By: Craig Schroeder (Holbrook, Nebraska)
When we think about the 12 Commonwealth Assets, it is worth considering that among them, three are of such a personal nature that we depend upon them for our very wellbeing in body (health), mind (education) and spirit (spirituality). Health, education, and spirituality also extend well beyond the individual to include the entire commonwealth.
I point this out regarding the topic of education because too often we confine ourselves to what takes place inside school buildings with teachers, textbooks, computers, and various educational resources, many of which are produced externally from our community. Certainly, schools and our teachers are very important elements of high-quality education, as are resources for learning about the larger world, but when we also consider all of the assets of commonwealth, we quickly realize that confining education within four walls is just that…confining.
Indeed, one of the greatest benefits of thinking of our community in the context of assets that we all share, is that we can then also view our community as a wonderful learning laboratory to be experienced, enjoyed and shared; encompassing elements essential for growing in knowledge, wellbeing, and appreciation of the many gifts around us; bringing us full circle to body, mind, and spirit.
We also need to consider how we may come alongside our schools, teachers, and students to create rich learning experiences through the celebration of arts and culture, storytelling about the community’s history, and the people, places, and events which shaped that history. Also, learning about science, agriculture, energy, and natural resources through experiential activities beyond the boundaries of the school building is invaluable. Indeed, it is through these experiences that we fully discover Education as a Commonwealth Asset!
A concrete example of helping young people learn about their communities in the context of Commonwealth Assets is youth entrepreneurship camps. These after-school or summer activities provide opportunities for middle school and junior high students to interact with successful local entrepreneurs, learn about their entrepreneurial heritage, discover their own entrepreneurial talents, and create business ventures that severe the people of their communities and region. The Commonwealth Assets help these young people to envision and connect their passions and abilities with resources that can help them build entrepreneurial ventures. For example, young entrepreneurs interested in creating and selling their artwork may choose to apply Arts and Culture to produce unique art that celebrates local traditions and heritage.
Another example is Commonwealth Academies–where high school students tour local sites important to the development of their communities and engage with storytellers who bring to life important places, events and people in history who shaped their hometowns. The students then focus on one or more Commonwealth Assets to create and complete a community project to be enjoyed by current and future generations. An example would be students working with adults to start a farmers’ market that features products produced within the local foodshed.
An important theme illustrated by these examples is that students are engaged in meaningful, hands-on learning activities that utilize their community as a learning laboratory…and contribute their own skills and abilities in giving back and improving the quality of life in their hometowns. As we hear from more and more youth concerned that they and their peers are spending too much screen time in a “virtual world”, how refreshing it is to think about ways to invite young people to be involved in their community, and in serving others in tangible ways utilizing the Commonwealth Assets we all share!
Craig Schroeder has committed the past 32 years to inspiring rural communities to engage and inspire over 45,000 young people in 47 states to creating more hopeful and prosperous futures. Craig’s work focuses on mobilizing community leaders, educators, and economic developers to implement effective youth engagement, workforce development, and entrepreneurship strategies.