Learning from Streetcode

Around a month ago, I had the opportunity to attend a d.school pop-out at Streetcode, Designing for the Resilient Mind. During this pop-out, we co-designed learning activities with Streetcoders to develop resiliency.

As a follow-up, I met up with Z, Streetcode’s program director, to discuss the organization’s goals and the challenges they’re facing. Streetcode works with the East Palo Alto community to provide educational services and equip community members with the skills to join the tech industry. Its programs focus on three tracts, Hack (Engineering), Heart (Design), and Hustle (Business). However, Z shared with me that the core of their programs for professional skills is developing executive function, including SEL, expression, courage, impulse control, resiliency, and motivation. 

Z’s notes from our meeting together

I asked Z how she felt Streetcode was doing with their efforts to increase executive function. She mentioned that, anecdotally speaking, there are positive indications of their progress with improving learners’ executive function. She’s interviewed community members who mention how much they love learning at Streetcode. They’ve self-reported that Streetcode is different from school in that Streetcode teachers seem to really care about them.

Z mentioned that in their current development stage, their next step is to figure out how to formalize assessment of their impact on developing executive function. Streetcode is unique in the way it not only helps the individual learner, but it also helps the community as a whole. Streetcoders range from young children (~5 years old) to older adults (~60 years old). Based on this, Z is interested in measuring development on both the individual and community level. It was helpful to discuss the challenges of data collection with Z as I’ve also been recently thinking about the same topics, data collection for SEL and for communities.

We also discussed how learning is often guided by Western learning theories. She mentioned her background (coming from Hawaii) in decolonizing learning. In general, Western learning theories focus heavily on cerebral learning. However, Z mentioned research she’s done on embodied cognition (body and mind together). I admittedly haven’t explored too much about decolonization of learning or embodied cognition and asked her for some reading to delve in further.

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