Recently, I met a new friend, Jack Hart, who’s developed a different way of engaging young people with his message. He works with the Denver Regional Site of North American King's Kids. I thought you’d enjoy my interview with him.
Q: Jack, like others, you work with students, but you have an interesting twist to your methods. Tell us how you got started, what you do and how you do it.
In my previous career, I was art director of the Price is Right game show. So as a designer, when I work with kids, youth and families designing learning experiences, I design with the end goal in mind. Since age ten I've had a hobby of magic tricks which motivated me to work with some of the last centuries' great magicians such as designing scenery and illusions for Harry Blackstone Jr. and Doug Henning, and nominated for an Emmy for working with David Copperfield. For the past 17 years I've worked in Youth With A Mission (YWAM) in an inter-generational, faith-based and family based youth ministry called "King's Kids." We value our relationship with God as our first priority. So now as a "magicianary", the illustrations that I use to teach often involve the element of surprise and wonder. I use unique visuals like puzzles, info graphics, experiences and images that all spark discussion.
Q: When did you make the switch from traditional methods of teaching students to your current style?
About seven years ago I helped expand our YWAM location in Richmond, VA into Ropes Course, focused on experiential learning. Using high and low elements and game initiatives to teach leadership, communication, teamwork and personal achievement, this venue afforded ample opportunity to connect learning styles with problem solving and critical thinking. During my training and growth as a facilitator I came to appreciate simulated experience and facilitating learning through processing. Before, activities were used to reinforce the lecture. Now, the activity is the lecture and the processing connects the dots to the learning outcomes through soft skills discovery questions and activities.
I was very inspired by your book, Generation iY, where you speak of the EPIC nature this generation. This confirmed that emphasizing experiential, participatory, image rich, facilitated learning was the way to go. Your book was very affirming.
Deuteronomy 6:7 talks of training our kids "along the way". So on a Ropes Course or in a camp setting, wherever I engaged students, I look to connect "along the way" while walking to the lunch room, the dorms or to the next element on the course. I would look for the fringe person, the awkward introvert, to encourage them. I have observed them on Ropes Courses and looked for things that they were doing right or possibly saw they had the answer but were too shy to speak up or weren't asked.
Those moments, "along the way" can be very revealing. Once I was walking with a Korean boy who had not been to one of our camps before. I asked what he liked best. He said the meals. I said you have to be kidding, this is just camp food, nothing special. He said, "No, you don't understand, both my parents work and they give me money and I eat alone in a restaurant every night." He was loving the family style meals we have; the power of being included in a family setting.