SOW Journal: Reflection on the First Day
The first day at Tomorrow's Youth Organization (TYO) was a great success. The Summer 2009 Session marks the beginning of a Holistic Integrated Approach to early childhood education within TYO's program for early childhood development. Since the end of April, the Core Program teachers have worked with educators and trainers from MaDad to develop a program that encourages children to create their own environments, curriculum and goals. This child centered approach pushes the child to tell his own story at an age when he may not have an outlet for his voice. The program provides an opportunity for children to become protagonists in their own biographies, education and future. Additionally, the new approach in theory and practice here at TYO integrates families in conversations with the children to better understand, narrate, and expand their personal biographies and opportunities. Children at TYO educate themselves about subjects they choose and tell their own stories—a form of self-guided therapy. In a setting where psychosocial problems are the norm, their energy and resiliency is outstandingly evident.
On the first day, the Core Program teachers and students focused on actively appreciating their new space. In order to teach the students about respecting themselves and their environment, the teachers began their classes with a cleaning activity allowing the children to take part in preparing the class for the day’s first activity. Likewise, at the end of the day the children cleaned their space as well. This practice of respect and responsibility for one's environment instills in the children a sense of the classroom rules without lecturing or disciplining—it becomes second nature. I observed Ahmad’s class as he, his volunteers and the participants cleaned, decorated and learned about the space they will use for the rest of the summer.
With in the influx of several American interns, TYO is able to offer lessons in photography, creative writing and creative visual arts to children and youth. The participants in these classes learn therapeutic skills that will allow them to tell their stories long after their instructors leave. Indeed, these skills are instrumental to TYO's sustainable long-term goals of bringing their approach into the home.
The children warmed up to the staff and interns quickly. They began journaling their experiences in Kelsey's Summer Camp. In Doris' “Nabulsi Explorers” class, students had the opportunity to tell their own stories by learning basics in photography and how to critique each others' work. Shahla's “Mad Scientist” class allowed students to draw subjects they wished to learn about in class. When a few students commented that they had never drawn before. All I could think was: What kind of future can a child who has never drawn before imagine? This is the true importance of TYO’s work providing children with the skills to represent themselves through documentation, visual and narrative arts.
Danny is a member of the New York University chapter of Students of the World, a volunteer film crew, spending one month with TYO in Nablus documenting the first weeks of the TYO summer program.