K-Pop and SEL: A Perfect Match

This post is by Shawnte Santos, Program Manager, Youth Services, and Martin Pi ñol, Youth Services Librarian, South San Francisco (CA) Public Library.

photo of participants in K-Pop programIn October 2018, inspired by a K-Pop 101 program on YALSA’s Teen Programming HQ, South San Francisco Public Library hosted the first of what would become a series of K-Pop programs for and with teens.

This spring, when participating in a YALSA facilitated Teen Services with Impact! workshop, we realized that the K-Pop activities connected with of the Social Emotional Competencies. For example:

Self Awareness
The teens who attended were incredibly appreciative of the program, and excited to see their interests represented in a library program. They were especially thrilled when opening their mystery prize packs and seeing what was included- there was even some screaming; we were happy that they felt comfortable enough to express their emotions in the space.

Self Management
We planned to set up a playlist of K-Pop songs and videos, however the teens made it their own, they took turns choosing what songs they wanted to hear and share with their new friends. Everybody was supportive of each other’s choices, and waited until the songs were over before putting on new ones.

Relationship Skills
The K-Pop events create a space for teens throughout the county to make connections outside their respective schools. For instance, a majority of the teens are already part of a high school club, but they were actively interested in meeting new people in a welcoming atmosphere at the K-Pop programs. New friendships were made as attendees introduced themselves and shared contact information. Discussions (BTS vs. Monsta X) were always lively, but remained friendly and respectful. While we randomly chose raffle winners at our first event, teens went out of their way to trade and share their prizes with friends, recent acquaintances, and even total strangers.

Responsible Decision-Making
Teens came early to decorate the room and work with staff to decide how the event would run. This included setting up stations for example a virtual reality area, preparing snacks, troubleshooting technology like the projector and speakers, and creating a designated dance floor. This work required teens to solve problems, work together in a safe manner, and overall evaluate a space they helped design.

Conclusion
From our experience, K-Pop events are highly successful because they are relevant. They directly fulfill a want expressed by teens and provide an opportunity for them to learn essential social and emotional competencies. Working with self-motivated teens to co-design events empowers them to self-manage and be responsible decision makers.

Truthfully, once the K-Pop events get started we take a step back so teens can evaluate and decide the course of the event based off their interests in the moment. We assist with the activities and technology, but sometimes the program is more about dancing then making something with technology.

We have had mixed success with Teen Advisory Boards. However, the K-Pop programs came about from community interests and building relationships with volunteers and local youth. We were surprised and thrilled by the turnout and can’t wait for the next one. (PDF examples of our program flyers are available for download.)

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