Happy April all! Here at Solar Youth we have had quite the busy and productive month! Between Eastview, West Rock, Trailblazers, Green Jobs, and our new Learning Hubs, we have much to share.
Let’s begin by taking a trip to some of our youth programs:
The month of March was themed Fitness and Nutrition. After February’s cultural exploration, we thought an exploration of the body and how to keep it healthy and properly fueled would be interesting and engaging for our Stewards. Through movement, art, outdoor exercise play and self-exploration, kids had a great time both outdoors and now, indoors (with proper COVID guidelines in place of course). The month was kicked off with a virtual self-care day led by Educator Paige B. The focus of the day mental health and ways to destress. Activities included vision boards, creating slime and stress balls. Stewards especially enjoyed the ooey-gooey slime made from shampoo and conditioner! We then continued to explore the self and the body through an age-appropriate discussion on acceptance, genders and stereotypes. By exploring Chimera butterflies’ stewards were able to grasp the concept of non-binary and learn to be respectful of people who may identify as non-binary. We also made our own asymmetrical Chimera butterflies with images shapes and colors that meant something to us. The activity was lots of fun and fostered engagement, as Stewards shared their own experiences with stereotypes, gender and inclusivity.
The second week of March provided beautiful spring-like weather and West Rock stewards took full advantage of it. Stewards hiked along the Rockview Circle and Westville Manor trails created and maintained by the #Trailblazers program. Along the trail, stewards paused to record via drawing or writing in their nature journals everything they saw and heard such as birds chirping, dead leaves and streams. While walking the trails, we came upon a temperate pond and led to a brief discussion of what the pond is and what to expect in the coming weeks. Breeding season is approaching for frogs and we look forward to finding some in late March/Early April!
In addition to outdoor exploring, Stewards were also treated to a magically relaxing yoga practice with a longtime partner of Solar Youth, Shefau from Zen Zilla Yoga and Wellness, LLC. Her beautiful voice and energy helped to engage staff and students in a well needed practice for the day. Namaste, Shefau!
Julie, our External Relations Director visited the Trailblazer’s this month and give us a sneak peek on some of the projects that they are currently working on. Demolition is the name of the game. According to Harry, the Director of the Trailblazer’s program, the team has been working tirelessly to demolish old foot paths and bridges to reconstruct better versions, and even install bike ramps that will allow mountain biking to be brought to the West Rock area. According to Julie, the group is currently working on creating trail signs and also demonstrating impressive steady hand techniques using the wood burning tools! Looking for an exciting and free excursion during COVID? Take some time this April to check out the new bridge installed by the New Haven Parks Dept. and join us on the trails that our teens have worked so hard on!
I was also able to spend some valuable time on Zoom with Marcus’ Green Jobs interns. This group is a more free-form, teen led group, where a free exchange of ideas, thoughts and feelings is encouraged. From my observations of the group, I can share that I am extremely excited for the change and growth that this group is aspiring to bring to the New Haven area. I was able to talk with Vonn, DJ, Curtisy and Ariel, who were excited to discuss how Solar Youth has benefitted them and given them a platform and opportunity to grow and express. One thing they were most excited for was the opportunity to choose educational and enrichment-based workshops that align with their personal interests and goals. I won’t give away too many spoilers, but they have several projects in store for the remainder of the season!
Finally, our Learning Hubs are taking off and providing educational impact during this difficult transition period. Whether it is lack of food security, internet access, or school supervision, the Solar Youth Learning Hubs are designed to help those that may be disproportionately affected by the shift to distance learning, and they have been doing amazingly well. Despite the COVID-19 challenge, through the Hubs, we have seen an increase in our students’ attendance and grades, and we have seen our students grow to become more self-reliant and confident. These free-of-charge learning stations provide a safe, supervised, and quiet environment to allow students access to educational content and support. Today, we are currently working on providing even more options for transportation, which will help alleviate most transportation barriers. Check out our website and social media to find more information about the learning hubs!