The View from Here:The Perspectives of Inner City Youth in Experiential Education Programs

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Kerr, Roseann
Youth Development , Low-Income Youth , Art Education , Outdoor Education , Experiential Education
This collective case study analyzed the experiences of current and past participants of two experiential education programs for low-income inner city youth in order to understand how participants developed personally and socially through their participation. Drawing on research on risk and resilience, this study focuses on programs that attempt to provide inner city youth with ‘protective factors’ against risks they face. One case represents the experiences of participants in an arts education program and the other in an outdoor education program. At each research site, open ended, semi-structured interviews were conducted with current participants (aged 13-15) and past participants (aged 16-21). Past and current participants in both programs described a series of developmental stages of coming out of one’s shell starting with experiencing success, leading to feelings of competence in abilities, feeling trust for group members, and thus, building the confidence to be one’s self. The agents of change in the arts program were: opportunities for self-expression without formal evaluation in dance, drama, music, and visual arts activities; encouragement from staff; and receiving positive feedback for performances from peers, staff, and parents. The major agent of change in the outdoor education program was overcoming challenges in a supportive atmosphere. Group and individual challenges were encountered during canoe tripping, ropes course activities, and the solo experience. A supportive environment was created by respectful relationships with staff and peers built through overcoming challenges together.
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