Sprouting change in youth

Students and alumni launch environmental leadership program

- July 28, 2017

Let's Sprout founders (from left) Sarah Aspinall, Kelsey Brasil and Siobhan Takala. (Provided photo)
Let's Sprout founders (from left) Sarah Aspinall, Kelsey Brasil and Siobhan Takala. (Provided photo)

When three Dal students decided to start an environmental and social justice leadership initiative for young girls last year, they weren't quite sure exactly what shape it would take.

What co-founders Siobhan Takala, Sarah Aspinall and Kelsey Brasil did know was that they wanted it to fill a gap they all felt growing up.

"There’s not enough spaces for young girls to chat with like-minded people," says Siobhan, a fourth-year Environment, Sustainability and Society (ESS) student from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan who serves as the group’s executive director.

Sarah and Kelsey, both ESS students from Oakville, Ontario, were enrolled in Dal's RBC Sustainability Leadership Certificate program along with Siobhan when they all hatched the idea for Let's Sprout in January 2016.

Connect: Let's Sprout Facebook page

By that April, they were set to hold their first event: a 45-minute lunchtime workshop in partnership with the YWCA’s GirlSpace program for grades seven and eight girls. Blown away by the positive discussion that bubbled up during that session, they knew Let’s Sprout was a project worth nurturing.

Several workshops and many partnerships with the likes of SuperNova and Girl Guides later, the group (with two recently added new team members) is now gearing up for its most ambitious undertaking yet: a weeklong summer camp.

Building resilient communities with youth

Sprouting Change kicks off Monday, July 31 and lasts through Friday, August 4. Hosted at the MacPhee Centre for Creative Learning in Dartmouth, the camp will offer local youth aged 9-15 a creative way to learn about environmental and social justice issues.

“We want to build resilient communities and we believe a large part of that is resilient youth,” says Sarah, the group’s evaluation director. “We want people to leave our programming ultimately feeling confident in their own capability to create change within their community.”

Learn more: Sprouting Change camp website

In addition to running some of its own programming, the team will be partnering with other local organizations such FOUND Forgotten Food, Trips by Transit, the Heartwood Centre for Community Youth Development and the Magic Project on workshops throughout the week.

And for the first time, the group is shifting its focus to non-gendered programming — part of their belief that gender equality can’t be achieved by just empowering girls.

“Fostering positive relationships between young girls is extremely important, but fostering positive relationships between all youth is equally important,” says Siobhan.

Using creativity to process tough topics

Siobhan and Sarah say holding the camp at the MacPhee Centre, a community centred space that accepts applications from different organizations for camps throughout the year, will also help them amp up the creative aspect of their programming.

“Environmental and social justice topics can be heavy stuff, especially for youth to talk about,” says Sarah. “When you want to be involved in that realm and you want to make a difference, it’s so important to be able to have some type of outlet where you can work through your thoughts and your feelings about it.”

They’ll do so by collaborating on different creative projects, including making a zine together where they can publish their own work and communicate what they feel to the community.

Following the summer camp, the organizers say they’d like to explore a way to build out more consistent programming (either monthly or bi-monthly) that would enable them to bring some of the children back again to follow up on conversations.

“We’ve had girls write after just spending two hours with us that being a girl can mean whatever they want it to mean,” says Sarah. “Hearing that after just a couple hours is really powerful, but we think if we had the opportunity to spend consistent time with youth we could do really cool things.”

Learn more about Dal's RBC Sustainability Leadership Certificate program


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