Service Learning in the Bronx:10th Grade Science Classes Empowered byTeen Health Speaker

By Stephanie Gilman, Program Manager

Earlier this year the Youth Engagement Zone at Banana Kelly had the great pleasure of bringing Estelle Raboni, Program Manager of Changing the Odds, and community health expert, to the 10th grade classes to speak and answer questions. As discussed previously in regards to our 10th grade health survey of the Bronx, this semester has been all about training the class to become independent learners and health advocates at Banana Kelly High, and with this speaker we hoped to personalize the findings made in the community health survey for our students. Asking questions, after all, is a necessary part of community and social growth, and we hoped to empower students to ask whatever questions they might have.

[pullquote]Asking questions is a necessary part of community and social growth.[/pullquote]

To prepare the students for Estelle’s visit we had them do a question formulation technique exercise which involved brainstorming as many questions as possible about the various health issues they are researching. They were then asked to choose the questions most appropriate to ask an expert. In addition, we went over the results of the surveys they administered in October. We wanted the students to dig deep within themselves and pull out genuine, thoughtful questions in response to their own environment and experience.

Estelle’s area of expertise is teen sexual health, and she began with a short presentation on this topic. Students then wrote down questions on index cards, and submitted them anonymously. Several lively, informative discussions ensued. The students were excited at the freedom to ask any question they wanted – no questions were wrong or “not allowed”. Many of the teens had never felt entitled to accurate health information previously, and we wanted to empower them to acquire accurate information and motivate them to spread that knowledge to others.

Estelle is a remarkable facilitator: direct and compassionate. We believe with this kind of frank discussion, students will be more likely to ask questions and seek information in the future. Watch a student reaction to the service learning class below!