Oftentimes youth in our programs do not feel comfortable advocating for their preferences. They may not be used to having a lot of options, or just scared to voice their opinion in a group setting. Across programs, when a question is put to the group for decision most youth will say either option is fine or that they are open-minded. Yet their input is an integral part of designing our program because we focus on their individualized interests. We want them to know that their strengths are valuable and their ideas are important. By having the opportunity to explore their voice, they can see that they can impact their own lives and the lives of others.
It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”
– Eugene Ionesco, playwright
At Million Little, we allow youth to explore on their interests in our programs while also exposing them to new ideas and materials they might not have used before. This often leads to questions.
“What is this for?”
“How does this work?”
“What does this do?”
These questions show our youth’s innate curiosity and engagement in our program. But while we will provide help, we make sure not to answer their questions in a way that stifles their creative problem-solving. If a child holds up an object and asks what it is, they may be completely satisfied with your answer and not imagine other uses for it.
In one session, Travis was inspired by nostalgia to recreate a food item from a tv show. He wanted to make a pink donut, in the exact shade he remembered. The only problem, there wasn’t a bottle of pink paint. He was dejected, until Ji let him know that he could make pink from the other colors we did have. This piqued his interest, but he wasn’t sure what to mix. “How do you make pink?”, he asked.
Handing him a bottle of red and white paint would have helped him produce paint, but there is value in trying new things and taking chances. So instead we suggested he experiment with the available colors. He struggled at first, which only frustrated him. Travis judged himself for not being able to immediately complete his goal. Despite that, he kept trying and ultimately succeeded. His face shone bright, full of confidence looking down at his creation. It can be disheartening not knowing how to do something, but not giving up is a strength in itself.