K. Henry, UF/IFAS Extension Seminole County, Sanford, FL.
Situation: Communication is important for organizations, employers, and life. In a 2010 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, communication skills ranked first among a job candidate’s “must have” skills and qualities. Research shows that young people who learn effective communication are more successful and efficient employees and community members.
Objectives: The objective of this program was to teach youth, ages eight to 18, communication skills through the performing arts; more specifically, storytelling.
Methods: Through a partnership with a local university, a Performing Arts Special Interest (SPIN) Club was created. A SPIN club is a group of five or more youth who meet on a flexible schedule to explore a topic of interest. Graduate students, who served as 4-H volunteers, worked with a group of 13 4-H youth (ages five to 18). The 4-H SPIN Club focused on storytelling as a medium to teach communication skills. Throughout the Performing Arts SPIN Club experience, young people learned the importance of explaining the meaning of their stories, engagement with the audience (listener), projection, stage presence, and clear communication, especially when speaking.
Results: The program was evaluated using a mixed method approach, including observational data using the 4-H Share the Fun Rubric, 4-H project stories, and 4-H volunteer and parent observation. As a result of participating in the 4-H SPIN Club, 46% of youth (n=13) demonstrated increased communication skills and stage presence as evidenced by scores on the 4-H Share the Fun rubric. 80% of the youth participated in the Seminole County 4-H Share the Fun Talent and Variety Show. Many of these youth performed their “stories” on stage.
Conclusion: Youth who are more comfortable on the stage are better communicators. This skill will be used to better their workplaces, relationships and communities.