It never stops amazing me how one thing leads to another in life. It’s been over ten months since I joined ALT/space. Writing, reflecting, researching, and sharing ideas from my own teaching artist practice with my peers has built a much greater sense of community in me and, having done so, I feel that my work has been further affirmed and validated.
Being part of the ALT/space community has brought me to think more deeply and engage more consciously with my own work in the classroom and in different communities. It has been an incredibly powerful experience for me. I have enjoyed the process and this enjoyment encourages me continue to do what I do.
Writing for ALT/space has recently brought me to assess my work in youth development at the Chicago Teen Museum (CTM). Over the past four years, I have helped develop and facilitate multi-arts projects for this emerging itinerant museum in partnerships with other local youth organization such as After School Matters. The CTM is currently run as a volunteer-based project. With limited resources, we have had to explore and experiment with alternative ways of engaging and retaining teen participants.
Chicago Teen Museum exhibit ideas by Teen Council Fall 2010.
Finding inspiration in my regular writing for ALT/space, the idea of building a virtual museum emerged on my mind. At the beginning of this year, we revamped the organization by re-activating and re-designing our two-year-old blog to catch up with the technological trend among teens.
Our blog, entitled WAY@Teen Museum, (WAY stands for “We Are Young”) as named by one of our teen bloggers, serves as a virtual youth-driven museum space, dedicated to celebrating and promoting teen cultures through stories and art.
A research study in 2005 reports that “the number of teenagers using the Internet has grown 24% in the past four years and 87% of those between the ages of 12 and 17 are online.” (Teens and Technology) The study also shows that an increased number of American teens use these technologies to communicate with one another as well as with their parents and other authorities.
This report reveals the fact that what teens find compelling about being online is a sense of self-affirmation and validation. Some museum education scholars summarize that “at its most basic level, learning is about affirming self… Having a sense of self – an awareness of personal needs, interests, and abilities – is fundamental to all learning.” (p. 21. Learning from Museum)
A virtual museum allows teens interact and self-discover. We want to make WAY more than just a collection of teens’ writings; we want it to be a consortium of resources by, for, and about teens, a central educational tool for capturing teen creativity, as well as a platform where teens can work together to build a space of their own, a borderless teen space that crosses cultures and social differences.
Three months after the re-activation of the WAY blog, our virtual museum had over 4,000 unique hits from more than 50 countries. Five new teen bloggers from three different cities joined forces to build a museum that they can call their own.
One of these teen bloggers, Khachoe, 17, from New York City, tellingly captures why she wants to be part of our virtual teen museum community:
Today many teens including my siblings are driven away from our culturally inflated environment because of many factors. Many concentrate only on what they are taught in class; nothing else besides that matters to them and they start becoming like the school textbook itself, blunt without character. I asked a friend of mine why she never has time to go visit museums with me, she simply replied that she doesn’t have time and also that she can’t really relate to things outside the school. Chicago Teen Museum’s online blog will be a great way to bring art straight into their computers, cell phones, ipads and all the other portable wireless technology and since the posts on this blog will be coming from teens themselves, others will be able to relate to them.
We hope that this is the beginning of a greater movement. I am excited to see how this project unfolds.
Falk, J. H., & Dierking, L.D. (2000). Learning from Museums: Visitor Experiences and the Making of Meaning. Walnut Creek, CA: Alta Mira Press.
Lenhard, A., Hitlin, P., Madden, M. (July 27, 2005). Teens and Technology. Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Ng-He, C. “Empowering Youth Culture: Possibilities for Creating a Teen Museum.” (ed.) Hutzel, Bastos, F. M. C., Cosie, K. J. (2012). Transforming City School Through Art: Approaches to Meaningful K-12 Learning. New York: Teachers College Press.