I was hired last year as an AmeirCorps VISTA and was tasked with engaging more youth as volunteers in the Science Museum of Minnesota – no easy task. It’s been a long process of walking the exhibits, figuring out where we could even have youth and what would appeal to younger volunteers. A successful program takes into consideration its audience developmental needs and we understood that young volunteers are still in the process of developing, therefore our program, recruitment and intake process all had to reflect youth’s developmental stage.
We wanted to design a program that allowed volunteers to have fun and engage with visitors, but also had opportunities for them to learn and develop as leaders. After discarding half a dozen ideas, we settled on a summer opportunity where our youth volunteers facilitate science activities with pre-schoolers. This was definitely the best fit for the Volunteer Department and the Museum. Youth have the chance to learn many hands-on activities, work with children, develop leadership activities and meet new friends. Youth have real responsibility in executing the Museum’s mission of turning on the science and the opportunity to learn both science and life skills.
As this is only our first year, there is still much we want to accomplish in the coming years! We will take the feedback of our participants and continue implementing activities and opportunities that are appropriate for youth. Eventually we want to build a program that incorporates service and learning as a model for healthy youth development for our youth! The road is long and there are always improvements, but all programs start somewhere.
Beatriz Carrillo, Youth Engagement Coordinator