In today’s evolving educational landscape, the question of who should be at the forefront of driving change in the education system is significant.
While educators, administrators and policymakers play crucial roles in shaping the system, there is an undeniable value in empowering students to take part in and become active leaders and owners of the work for change. Shifting the perspective recognizes that students are not merely passive recipients of education but vital stakeholders. Students possess unique insights, experiences and aspirations that can drive transformative improvements.
The Nevada Future of Learning Network’s Nevada Youth Empowerment Fellowship provides experiences for state youth in network building, facilitation and program design through opportunities to help shape the vision for the future of teaching and learning in Nevada. In partnership with KnowledgeWorks, they created a logo to serve as a visual representation of the fellowship for recruitment and crafted a social media toolkit to assist them in promoting the fellowship’s recruitment efforts across various social media platforms.
A process for growing creative autonomy and agency
At the core of our collaboration was the principle that the fellows would take ownership of the logo and play a pivotal role in recruiting their peers to join the fellowship. With KnowledgeWorks guidance, this gave students both creative autonomy and a sense of agency in fostering positive change within the education system.
“I felt great just knowing that this whole team is taking my opinion into consideration,” said Estrella Gomez, a high school senior who is a member of the fellowship. “It’s not just about the adults in charge making the decisions for the students, but the students helping in that decision making process.”
Recognizing the importance of empowering students to take true ownership of projects, we enacted a plan of facilitating their creative process rather than imposing our own vision. Here’s how:
Set essential parameters, such as colors to be used in the design, to ensure that the logo creation aligned with the fellowship’s objective – yet the entire look and outcome remained firmly in the hands of the youth fellows.
Start with a brainstorming session, equipping fellows with the tools and techniques to generate ideas for the logo. It was crucial to establish a supportive environment, one where they felt reassured that I would be there to offer guidance whenever they encountered obstacles or needed direction.
“It really developed my creative process and it let me feel more involved in the whole process of everything,” said Addie Carlson, a high school sophomore and another member of the fellowship. “It also gave me a lot more ideas on how things can come together and how things appeal to the eye in certain ways.”
To foster a collaborative and inclusive creation process, each fellow was granted time and space to brainstorm and piece together their ideas for the logo independently. Facilitated by KnowledgeWorks, each fellow presented their respective design concepts, enabling everyone to gain insight into the diverse range of ideas. This open forum allowed the group to collectively weigh in and select those ideas that best encapsulated the mission and meaning of the fellowship.
As the logo creation session ended, KnowledgeWorks refined the logo and presented three distinct options, ensuring that the final decision rested firmly in the hands of the fellows themselves. This collaborative approach not only emphasized their ownership of the project but also reinforced the principle that their collective efforts hold meaning in the fellowship.
Students as powerful advocates for change
“It’s actually really refreshing just knowing that my opinions, my experiences are heard and they are being put into consideration when it comes to changing education here in Nevada,” said Gomez. “I love Nevada. I’ve been here my whole life and I think there could be a lot of things different about our education system. Being a part of that change means a lot to me because this is my hometown. My parents chose to live here after they came from Mexico and that holds a lot of value for me.”
The principle of student ownership is a guiding light for the future of education in Nevada. The empowerment of students to take the lead in shaping their educational journeys is not an isolated endeavor but a philosophy that will continue to propel our work forward. When students are given the space, trust and support to take ownership of their education, they can become powerful advocates for change. Their unique insights, creativity and enthusiasm have the power to reshape the educational landscape.