In this three-part series, Wayne State University honors students reflect on their experiences of teaching the free ten-week Wikid GRRLs curriculum in Detroit Public Schools in the winter semester of 2016.
By Emily Verde
I found out about the opportunity to participate in Wikid GRRLa through the Wayne State University Honors College. The reason I elected to participate in the class was twofold: it fulfilled an important service-learning requirement for my degree and it seemed like a really fun, hands-on experience. I had no idea how challenging (yet rewarding!) the experience would be…
Wikid GRRLa is a course designed to engage young pre-teen and teenaged girls’ in a fun education about internet knowledge sites and the girls’ ability to contribute to these wikis and blogs. At least, that is the official purpose of the program. As I worked with the girls, however, I discovered that the actual benefit of the program is so much more.
Wikid GRRLs gave the young Detroit Public Schools students I worked with the opportunity to gain confidence in their computer and internet skills, develop important social and academic skills as they head to high school, think about their dreams for the future, and have a safe space to express their feelings, opinions, hopes, and fears. I was amazed at the brilliance of the students I worked with: their creativity, plans for the future (which included nursing, cosmetology, and law enforcement), and overall enthusiasm in learning about internet safety, blogging, and using their knowledge to benefit the world.
In addition to benefiting these young ladies, Wikid GRRLSs helped me to also develop myself, as a teacher, student, and overall human being. The class presented its challenges, especially during weeks when the students were high-strung because of the grueling standardized tests they had sat through all week, but as I got to know these girls, I learned how to listen better. I discovered that, too often, society shrugs off pre-teens’ feelings and input as “teenage angst,” when in reality these young minds are growing to mold our future. The students taught me that they are yearning for structure, consistency, and above all, someone who will just listen and let them express themselves. In the class I taught, many of the girls took the opportunity to write about how they felt: about law enforcement, racism, Detroit Public Schools, and even the general anxiety that comes with being a teenager.
My experience with Wikid GRRLs is something I will never forget, and I hope someday to be able to see the amazing things this girls will do and be able to say, “She was both a student and teacher of mine once!”
Emily Verde is a Wayne State University honors student majoring in piano performance. In the Wikid GRRLS project she taught middle school girls online skills in Detroit Public Schools in the winter semester of 2016.