Developing workshops for young people

19th Sep 18 by Claire Woodhill

Feedback staff member Claire Woodhill offers tips for those delivering workshops to young people.

This summer feedback took the opportunity to deliver eight national citizen service ‘enterprise challenges’ as part of our Our Bright Future work to increase young people’s knowledge and understanding of food waste and the environmental impact of our food system.
Feedback staff member Claire Woodhill led the delivery in London and Manchester and offers her learnings below as tips for those delivering workshops to young people:

1. Changing pace and tone of voice, and a new colourful slide for each point helped maintain high attention rates.
I can’t emphasise this one enough. Delivering your information without a variance in sound can lull anyone into a daydream and even a passionate speech can bring this on. I realised during one session when I was midway through a rousing call to arms that I’d lost part of the room, I had nowhere to go but slow down rapidly and add in some staccato words. That brought them round!

2. Giving any more than 20 mins for a task is too long.
When I first started I designed group tasks that I thought it would take over an hour to complete. It didn’t seem to matter what kind of task I gave them – they always reported they were finished after 20 mins or so. I think that’s all the time they had the patience for, regardless of what the task was. So, I stopped designing long tasks, opting instead for a variety of short tasks that offered different types of engagement.

3. If you’re planning a group activity, groups should be no larger than 6 people, preferably 4 people.
I knew the young people attending these workshops were already working in groups of 10-14. At the start I utilised these groups for workshop activities. After delivering a few workshops I released a group of 10-14 was too large; I’d find 4 of the young people were involved, 3 or 4 more were minimally engaged, and the rest were not engaged at all. Smaller groups enable more young people to engage.

4. Base the type of activity on the context of the workshop.
These workshops were taking place outside of a school environment, during a very hot, football frenzied summer. It was therefore not okay to deliver classroom style activities. A classroom workshop can demand more attention and be more challenging than a summer school workshop. Workshops conducted outside of a school environment need to be more novel, involve more physical activity, even if that just means running a discussion activity standing up rather than sitting down. I found it useful to ask myself if there was a way to physicalise either my workshop content or the young people’s responses: I ended up creating a game that enabled the young people to simulate the food system and discover its issues organically – rather than my telling them what the problems were.

5. It is essential to reserve at least 10 mins at the end of your session for evaluation.
If you schedule evaluation as an activity itself, it will not get missed off. It took two sessions for me to realise I needed to make evaluation more of a formal workshop activity. I learnt so much from the feedback in the evaluation forms and continually evolved my workshop content based on the young people’s feedback – I would never have made up a game if it hadn’t been suggested so many times!

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