How your organization can support the next generation of creatives.
In 2017, a Personal project of master photographer Mandi Lynn blew up in a big way. It was inspired by a question from her niece.
Am I fat?"
Harper was 5.
This innocent question set off a storm of thoughts in Mandi's head that ended with "What can we do to change the world so that the last thing a 5 year old worries about is a thigh gap." She travelled the country interviewing women and girls and has created an exhibition and documentary about the work called Finding Venus. There is even a TEDx talk about it. But that was just the start of the journey. What she discovered along the way was the dramatic shift in challenges facing her nieces generation.
- Digital natives growing up with Cellphones or tablets in their hands replacing human contact from over stretched parents
- Cyberbullying and pressure to sext as young as 11 (sext = messaging revealing pictures).
- mental health crisis (youth suicide rates that are the highest in the OECD)
- reported increase in mental fragility when pushed out of their comfort zones
- decreasing attention spans
- decreasing literacy
- decreasing creativity markers as they progress through school
- burned out teachers
- over stressed/worked parents
- pandemics disrupting their foundational education
- social awkwardness and difficulty communicating effectively outside of messaging
- the fear that the world is going to end due to environmental collapse in their lifetime
- eating disorders rising in teens
- "floating head syndrome" being totally in their heads and neglecting their bodies.
So she started a national photographic based youth wellbeing program
5 years of a deep dive resulted in the co creation of a youth program that enhances creative mastery and supplies positive psychology tools to youth and teachers. A program that focuses on building resilience, critical and creative thinking, self compassion, and service beyond self. It uses the discipline of learning photography to teach all of these things.
The students in the program have started their own magazine which explores youth issues and focuses on 4 values that underpin the program. Mindset, Aroha, Grit, and Impact. This has all be codesigned and is run with the students. The magazine has a 14 year old editor and the writers are all under 18 at the moment.
"When nothing seems to help, I go and look at a stonecutter hammering away at his rock perhaps a hundred times without as much as a crack showing in it. Yet at the hundred and first blow it will split in two, and I know it was not that blow that did it, but all that had gone before."
Click Happy builds Community Connection and gets kids out of the house
The program is called Click Happy. The kids are taught how to hammer the stone through photographic challenges that have been designed by a holistic nurse/master photographer. The goal is to build character as well as photographers and visual story tellers. It seems to be working as students from it have taken out most of NZ's top prizes for young photographers. They are keen to learn more and connect with other people who are also excited about photography and public service.
The students don't just learn photography to take better selfies. They learn it for a purpose. The goal is to develop their skills to a level so that they can use them in service of their community. To tell the story of good work happening around New Zealand. So not only are they learning a visual storytelling skills, but they are also learning the importance of community and the soft skills necessary to thrive in the coming AI future. A future where the ability to think creatively and work well on a team are projected to be the most coveted skills. These are the skills that NCEA struggles to test for. Research has shown that in New Zealand of 11 markers of creativity all 11 drop as a student progresses from primary to graduation. This is something we are pounding the stone working to develop engaging tools that help teach students creative mastery as well as how to be decent humans.
And we get the kids out of the house
Exploring, adventuring, seeing things from a fresh perspective, connecting with other beings outside of a computer.
We are looking to collaborate with Photography groups and Community Groups
Partnerships between schools that are piloting the program and local photography clubs are the perfect way to help build future membership bases for those clubs while supporting the character development of the community's youth.
It is also important to connect local nonprofits who would benefit from young photographers supporting their work.
A cool case study - Opotiki School and Faithe Hanrahan
In Opotiki a teacher learned the program over last summer and took it back to pilot it at her school. By the end of the year the students had photographed 90% of the year book, and had supported two local charities in their community with their imagery. The student leaders also used their work to create a submission to the city council about the councils plans to develop the wharf. The students used it as their main swimming hole because the rivers were not safe to swim in due to run off and the councils plans could have an impact on keeping students outside in the environment. So they used their new visual storytelling skills to help the councilors understand the impact of their plans on youth quality of life. At the end of the year, they held an exhibit of their work earning $1500.00 which they used to invest in new photography equipment to support student learning. Many of the students who were in the program are now being selected as student leaders. There is now a waiting list of students wanting to be part of the program.
Faithe the teacher also works with youth on the neurodiversity spectrum and had one student Betty who as a year 8 still struggles to communicate and be understood. She has become one of the most committed Click Happy students and now has a solid role at the school and at RDA. She is a lead photographer and now has a visual voice to use in the world.
This is the work of just one teacher who embraced the program. We are looking for more teachers and librarians to run the programs with the support from local camera clubs and service clubs.
Invite Mandi to come speak to your club or have a coffee to discuss collaboration when she is in town.
Coffee chat to learn about collaboration or a talk for your group?
Mandi travels the country teaching the students and would love to connect with local photography clubs. She is also happy to give a free talk to any organization about the work of the trust in their region while she is travelling through. This includes a taster workshop on how to give specific useful critical feedback which is one of the most important skills taught to the students.
Mandi is a past TEDx speaker and is also a Judge for the Iris Awards the national professional photography awards. She is also a former US Naval nurse corps officer, and organic blueberry farmer. But her real passion is helping youth to understand and master their creative gifts so that the world will benefit.
Donate your old cameras and cellphones to Click Happy
Sure you might be able to get something for it on marketplace or you could make a difference in the life of a student like Betty above. Donate your cameras gathering dust or if you are upgrading your phone feel free to donate your old one to the Click Happy program to be rehomed at one of our pilot schools.
Organize a Talk or a Coffee or a Camera drop as Mandi road trips with her dog Gritty and Frankie the caravan.
How can my photography or service group connect with young photographers?
Updated on 2023-01-24T20:35:52+12:00, by .