Next-Generation Democracy

From Youth Engagement to Empowerment
Blog Post
Aug. 22, 2017

Continuing our series of inspiring stories from speakers at #RiseLocal, this week's blog is authored by Robin Mencher, Executive Director of Education for KQED. 

At KQED, public media in the San Francisco Bay Area, we are committed to using the tools of journalism and media production to serve up free and open educational resources for public schools in service to our mission. KQED provides citizens with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions; convenes community dialogue; brings the arts to everyone; and engages audiences to share their stories. We help students and teachers thrive in 21st century classrooms, and take people of all ages on journeys of exploration—exposing them to new people, places and ideas.

Media Literacy Fundamentals: Questioning, Investigating, Making and Sharing, Reflecting

How can KQED inspire young people to delve into civic issues relevant to their own lives, connect them to their peers outside of their own schools and communities, and amplify their voices?

Modeling inquiry-based learning and strengthening media literacy skills, our new YouTube series for teens, Above the Noise, cuts through the hype and dives deep into the science behind the issues affecting their daily lives. The Lowdown, publishes digital content, lessons, and Do Now activities that connect the newsroom to the classroom and ask students to engage and respond to current issues using social media tools like twitter, flipgrid and instagram.

Build Real-World Connections

Does school curriculum relate to students’ day-to-day life in terms of reflecting or highlighting communities and issues that matter to them? Can they see themselves in the curriculum?

For the 2016 presidential election, we partnered with the National Writing Project to launch Letters to the Next President, a curriculum and publishing site to engage and connect young people, aged 13–18, as they researched, wrote, and made media to voice their opinions on issues that mattered to them in the 2016 presidential election. Almost 13,000 letters - text and multimedia alike - were published by students across the country.

In honor of Earth Day, we partnered with PBS to launch Engineering for Good, a three-week, project-based learning unit for middle school science classrooms focused on developing solutions for negative impacts of plastics on the environment. In these NGSS-aligned lessons, students use the engineering design process to define a problem, brainstorm solutions, develop prototypes and iterate on their designs. The project culminates with students producing videos about their solutions to share with the community.

Support the Teachers

Do teachers have access to building their competency and capacity to integrate media-based technologies into their curriculum and instruction?

If we want all students to be media literate and active participants in civic life, we must invest in their teachers. To strengthen digital media literacy skill building in the classroom, we launched KQED Teach, a free, online professional learning community where educators can expand their media literacy skills by making their own digital media and sharing it with the community of fellow educators.

Youth-Driven Decision Making

Are youth voices and experiences represented, invited, valued?

The KQED Youth Advisory Board contributes to the creation of our resources and services for schools. A select group of high school students from throughout the Bay Area work with KQED staff for a year, contributing their voices and shaping what we produce. Participating youth hear pitches from KQED staff on new products and media, analyze and discuss ideas on how to improve media use in the classroom, and provide feedback on current and future KQED media and education tools.

Equity and Access: Building Authentic Engagement

What does this all add up to?

These free and open resources and services for teachers and students provide wide access for young people from diverse communities to engage with global and local issues and with their peers. The impact stretches further than engagement in school assignments through real-world examples and connections and real-world communication tools. If we want our next generation of leaders and community members to participate in democracy and contribute to strengthening civic life as adults, we must invest in their skill development and also recognize and amplify their voices as valued community members today.

Check back on Tuesday, September 5th for our final story in this #RiseLocal series from Fay Darmawi of the SF Urban Film Fest.