Resiliency is in relationships: people knowing people; people trusting people. Resiliency relationships develop over weeks, months, and even years. They grow out of those daily routines that have people regularly crossing paths with such frequency that they cannot help but take the opportunity to come to know of and about each other. Resiliency relationships are positive, constructive, interdependent workings of people who either know each other’s' strengths and personal resources or at least know they can be called upon when needed to work collectively and collaboratively. The longer these forms of bonding exist among a community's residents, the longer they pervade residents' daily routines, the more deep-seated is the community's resiliency. A source that helps our understanding of the particular relationships that contribute to and support resiliency is in the literature on resiliency in youth. That discovery, and others to be explored over the next few weeks, have me believing that community and regional resiliency start with kids. Nurtured over time, throughout a community, the resiliency youth exhibit matures as they grow to adulthood providing their community with a ready-made foundation capable of "...harnessing local resources and expertise to help themselves in an emergency, in a way that complements the response of the emergency services” (Cabinet Office, 2011,4).
It is important to note, the above definition opens with "Communities and individuals..." And yet, rarely if ever are youth or senior citizens included as integral contributing parts of "communities and individuals." Both cohorts are typically the focus of and not participants in the development of emergency response strategies. They remain anonymous recipients. Their anonymity is even more pronounced in the world of education reform. Rarely are youth active participants in discussions bearing on their education. And, in their anonymity their creative, innovative energies remain underutilized if not untapped. In this time of rapidly changing global pressures communities, regions, and countries cannot afford to ignore resources in such numbers as those populating primary and second schools and the retirement cohort (Wilding, 2001).
I will develop at least three arguments that call for an integration of youth into their community. In doing so I will outline how kids can provide a foundation upon which a community can build its resiliency and bolster local economic vibrancy and workforce numbers. I will argue for a shift in the location of primary and secondary education from the isolation of youth in schools situated on the periphery of society to their active inclusion in their community. That will be followed by an argument for making project-based learning a community-wide endeavor, one which finds kids and all sorts of local people working shoulder to shoulder to solve real, local problems needing practical innovative solutions. A major outcome will find kids and adults transitioning from consumers to contributors.
When kids are no longer confined to the classroom and engaged in project-based learning, in a learning environment in which the classroom is the community, then life-long learning acquires a new, broader definition. I will conclude with reasons for student- and teacher-generated projects being replaced with place-based, community generated projects. Using examples of middle and high school students in rural (a town of 900) and urban settings I will argue for Kid Power, their displayed ability to solve previously considered unsolvable problems and invent previously unconsidered inventions. One conclusion will describe how kids when actively involved in their community can contribute to the public's health, safety, and welfare while developing a revenue stream for their schools and school districts.
Cabinet Office, 2011. Strategic National Framework on Community Resilience.
Wilding, 2001. Exploring Community Resiliency in Times of Rapid Change. Dunfermline Fife: Carnegie UK Trust).