Real Life is off to a great start this year. We have expanded to seven sites: Granite Park Junior High, Historic Scott School, Sunnyvale Neighborhood Center, Hser Ner Moo Community Center, Granite Education Center, PAL Central Park, and Meadowbrook STEM. We are excited to have developed a deeper partnership with both Catholic Community Services and Asian Association of Utah!

The dynamic of each center is very different, but our 2015-2016 Real Life Interns are doing a fabulous job at facilitating lessons and orchestrating tasks for their Peer Mentors. During the first week of Real Life we played team building and name games to create a relaxed, safe space for our refugee & immigrant teens as well as our Youthlinc Peer Mentors. As we always say, at Real Life no one is “better” than anyone else. We are all different and influential in our own ways, and everyone is able to learn something new if we keep an open mind. Our introductory games during the first week were very successful in setting the stage for our community and problem solving lessons the next week.

During week two, Real Life Interns lead lessons about building a community. The goal of these activities was to show students how we are all a part of many different communities, and Real Life is one of them! Each community lives by a different set of values, so we made sure to create a list of values that we wanted to live by when we participate.

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The lessons began with students writing down their definition of community on a post-it note, and then placing them on a poster or whiteboard under the “Community” title. Once everyone placed their post-its, either a teen or the Intern would choose a few of them to read and comment on. The Intern then came up with a cohesive definition, something along the lines of “A group linked by a common policy,” or “A group of people with a common bond scattered throughout society.” As a group, we brainstormed some examples of communities (*cough* Real Life *cough*).

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After this opening activity, we handed out red and green cards to every individual. The purpose of the next activity was to show students the ways in which we already have things in common with each other. Everyone stood in a circle while the Intern asked a series of questions, “Who likes to watch movies?” for example. If they agreed with the question, they lifted up a green card, if they disagreed, they would show their red card. While questions were being asked, students paid attention to others who were answering different than them. They then paired up with another student who seemed to consistently have different answers, and they talked in pairs to discover at least five things they had in common with each other. Groups later shared their discoveries and new friends.

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Finally, we came up with our community policy. We have a lot of fun field trips planned throughout Real Life, and in January we’re going snowshoeing. We asked our students what kind of values we should live by as a community so that we might be able to participate in some of these really fun activities. Respect, dedication, honesty, good attitude, and communication were some of the words being thrown around during this discussion. It’s clear our teens know what it takes to be a part of a flourishing community!

Our problem-solving lesson took place during the second half of the week for most of our sites. This lesson was expanded and improved from an engineering activity we used last year.

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We like to start out our activities with some sort of “hook” to get the students interested. In this case, we used a game. The cup challenge requires groups to stack 10 cups into a pyramid using nonverbal communication. Each group was given a rubber band with 3-5 strings tied to it. Members grabbed onto one string and pulled to stretch the rubber band over the cups, moving them into pyramid position. It proved to be a challenge for our groups to succeed without speaking, but most of the noises we heard were giggles or sighs of frustration when one of the cups went tumbling.

After our hook, we passed out pieces of paper to each student and asked them to write about a time they had to fix something. What did they do? How did they fix it? After writing their answers, we crumpled up the pieces of paper and threw them across the room: Snowball fight!!! We had a great time with this activity, so much more fun than simply asking for “a raise of hands.”

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Everyone picked up a “snowball” and we went around the room sharing our different answers. The Intern then split everyone up into groups of 3-4 people to prepare for our Egg Drop Challenge. Groups were given a limited let of materials to construct a device that would protect an egg from a 10-foot drop. They had 15 minutes to solve this “problem” with their team. We have some very creative individuals involved in Real Life — each team came up with extremely different inventions!

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We encourage our Interns to contribute or make changes to certain activities if they would like, so at our Meadowbrook STEM site we did a slightly different problem-solving activity. Groups received 12 straws and 3 feet of tape, and they had to build a device that would “catch” a golf ball dropped from 10 feet. This was certainly a challenge! But of course, our Real Life teens were up for it. The second hardest part about this challenge was aiming the golf ball! Check out our video to see what we mean.

After all the fun, we came back inside to debrief from our lesson. We talked to our partners about the skills we used today, and how we could use them in the future to solve other problems. We had a very productive week! More fun in store next week: Service project and holiday party! Can’t wait!