In a room full of the energy of organized chaos, Laura Redington masterfully got eight kids, ages 9 to 13, to explore their own unique voice in Radio Games, a collaboration between the Edgartown library and WMVY Radio on Tuesday afternoons. Over the course of an hour, Redington engaged the rambunctious group sitting in a circle on the floor in activities that helped them listen and respond more deeply than they might ordinarily have done. The various games built up to a “pass-the-mike” accumulated story in which each youth added the next bit of what was happening in an adventurous, phantasmagorical tale, with two of the older kids providing expressive sound effects, thus bringing everyone into the fold. The hour flew by, and the group will pick up refining the story next time as they work toward making their action-packed radio story.
Key to Redington’s success is her approach to working with middle school youth. “I don’t try to change them, because they’re at school all day long. I don’t want them to come in where I am wagging my finger at them, but to work with their own spirit,” she said. “Every kid is so spirited and has their own unique qualities, and that’s such an important part of all of us being in the world and living in harmony.”
Redington answered questions after the class, and I will let her words speak for themselves about her ideas, approach, and desires for the group, which students throughout the Vineyard are encouraged to join.
What inspired you to create this type of afterschool program for middle school students?
The reason we started this whole thing was because in this day and age, all the kids have their eyes on their phones. And so it’s really about getting them comfortable in their own skin, listening to their own voices, and being able, in this world, to pair technology with the human being and their individuality. So it’s getting them inside more, so they really get a sense of who they are.
Can you give me an example of how you might cultivate this sense of self?
Last week we talked about how their own voices are like fingerprints, their tonality and everything. How do they want to use it? It’s part of them; how do they want to express themselves? What emotions do they want to leave people with? How do they describe something with the right words to communicate a “mind picture”? When you’re reading a book with no pictures, you’re creating the story and the visuals inside your head. It’s the same way when making radio; you’re helping create the visuals by describing them and by the emotion that comes in through your voice. Radio goes right to the emotional center anyway.
I’m trying to have the kids close their eyes and listen to the world around them — getting rid of one of the senses and living in a world where they can get in touch with communicating on that level. Also learning how to listen and respond. Therefore, we do interviewing games and conversation games, so these kids will be able to go out into the world and get a job, to have a job interview and be confident, or have a college interview. Getting them used to being in front of people will help them get comfortable doing presentations in school and such with more self-confidence. It’s also about really getting kids to get in touch with their fear, if they have it, and that fear is OK and that’s part of it, and it gets easier the more you do it.
Why did you choose radio as a vehicle for this learning?
There is so much you can do with radio. It’s just so easy to communicate these days with podcasts and everything, and I think kids don’t know about radio anymore because they have such easy access to information on their phones all the time. They’re not turning to radio as much as we did when we were kids. Yet with radio there’s so much potential for them to communicate, which is so important as they get older.
You mentioned that you want to get older students involved so the teaching and support in the program comes from the younger kids’ near peers. What would that look like?
Yes, the program is meant to be an intergenerational thing to get the kids working together. I have this goal where I can teach about four high school students the communication games and then they do them with the kids themselves. So the middle schoolers will have so much peer support if they’re in eighth grade and going into high school next year, because they might have that connection and be less fearful. At the same time, the high school kids will be reaching back down and learning new skills. They will also be benefiting from all the tools they are going to be learning to teach the kids. It’s all just about helping us be better communicators.
Ultimately my goal is really to help these kids not lose the sound of their own voice, literally and figuratively, as they go up in life and become a part of society. And that they can have fun and blend with other voices, and they can work together to create something like a radio play.