Jan 28 2014

Reflections from a New Hive Member

Hive NYC

This is a guest post by Steve Ausbury, Deputy Director at Brooklyn College Community Partnership.

Seven months into Hive NYC membership, Brooklyn College Community Partnership (BCCP) has expanded its network through new partnerships; sent students to exciting programs through Hive NYC partner organizations; experienced a variety of new tools, practices, and events; began merging a new theory of learning with our own theories of learning; and, discovered new funding opportunities. Most importantly, we’ve developed an inspired new avenue for some of our programs that blends with our mission and core values. How’d that happen? The true story follows.

First, though, just who is the BCCP and why are we a great fit for Hive? BCCP lives in the Psychology department at Brooklyn College. Our primary goal is to build caring, supportive relationships with non-dominant youth to help them better navigate underserved high schools and get into college. We’ve been practicing social and emotional learning for two decades through extensive staff development and a service-learning course that sends 60 undergrads into our programs to mentor youth each year. Our OST programs serve 1000 youth yearly (both in their schools and at the college) in art and technology, social justice, work-readiness, college access and health and wellness. The hub of our network is Brooklyn College Art Lab (BCAL) a 6900 sq. ft. dedicated youth space in a converted gymnasium on the BC campus – you really have to see it to believe it.  And eighty-five percent of the seniors we work with go on to college.

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All of this would probably qualify us as a Hive member, but the stronger affinity with Hive has to do with how we do what we do. BCCP meets kids where they’re at. Hive meets organizations where they’re at. We encourage self- or group-directed projects (e.g., we currently have a high school student building an aquaponic farm at BCAL). Hive also encourages its members to create new projects and initiatives that expand and innovate (and through their partnership with New York Community Trust – even funds them). In resource-rich NYC, BCCP embraces partnership to expose our students to as many ideas, people and experiences as we can. Hive is partnership on steroids (in a healthy way). BCCP runs student-centered, project-based, group-oriented programs. Hive ascribes to Connected Learning, with its focus on interest-driven, production-centered, and peer culture. You get the idea. It’s been a very rich dialogue.

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So here are four major benefits of being a Hive member from a member’s perspective:

  1. The People. Hive has picked some great organizations. A key feature of their picks is diversity, e.g., of skill-sets, missions, geography, age, cultural background, styles, and sizes. This level of diversity combined with opportunities to share in the multi-platform meetings and other events creates tons of access points for organizations like ours to listen, share, and learn. And we’ve learned a ton. Then there’s the folks at Hive HQ and Hive Research Lab—facilitators, researchers and knowledge wranglers whose main mission seems to be to learn alongside the organizations, shepherd resources and ideas, and to pass along opportunities.
  2. Minimal Agenda. As mentioned above, Hive seems to want members to remain who they are while they explore, create and share at their own pace and in their own way. When Leah and Lainie invited BCCP to do a pop-up workshop at 2013 World Maker Faire, we were barely aware of what making was (for some reason I had imagined it would be like a renaissance faire with people jousting on solar powered go-carts). By the end of our workshop, “Repurposing Stuffed Animals,” we were ready to turn our furry, hybrid creatures into programmable robots. But that change happened within our own experience of discovery and it allowed us to see how making was really an extension of something we’d been doing all along.
  3. Programs. Hive itself is not a program for youth, but virtually all of its members offer them. Opportunities abound and this is great news for students from member orgs. In seven months, we’ve sent or will send BCCP students to: a leadership program planning a digital maker party (Emoti-con!); science skills program (Girls Connect at NYSCI in February); workforce training in computing (MOUSE); learn STEAM skills at a camp this summer at BCAL gadgITERATION); we’ve also made connections with new partner schools by running BCCP programs in college access and digital music (Digital Ready– a Hive collaboration with the DOE). In the end, youth are the biggest beneficiaries of the great programs offered in the network.
  4. Explore, Create, Share. Through extensive conversations, meetings, visits, BCCP decided to build a maker lab at BCAL. Seven months later, it’s happening! The chain of events started with a tour of BCAL with a Hive member. That led to a session in Making (paper rockets) for BCCP staff at the Makery. After that we did the pop-up at Maker Faire and then had great visits with HRL and Hive HQ. A collaborative pop-up at the amazing MozFest (financial support for travel is yet another great benefit!) with Hive NYC member, Exposure Camp, provided further inspiration and insight. We then started a maker lab working group with other Hive members and some Brooklyn College professors in related fields to investigate creating and funding a lab. Just before the New Year, BCCP received enough funds to get it all rolling. We can’t wait to build out this resource in collaboration with the Hive community and share it with our students, with the Hive network and the greater Brooklyn College community.

That’s my seven-month share out. No major predictions about the next seven months with Hive, although my weekend reading may offer a hint. For months a strange magazine kept appearing in my mailbox at Brooklyn College and last weekend I finally took it home. Inside were articles about DIY drone kits and kimchi recipes and ads to purchase Arduinos. Astonished, I suddenly realized that not only did I know what an Arduino was, but I actually needed to buy some.

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