ALP Needs Kids: Six Ideas for Including Youth in Our Next Conference about Education
Updated: Apr 21
By Carisa Corrow
We are pleased to share with you today a piece from our storytelling series of reflections and noticings coming out of our convening in Tucson!
Please stay tuned for more writings from our team of storytellers and revisit the blog here to see them all in the coming months.
The ALP Conference concluded on February 17. 2023, and now the stories start coming in. A team of twenty-seven—including eight educators from Tucson—were a storytelling team in Tucson. For the next few months, this blog will share the stories of those folks.
I know it's hard to get youth learners to an education conference. They might anticipate being bored, which is entirely likely at some points through a conference, even for adults. Sometimes it feels like getting a student overnight trip approved requires an act of God. And of course funding…many schools are underfunded as it is, finding money to attend is not easy. Regardless, we should try. Here are six things to consider based on my recent experience at ALP.
1. Make sure there are other young people attending as conference goers
I've been thinking about this one a lot this year as I organized for two students to attend a conference last year, and they were the only youth learners at the conference. They did get to connect with students on school tours, but the analysis and peer network building was missing.
ALP had less than ten youth learners as participants at its latest convening AND although it was great they were there, I wish there were more. Honestly, I tried to bring some, but coordination was difficult on my end, so I understand the barriers, and this is where the real magic happens, when power dynamics between youth and adults have an opportunity to shift. Younger folks have an opportunity to see older folks in their learning space, while the ideas of both can be shared on more neutral territory.
2. Include youth presenters whenever possible
Those breakout sessions should include youth presenters especially if it's about student centered learning. Enough said.
3. Give credit
What skills are students demonstrating by showcasing their learning or actively participating in an education conference? Back home, make sure these skills somehow show up in their body of evidence or for schools using traditional grading systems, the gradebook.
Not every learning experience should be transactional, youth will participate because of interest, not a grade. And, learning in community with adults as peers is an authentic experience that merits "credit" in whatever form your local school gives.
5. Provide evening activities and food for youth specifically.
I think the first time I saw youth performance celebrated at a conference with live performances was at Jefferson County Public Schools’ summer Deeper Learning Symposium. It was impressive. I was struck by the talent of the young performing artists and the size of the crowd…thousands.
At ALP, we started by listening to a live Mariachi Band with students from a local high school. The ease with which they performed as well as the music was incredible. This group was also fundraising to go to a competition in DC, so there was also the opportunity to solicit donations for their trip. Win. Win.
4. Provide evening activities and food for youth specifically.
This one also goes out to all the teetotalers and others who just can't be around alcohol. Create community building opportunities for youth and adults that show them they can have fun without alcohol. Bowling, guided city tour, or game night are some ideas.
6. Pay them with money
This isn't always possible, and when it is, youth learners should get paid for their time as presenters, performers or lending their expertise at the conference. I really hate to be transactional; we all should want to learn in order to learn, not for a payday. Free food, a hotel room and transportation might feel like enough to compensate young people, and if your organization can give a small honorarium, give it.
About the Storyteller
I built a model UFO in high school for my senior project. I learned a lot about learning, how others use math to create and how schools lock students out of their potential through memorization, extractive assessments. and tasks that are not meaningful for students. This powerful experience led me to public education, where I was able to use project based learning and performance assessment as part of my regular instructional and assessment practice.
I truly believe in the power of public education; I was a public school teacher for fourteen years in NH. I also believe public school can be a lot better. There are so many conversations not had, and we need to have them no matter the discomfort. For the past four years, I have supported educators in NH and across the country with my friends at the Center for Collaborative Education focused on designing competency based assessment systems using the Quality Performance Assessment framework. I’ve helped thousands of teachers in NH design performance assessments as part of the PACE Initiative and worked to help districts make the shift to competency based education practices. I helped facilitate the Vermont Professional Learning Network from 2016-2019 which focused on Proficiency Based Learning Practices, Continuous Improvement and Work Based Learning. I was the technical advisor for the planning phase of the Manchester West Redesign project and am currently supporting Franklin High School as they create their Portrait of the Graduate. I have written self-paced courses for educators, contributed as a thought partner for competency based education publications and have presented at local and national conferences. In all of this work, I’ve gone on quite the learning journey myself discovering the ways unjust systems affect students and the communities in which they live.
My biggest hope is that Educating for Good becomes an entity that connects folks working on various educational endeavors in New Hampshire including topics such as reparations, anti-racism, poverty, militarism, democratic education, restorative practices, environmental sustainability and repair, and media literacy.