It’s official – school is out for summer!

Summertime is here and as Happy Valley Pride festival weekend gets closer, many of our projects are taking shape including our Creative Youth Engagement Project.

During this last term, schools across Calderdale have been taking part in Happy Valley Pride’s youth project, focusing on themes of identity, creativity and community. With the help of this year’s Youth Engagement officer Terry Logan, local children aged 5-17 have had the chance to create art pieces, write poetry and work together to understand identity, diversity and the LGBTQ+ community better.

In our last blog we spoke about the planning and preparation that went into creating lesson plans and what role each year group would have. Now that all of the teaching for our creative youth engagement project is complete, we can look at how the children reacted to this project and what impact has been made.

To better engage with such a young age group, Terry Logan aimed to teach children in KS1 about identity though fun activities and creative tasks to encourage a positive image of themselves and a better understanding of others. Each class had free discussions based off questions like ‘What makes you Unique?’ and later learned about morals and beliefs based on everyday situations. After these lessons the youngsters each created an art piece that shows how they see their identity and themselves as individuals.

Similarly, in KS2, children also explored themes of identity through beliefs and morals and had the amazing opportunity to create their own identity costumes. Being an older class, the kids had more in-depth conversations about identity and took on more thought provoking questions such as ‘what should we always try and remember about each other’s differences?’ and ‘How might our identities change?’.

When it came time to make the costumes it became clear that in order to remain inclusive and involve children of all backgrounds and financial means, the costume making challenge had to be fair. In order to avoid making the competition about who has the fanciest clothes, Terry and other teachers had the amazing idea to provide each child with a plain white T shirt which they could draw on and decorate in class.

“The teachers and I had a hallelujah moment when we realised that students could be provided with t-shirts to design their identity pieces on. This meant that each student felt equally included and were given a level playing field to express themselves and their creativity.”

Ryburn School has even planned to have a Year 7 parade where each student will be able to proudly march with each other in celebration of who they are.

We all know that high school plays a pivotal role in our lives and can shape who we are as adults, That is why Terry knew that this age group in particular needed to go more in depth about what identity really is, and how it can relate to our gender, sexuality and relationships. These past few months, High schoolers (key stage 3) have been understanding their own identity through poetry and have even written their own piece.

One of the most important reasons in which these lessons took place, was to create a safe space where children could openly talk about their views and beliefs with their peers. Terry had the chance to observe numerous conversations and said how wonderful it was to see students being so open and honest with each other and unafraid to challenge each other’s views to get a further understanding of one another.

“On an emotional and psychological level, students were really responding to being given a space to explore ideas around their identity, in particular, around sexuality and gender.”

One teacher reported this back after the first key stage 3 lesson saying “Just taught the first Happy Valley Pride Lesson (combining your lessons 1 and 2). It worked brilliantly” and later added “Our head of kS3 English has just bounced over and said, ‘oh my God that lesson was AMAZING!’”

Initially the project was going to end there, but when Terry’s class at Ryburn Valley Sixth Form caught wind of her up and coming project, they just had to get involved. As a way to encourage the idea of community, love and support, the sixth formers have been acting as mentors. When asked about how her sixth formers took on this role, Terry said;

“Ryburns LGBTQ+ Sixth form group took it upon themselves, with guidance from myself, to write, perform and video an identity poem as inspiration for their young peers to write their own. What resulted was a very moving piece of art that offered not only an invaluable source text for students to work from but a powerful message of validation for all identities.”

This work has been so impactful in fact, that other Sixth form students in the area are keen to volunteer their time and talents in the next wave of projects in the new year.

Much like any new venture, there has been some hurdles, and changes have had to be made to ensure this project develops organically. When asked how she dealt with making changes Terry responded,

“In terms of how the project has developed overtime, it’s always important to remember that you have to let it grow and change in the way that it both needs and wants to. These changes must come from those that are experiencing project such as the students and the teachers who have all participated brilliantly.”

Due to COVID restrictions, it has been impossible to fully complete all of the projects and so the very final phases will be picked back up at the start the new academic year. However, the art pieces and poems will be presented at the Happy Valley Pride festival in September.

Reflecting on this years Youth Engagement Project, first time HVP youth officer Terry Logan believes that this is far from over and will surely become a staple in our educational system.

“What has become most apparent is that these projects will continue to grow and take further, wonderful form and that this is something that is vitally needed for our youth in today’s current climate of confusion.”