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Supporting Youth to Develop a Mental Map of Where They Learn

Supporting Youth to Develop a Mental Map of Where They Learn

Written by Barry Joseph
March 24, 2011

For a number of years now, Global Kids, Inc. has been attempting to figure out a simple approach to support the youth in our programs to develop the meta-cognitive skills required to both understand and articulate what they are learning, both within our programs and in other informal learning environments.

Below describes a mapping exercise we like to take youth through within some of our programs, both on the first and last day of the program. I will share here the core curriculum and a video providing examples of what it looks like. We have found that it works very well to help us, as facilitators, gain a deeper understanding of what, where and how youth are learning.

In the past year we have shared this approach with others, but not always to the same effect. We would love to hear from folks who try this out if it was of use and, if not, if there are clear ways to support others to engage with these activities.

To create a map, please following these directions, amending them as you see fit:

  1. Direct each youth to create a list of places where they learn, whatever “place” or “learn” means to them. 
  2. Show some examples of how other youth have made maps out of their list.
  3. Direct each youth to draw a draft of their own learning ecology, showing how each location relates
    to the others and deciding on what map metaphors they wish to use. You might want to have them use pens or pencils, staying in one color, to emphasize that it is just a draft.
  4. Facilitate the youth in sharing their draft maps with each other as they discuss following questions:

    • What was it like to create your list and your draft map?
    • Did you notice anything by looking at other people’s maps or by showing yours?
  5. Have youth revise their draft (if they want) and to create a more final version of their map using colored markers. Ask youth to hang them up when they are done.
  6. Gathering the youth around the hanging maps, ask youth:

  • What was it like to create your final map?
  • What types of nodes were grouped together and which ones grouped apart, and why? NOTE: Elicit out from the group commonalities among the representations.
  • Which of these places are you required to go to, and which do you go by choice?

Finally, on another paper, instruct youth to write down each of their nodes of learning and list beside each one what they learn there that may be valuable for this
program. Afterwards, ask a few to share what they wrote.

Here is a video of one way this can look:

During the last meeting, we return to the maps and do the following:

  • Return copies of the Learning Maps to youth.
  • Review the learning they anticipated they would bring into this program from their other nodes of learning. Were their predictions correct? Were other types of learning utilized?
  • Revisiting their map, is there anything they would want to change? Change it.
  • Re-list on a sheet of paper their nodes of learning. Next to each item list at least one thing they have learned from this program which they will bring back into that node. e.g. What I learned about researching a topic of interest will help me next time I do research at the library.

Here is a video of one way this can look:

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