needs. It was fantastic!
All these lessons were put to test as I experienced being a lead facilitator at One Love Youth Camp 2017. I conducted workshops on building positive self-esteem and poetry writing. I not only enjoyed leading, it was a joy to once again watch the transformation among the participants and facilitators.
In addition to the One Love Youth camp in Jamaica, I traveled to Oregon this summer to be at Culture Jam 2017. The new culture brought with it a whole new perspective on the Creative Communities model and opened my eyes to many more ways I can engage youth all over the world. I led a poetry workshop and participated in activities that expanded my horizon.
Photo credit: Jenna Waite. Participants creating poetry in Jenna’s workshop at Culture Jam Camp.
As I sat in a youth-led workshop on slangs across the world, I mused at the thought that there were so many different cultures in the one place and as we shared and explored we learned more about ourselves and others and that changed me for the better. I came to understand how much I need to release myself and allow others to do the same. The environment was mindblowingly peaceful, the youth were astounding and the staff were all amazing. I see myself expanding and growing in this model and I never want to stop experiencing these camps.
My Creative Facilitation training was not only invaluable at camp, it has also helped my work as a school counselor. I frequently encounter students trapped in a culture of shyness, low esteem and fear of self-exploration compounded by an environment that fosters children’s silence and offers little opportunity to participate fully. As soon as the students recognize that they can indeed “be their true self” they take on wings and it is magic to watch.
Being able to change the energy of a session through the use of music and the arts has paid off immensely with students who are more engaged and productive.
The Creative Facilitation tools I learned have helped me to create more diverse group counseling and lesson plans. Being able to change the energy of a session through the use of music and the arts has paid off immensely with students who are more engaged and productive. Noticeably, my parenting workshops have become more exciting since the inclusion of more fun games, goals and agreements and opportunity for each person to play a role in the session.
Photo credit: Jenna Waite. Jenna dancing on stage with Andre Wilson
Thanks to your support we’ve been able to deliver a wide range of programs over the last few months to unleash the creative potential in youth around the world. Here are some highlights of what you’ve helped us achieve:
- In June we ran a series of Creative Facilitation trainings in Athens for Teachers supporting the integration of refugee children into education in Greece with partner Elix, building their toolkit of methods to build inclusion and participation in their work
- We wrapped up two year-long Creative Classroom teacher training for teachers in Cyprus in partnership with Cyprus Pedagogical Institute and in the UK in partnership with Ashoka UK Changemaker Schools and Liverpool Studio School empowering teachers to empower their students
- We ran a Creative Facilitation session for 20 front-line intercultural workers in Barcelona, Spain in partnership with the City of Barcelona equipping them with arts-based facilitation skills for their community work
- We partnered with Elisa Sednaoui Foundation to run Creative Facilitation trainings for youth workers in Rome, Italy and Cairo, Egypt, and continued to train trainers in Egypt who deliver Creative Facilitation training in Arabic
- We were blown away by the summer of North American arts-empowerment camps in North that have entered their 21st year with camps run by partners Commonweal, Culture Jam, Power of Hope Canada, IndigenEYEZ and our flagship camp program Power of Hope US on Whidbey Island
- We ran Creative Facilitation sessions with new partners Art Starts in Toronto and with First Star UK and more!
But we’re not done yet. We need your help. Here’s how you can get involved.
- Tell your friends. Please pass on the list of upcoming trainings to anyone who is interested in empowering young people.
- Recommend PYE to a school or organization who could benefit from PYE Creative Facilitation or Creative Classroom training.
You can reach us on email@example.com
Imagine being met by 30 sleeply 14-year-olds at 8 am. Your job is to get them engaged and excited to learn. This month’s tip comes from high school language arts teacher Jackie Amatucci:
“I came up with the idea of have each student do a one-word check-in on how they were feeling by imagining a thermometer measuring 1 to 10 degrees. One degree means, ‘I wish I was still in bed’ and 10 degrees is, ‘I am ready and excited to learn’! Each person says their first name and where they sit on the thermometer. We’d zip right around the room and I would acknowledge each response with equal appreciation regardless of the number. By the end of this quick go around, there was always a remarkably positive shift in the room.
A few days after starting this, one student spontaneously wrote down each classmate’s number and came up with an average for the day. He then charted the daily averages to show the mood of the group over the course of a week. I’m convinced that imagining the thermometer set off a creative ripple in the group that resulted in the chart. We did this for several weeks with great results.”
Here are three other imaginative ways to do a quick check in whether in a classroom or a workshop:
- What animal do you feel like today?
- What’s your personal weather forecast?
- What kind of vehicle do you feel like today?
Photo credit: Ella Cooper
It’s not often that a video of a teacher goes viral. But this video of Barry White Jr., a fifth-grade teacher in North Carolina, has had millions of views and shares. Maybe it reminds us of a great teacher we once had. Or, perhaps it’s what Mr White tells us about what really effective teaching looks like – in just one minute.
Here are five lessons we can learn from Mr White:
- Strong teacher-student relationships are key to kids’ success in school.
Mr White has a special handshake that he performs with each student. Through this handshake, he communicates that he values them and sees their unique qualities. Just as importantly, during those couple of seconds of engagement, he builds trust and he demonstrates that he cares. Research tells us strong teacher-student relationships have a direct impact on student engagement and achievement. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “People won’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
- Creativity makes learning more engaging.
When I first saw this video, I was immediately reminded of my sixth-grade teacher, Mr Sanderson. Mr Sanderson used his art skills to teach history through elaborate drawings on the chalkboard. When teachers bring creativity into the classroom, learning becomes more meaningful and engaging. Like Albert Einstein said, “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge.”
Teachers don’t need to be professional or talented artists like Mr Sanderson; there is a whole world of creative facilitation techniques and art-based activities that they can use, without any artistic skill or experience.
