How can we talk to 6 graders about drugs and online safety without lecturing them? How can we engage them in conversation about their personal relationships? How can we show them what the police really do for their communities? These were some of the challenges presented by the Calgary Police Service when they invited us to re-conceive their popular, but outdated, school group experiences.
We recognized early on that the success of these experiences hinged our ability to communicate effectively with kids about serious topics. In collaboration with the CPS team, we held focus groups with Calgary area students, workshopping tone and conversational style together. Getting our interpretive voice right made it possible to trigger productive dialogue with students.
The exhibition is organized into themed areas that focus on drugs, online safety, healthy relationships, gangs, bullying, and crime. For each area, we developed media pieces that present students with dramatic real-life scenarios. Using updatable feedback tablets, students can share anonymous reactions in real time, promoting lively discussion and helping facilitators tailor programming opportunities to each group.
For an eye-opening experience about drug abuse, we created a program that takes a student’s picture and transforms it to reflect the dramatic effects of using Crystal Meth for a few months, or a few years. At a series of interactive crime lab stations, students investigate evidence such as DNA, blood spatter, ballistics, fingerprints, and even bugs on a dead body to help solve a crime.
Because the issues that affect our youth are changing every day, these experiences are flexible, enabling YouthLink to manage and update content quickly and easily.
Healthy Relationships is one of the most popular exhibits in the centre. The conversations [it triggers between kids and] educators are brilliant.Sgt. Carlee Bojarski, Director