HighScope identifies six ways that staff and volunteers can encourage a supportive environment: staff encourage youth-centered approaches to reframe conflict; staff support youth with encouragement; staff support youth in building new skills; activities support active engagement; session flow is planned, presented, and paced for youth; and staff provides a welcoming atmosphere.
Here are a few ways we brainstormed to help encourage a supportive environment --
- Greet participants by name as they enter the shop
- Ask them what they prefer to work on, allow them flexibility
- Don't do the work for them -- help them when they need it. Allow participants to go try new things, but be on the lookout for frustration.
- Give a heads-up in advance of clean-up time (usually 4:45)
- When conflict arises, help to diffuse it in constructive ways (it's always ok to take a break -- more about that in a later post...)
- Diffuse inappropriate or harmful language or behavior when you first see it-- it's not ok to put another participant down, and they need to know the staff and volunteers will not stand for it