Playground City has had three main focuses during the last three months:
1) Develop a suite of playlists that engage youth in their local food environment;
2) Connect with our learners where they are, and understand their learning identities by asking questions; and
3) Begin to address structural unemployment; i.e., understand employers’ hiring identities by asking questions about the skills they are looking for and find where those overlap with the students’ learning identities.
The Suite of Playlists
Four of our five proposed playlists Odd Farmer, Feed, Hood Food, Pollinators, and New Farm Tech) have already been mapped out and have begun prototyping XPs with New Image Youth Center (NIYC). We have conducted playlist writing sessions in the youth center for the immersive experience, and we have even included some of the youth in our meetings. Prototyping has brought many successes and many opportunities to learn from failure. We are in the iteration process for most of the XPs and are brainstorming additional formats for co-design with the young people.
he young people started with the "Odd Farmer" playlist, which is meant to onboard youth and get them excited enough to dive deeper into the connected playlists. They watched as seeds sprouted, learning the basics of plants -- and were challenged to think about farming in the urban environment. Gaining inspiration from experts, youth, and partners like Game Changer Orlando and Growing Orlando, this playlist has been completely prototyped and only awaits a final polish.
We then began to prototype the "Pests & Pollinators" playlist. We created a game XP where youth mirrored the work production of bees-- this is where we had to learn from failure! The XP sent some students away from the activity and left others with nothing to do. We've since created an iteration of the XP wherein all students are assigned a task during the game, and peers are not sent far from the activity. Playground City hired local actors to come in and think about pollinators in a creative and participatory way. Youth were encouraged to consider the connection between the food on our table and the pollinators that made it happen. They were attuned to each other through the movement and sounds of pollinators, and then had a lively discussion afterward, where they really opened up.
Upcoming: Youth will make a pollinator house of their choice-- bee, bat, butterfly, etc. & we will purchase native bees (they don't sting) and add them to the environment (Bad kids do save the world!)
We are diving right into the New Farm Tech playlist with a series of Arduino playlists. This is where we begin to see higher-level learning, and while fewer students participate, those who do are extremely engaged and self-motivated. The students are enjoying the challenge and have quickly elevated in their understanding of Arduino.
Upcoming: Youth will program the Aruduino board to alert them via Twitter when the garden needs to be watered.
The New Playlist By Youth
Through our human-centered design work, we've discovered another layer of playlists that our young people are interested in: TV production. Our youth have suggested that they create a TV show (potentially called "Bad Kids Save the World") that exhibits the personality of their neighborhood while completing XPs. The kids have started the Script Writing XP, where they learn to use a basic script-writing program, and have brainstormed a story line.
We have begun to look at playlists as opportunities to address structural unemployment, defined as a "mismatch between job requirements and the skills or availability of local workers." We propose that the stronger the learning ecosystem, the less structural unemployment. Currently here in Orlando, Disney intends to hire 60 new seamstresses this year and double that number next year. Orlando has at least three organizations that offer a variety of sewing classes, some for free. Playground City's goal is to connect these opportunities in a cohesive and exciting playlist. In looking at playlists in this way, it is clear that badges can hold weight in our city in a way that benefits not only the learner, but the employers as well. We can use our playlists such as "New Farm Tech" to bridge things the youth are already doing, to things they can become more engaged in, to possible jobs in the future. The skills that they gain in New Farm Tech are transferable to some of the demands in our city for unemployment, like stitching. Believe it or not, there's such a thing as Arduino controlled sewing machines.
One of our biggest design challenges is incentive youth to sign up for LRNG (our target audience is not intrinsically compelled to register, and only through “prodding” are we able to log them on -- with no guarantees that they actually login once registered.)
Our goals for the next few months are: 1) to execute and polish the suite of playlists, and 2) Bring onboard 10 youth-serving organizations to participate in the urban agriculture suite of playlists.