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Youth Equity + STEM (YESTEM): Project Blog



Archive for March, 2022

Equitable youth boards in informal STEM learning

By s.godec, on 24 March 2022

More and more organisations are recognising the importance of actively and meaningfully working with young people they are set up to support. In this blog post, we introduce our new 15-step summary guide for how to set up and run an equitable youth board in your organisation. The guide was developed in partnership with young people and practitioners from informal STEM learning settings.

Young people in a classroom

Direction Board session at Hanwell Zoo

In the YESTEM project, we worked closely with informal STEM learning practitioners in four organisations to develop, test and refine their participatory working (using a Design-Based Implementation Research approach) – through establishing equitable youth boards and developing youth participatory practice.

  • Hanwell Zoo set up a Direction Board (check out their Instagram!) . The young people have already informed a number of conservation and education programmes. As the first Aquarium and Zoo Youth Board in the UK, the Direction Board have been sharing their work with other zoos, such as at the National Youth Symposium held at Chester Zoo, to inspire others to follow their path. A short film about the Direction Board is available at the bottom of this post.
  • Knowle West Media Centre (KWMC) started a Youth Council, which has an open-door policy and where young people can join at different times, to ensure that a broad range of voices is heard. The group has influenced the focus on the environment, mental health, and celebrating the community, such as through a recent “ReCREATE Filwood” project, redesigning a local high street. See this short film on how the Youth Council plays a key role in KWMC’s equitable practice.
  • Stemettes created a nationwide Youth Board with participants from across the UK and Ireland – meet their members here.
  • We the Curious have worked with young people in participatory ways first through a Curious Researchers programme (where young people informed and co-developed exhibitions). More recently, We the Curious worked with young Digital Content Creators, who designed and delivered collaborative workshops with underrepresented communities to bring their voices, and produced digital content on the climate crisis. Reflections on We the Curious participatory practice are captured in this short film.

The participatory practice has already made a difference to informal STEM learning practitioners and organisations, helping them better plan the programmes that address the needs of young people better. As one of our project practitioners said “Who knows young people better than young people themselves?”

Being part of a youth board also led to positive outcomes for the young people involved, who reported feeling a sense of ownership and responsibility, and feeling that their input was valued: “Being part of the Youth Council means that young people are able to make a difference.”

Young people sitting around the table

A session at Knowle West Media Centre

We focused particularly on how youth boards can be equitable. Below is a list of key things to consider (see more details in this YESTEM Insight: How to set up and run an equitable youth board):

Before you start

  1. Get a social justice mind set
  2. Create a shared vision
  3. Get everyone on board

Recruiting the youth board

  1. Be proactive in your recruitment
  2. Recognise the value and needs of board members
  3. Encourage creative application formats
  4. Give feedback to unsuccessful applicants

Running the youth board

  1. Welcome and care for youth board members
  2. Meet everyone’s needs
  3. Create safe spaces and practices
  4. Work with young people
  5. Value everyone’s voice and contributions
  6. Make the board visible
  7. Give the board power and authority
  8. Make it count – support board members’ futures

For more details about the Direction Board at Hanwell Zoo, see this short film.