YOUmedia Hartford is a digital learning and maker space for teens ages 13-19. The space is a research-informed, informal learning environment utilizing principles of connected learning, the HOMAGO learning theory and positive youth development. Students come to Hang Out, Mess Around and Geek Out in content areas that include video and photo production, music production, game design, computer programming, design and making. Through partnerships with local artists and professionals, businesses, schools and other informal learning spaces, students discover new opportunities and build knowledge and skills in areas of interest. For instance, this coming summer students will work with award-winning producer Quadeer Shakur to produce, distribute and market a Best of Hartford Hip Hop album. Others will work with a local botanist to build a hydroponic window garden from recycled materials. Still more will enter 3D modeling, design and film contests under the guidance of our mentors. Hundreds others will seek help with homework and personal projects, meet new friends and attend social events.
For Teen Tech Week the YOUmedia Hartford staff wanted to get out of the library and into classrooms, and so we did! Through partnerships with several local schools we were able to take e-textiles and stop motion animation workshops on the road. The projects showcased the variety of activities available at YOUmedia and to expose students to the processes behind some very fun and practical technologies. These workshops also acted as carrots to attract new youth to the space, so that they might find themselves immersed in a resource-rich environment, staffed with knowledgeable mentors and full-to-the-brim with other young people exploring similar pursuits. All of the materials used for the workshops are available freely to any youth in the space.
We also wanted to strengthen our ties to schools and connect with teachers who might champion the YOUmedia cause – to help young people explore, discover and pursue a metier of their choosing. Youth respond positively to trusted adults who recommend they pay us a visit. Through this work, we’re strengthening our network of schools and teachers, thereby increasing the number of youth who utilize YOUmedia resources to reach personal, academic and career goals. This network, and the reach they afford us, increases and improves our impact.
We are so grateful to YALSA and Best Buy for making Teen Tech Week an amazing success. We look forward to welcoming new youth into the space and to nurturing our relationships with teachers and administrators.
Tricia George is the YOUmedia Manager at Hartford Public Library.