Google ‘creative facilitation’ and you will see hundreds of links to websites with art-based activities. Check out Games for Actors and Non-Actors by Augusto Boal, founder of Theatre of the Oppressed, to explore Boal’s revolutionary Method for using theatre to transform and liberate everyone. There are so many creative ways to awaken a student’s joy and engage with learning and these are a great place to start.
- Rhythm exercises build focus for learning.
A short rhythm exercise before a session, like Mr White’s handshakes, helps learners to focus and can get kids excited about learning. But it doesn’t need to be just at the beginning of the class; a whole group rhythm exercise can help to bond and connect members of a new class. Use call and response clapping rhythms to get the attention of a noisy class, to re-gain lost attention, and as a means of de-stressing.
Rhythms with cross-lateral movements actually help to connect the left and right side of the brain and can boost academic achievement. Again, Google will reveal plenty of rhythm-based activities to help focus students for learning.
- Create an environment that invites full participation.
With his good morning handshake for each student, Mr White welcomes and invites them into the classroom. From the energetic ones to the ones who may need a little more encouragement, they may participate according to their own learning style. Mr White succeeds in creating an environment in which his students feel safe and supported.
Since each handshake is different according the individual’s personality, it fosters acceptance of one another. When kids feel accepted, they are more likely to participate without fear of embarrassment, ridicule, or being put down by their classmates.
- Teachers play a vital role in helping kids find joy in learning.
Kids are naturally curious and wired to learn. Teachers like Mr White help kids find the joy in the learning process. He is a living example of the commitment, passion and enjoyment he has for teaching. That sense of purpose is infectious. Teachers like Mr White help kids find their own purpose; they light a spark that opens them up to learning and this has a long-term effect on their aspirations.
Just watch Peter Benson’s brilliant TED talk on how to help kids thrive. It’s like the late poet Maya Angelou said, “This is the value of the teacher, who looks at a face and says there’s something behind that and I want to reach that person….” That’s certainly what Mr White Jr. does when he high-fives those keen young learners on their way into his classroom each morning.
With so many changes in education, Mr. White reminds us that one thing won’t change – that great teachers will always be an important part of helping kids to thrive.
Meet Kleopatra Kalogerakou
Kleopatra Kalogerakou is an English teacher at the first Experiential Middle School of Athens, Greece. Like many teachers, she was acutely aware of the need to do more to foster 21st-century skills in her students, and was looking for practical ways to do this. She was also looking for ways to motivate her students to learn, actively engaging and involving them in the classroom. All whilst accommodating diverse learning styles.
The Creative Classroom Solution
Kleopatra signed up to our Creative Classroom course in Greece based on our proven model for youth empowerment that combines experiential learning, group facilitation, and the arts. The program was made up of two 2-day trainings over the course of an academic year with time to apply the skills and gain feedback between in-person trainings.
The Impact in the Classroom
Kleopatra was thrilled to discover she could use creativity, self expression, and social and emotional literacy to increase her impact in the classroom and make learning more interesting.
“I have used several activities in my English language classroom,” says Kleopatra. “I used visual arts techniques and visualisation to express visions of a shared future. Role-playing activities and introducing music and dance also helped students to express feelings, ideas, likes, dislikes, and preferences.”
“Through Creative Classrooms I learned how to bring my artistic self back into play and create a more welcoming atmosphere for my students.”
As a result of the course, Kleopatra reports that her students are more eager to participate. She says that students are more comfortable in front of their classmates as they are less judgemental and more accepting of one another’s weaknesses and strengths. “I adopted and adapted Creative Classroom activities according to my students’ needs” she concludes “and the results have been incredible”.
Ready to motivate and engage your young learners more effectively? Attend one of our upcoming trainings.
Thanks to PYE Global, the power of play and creativity is an active, vibrant part of my daily life. My facilitation trainings with PYE inspired me to revision leadership on many levels. Here’s an example of how PYE’s approach informed a project I led this summer.
The project came together through a collaboration with Rita Zawaideh, founder of a Seattle-based humanitarian aid organization called SCM Medical Missions. This nonprofit is focused on the specific task of bringing relief and aid to people affected by conflict and natural disaster within the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, and to bring people and cultures together to build bridges of understanding.
I assumed a leadership role in designing and implementing a youth service project for 50 church campers at Epiphany Parish of Seattle. I brainstormed with Rita a service project that would benefit Syrian refugees while also being scalable and age appropriate for children from preschool to fifth grade. We decided that collecting and creating hygiene kits to support Syrian refugees would achieve both objectives regarding need, service scope and age.
In the end, these 50 children teamed up to create 100 hygiene kits. But they did more than just meet basic human needs. They also embodied their service with creativity and art to add a personal touch and send a message of hope to the refugee children. The craft room came alive in a whirlwind of excitement as kids used colorful markers, construction paper and glue sticks to paste paper hearts onto paper cut out hands symbolizing love and justice.
These children also drew pictures of their families and included small toys in the hygiene kits to help make a warm, human connection with the Syrian refugee children. Finally, the campers placed an assortment of vegetable seed packets into the kits to provide food sustenance for the Syrian refugee families. In this way, they helped plant seeds of hope nourishing body and soul alike. Ultimately, these children created a group rhythm of solidarity enlivened with the movement of hands-on service.
This is the quintessential element of a group rhythm. It takes a personal narrative and gives it a beat, a pulse and a collective groove. It draws out the humanity in each of us and turns it around to empower others. Thank you, PYE Global, for teaching me what it means to be part of a tribe to enact positive social change. You have helped guide my steps toward an engaging life of creativity, movement, service and play. May we all find a rhythm that makes life come to life through the joy of movement!