All of the elements we engage with here at Akahiao - whether it be food, harvesting, conversational problem solving, navigating watersheds, forest walks, or even our ritual tea times - all touch upon ‘Values’. We have layered the concept of values into each of our programs and have encouraged all participants to explore their own set of priorities. We don’t need to necessarily use the word “values”, but simply speak about the concepts of "What is important to me, my society, my family"? It is something that many feel they inherently know, without necessarily identifying. We want to take that step into having each participant here actively identify those priorities to both us and more vitally, to themselves.
Our Value Workshops have long been one of little successes here at Akahiao and are about exploring and activating each individual to think about what ’they’ (not us) value. In the wider scheme of education and participation that we ask youth to engage in, seldom is there that first question to youth: “What is it that you value?”
Some would say that it isn’t necessary to identify specifically, but for us here at Akahiao, we consider it a crucial first step for our participants to address that question. Not only does it provide us with insights and motivations and context, it provides each participant with their own context about themelves. It also activates within the youth an understanding that they are actually part of the process themselves rather than simply being pushed for an outcome.
Within our Value Workshops, it is entirely up to each individual to identify what it is that is valued to them and which (if any) aspects they’d like to evolve or improve. One word answers are fine, but we encourage and open up our conversations so that all can contribute. What has happened is that entirely new discussions and explanations are volunteered up, often surprising us and the participants. Many who feel initially hesitant to reveal themselves suddenly find themselves sharing not only their own present tense values, but those that they once embodied, and even the values they feel they would like to work on. So successful were these workshops that we had our own extensive ‘deck’ of values printed up onto playing cards so that each student might take their time to select cards. These workshops have become one of our core program components and have become some of the most well-reviewed parts of our entire program schedule. This is down to the desire and willingness to engage on all levels.
As one recent 12-year old participant commented, “Everyone tells me what is important and what I should think is important. No one ever asks me what I think is important to me and I haven’t even had time to think about it”. One of the key take aways for us, is that we must engage and listen to youth.
Some of the Values that have been repeatedly identified as desirable by our participants are as revealing as the discussions that entail: Empathy, Integrity, Family, Wisdom, Independence, Creativity….
If we are asking new generations to prepare for the world, isn’t it crucial that we also allow and encourage them to identify themselves within it?