In conjunction with this Museum on Main Street exhibit coming to Kentucky, Kentucky Humanities is participating in the Youth Innovation in Rural America (YIRA) project. Inspired by Spark!, which highlights innovation in rural America from the perspective of the people who lived it, students in grades 7-12 participated in a community-based design challenge. Local high schoolers played a leading role in brainstorming and identifying the unique challenges faced by their community. Information was gleaned from community conversations and interviews. This information was used to develop a project. As students brainstormed issues, solicited input from the community, and identified a challenge to tackle, the host community benefited with open community discourse and enhanced youth involvement as a way to inspire innovation within the community.
The YIRA project helped each of the participating host communities engage young people in the community in a problem identifying and solving process prior to the Spark! exhibit arriving in the community. The host site coordinated with a local high school teacher to lead his/her students to serve as a community problem identifier and solver.
Adam Taylor Brown, Brand Strategy and Design Consultant of Marrow, led an exercise with the selected students at each of the participating communities. He led the class in a Problems & Solvers game, talked about how ideas are developed and the process of following through to solve problems. The purpose was to help students see themselves as innovative thinkers and part of the solution to problems that exist in the community. Brown helped inform students about what an innovative thinker is, as well as and guide them in the innovation process. Following the game, the students began to think about a small problem in their own community and discuss possible solutions. They then designed a project to help solve this problem.
Kentucky Humanities with support from the Smithsonian Institution, offered each of these communities $1,000 to be used in the project developed by the students to solve a community problem.
Students in Danville began their project by interviewing approximately 65 Boyle County residents. The residents were asked a number of questions about their positive experiences and their challenges living in the county. After reviewing all of the data gathered through the empathy interviews, the students determined that one of the biggest challenges facing the Boyle County community is the lack of safe and inclusive gathering places for young adults to come together and interact. The students have had several brainstorming sessions to discuss this problem, and they have put together a prototype that the plan to unveil to the community at an upcoming event on June 11th at CentreWorks.