The SSYZ Educational Co-Op

Learning in a variety of ways, working together, and helping each other reach success!

The Southside Stars Youth Zone is completing our first month of our educational co-op! Right now you are asking “What is an educational co-op?”, so let’s start at the beginning.

When the SSYZ started programming in the fall we had a mix of both home-schooled and public school youth. Through the course of the fall session our home-school families were very interested in a learning co-op for their youth. It would be a way to add to their current studies, allow the kids to build peer to peer support, and directly correlate to their career path plan.

We thought long and hard on this concept. There was a lot to consider beyond just extending hours. There would be added materials needed, implementation of innovative teaching techniques, building a new program plan, and other considerations. We did have some ground already though with both of us having experience in teaching and my experiences home-schooling both elementary and high school students.

So what is our vision of an Educational Co-op? First we need to explain the style of learning. It is very similar to our other programming, based upon portfolio/ exploitative learning. This approach is being used in several high-end private schools in the US. It combines exploratory learning, interactive peer-to-peer mentoring, relevant project based assessments, and uses a variety of learning approaches to meet the needs of the individual learner. The youth will have structured learning in the areas of literacy and math, and when it is time, full preparation for SAT/ACT testing that will be needed for higher education opportunities.

We believe if reading, writing, research, and math are grown in a student correctly, they will have the tools to learn anything. This is why we focus so heavily in these areas. Their other areas of study are based around each youth’s particular career path. For example: We have several that want to be in the vet field. So we have gone through to find out the exact courses/ studies that will be required in the Purdue Veterinary School. From there we work with each one of them to ensure they achieve the necessary skills in order to be successful in those courses. Too often students are unprepared for the specific knowledge needed to achieve success in their chosen field, and is a contributing factor to dropping out. We want the material to be directly relevant to them.

We researched, collaborated with others, planned, and then announced to our parents we would be starting the educational co-op with our Spring 2019 session. Several of our public school parents were interested in becoming part of this as well. Considering they were behind in where they should be, and had been making good progress in our after-school program, it just made sense.

Thanks to the advancement in technologies, the large amount of online lectures/ programming, virtual learning platforms, local organizational workshops, and tutors/ volunteers make this type of programming very accessible to those who previously relied only on the knowledge base of just their instructor.

We started with assessments and career path plan updating. Now we are getting into the fun work! Currently we have 10 youth participating in the edu co-op. This will remain a closed program for now until we have the right funding and staffing to grow it.

Stay tuned for some exciting stories emerging from this aspect of the SSYZ!

You can also contact us directly to learn more about the other programs the SSYZ has to offer.

About the author: Lisa Barnett