Adolescent Development: Creating Partnerships and Relationships

We recently held at our annual Summer Teaching Artist Retreat in our lovely summer term sculpture studios at UIC . Morning presentations on adolescent youth development were led by fantastic and engaging UIC Youth Development PhD candidates, Emilia Chico and Nicole Darcangelo.

Here is their very useful PowerPoint on Adolescent Development for MARWEN.

And please utilize these helpful resources they shared with us as well:

What is Adultism?

Acknowledging Privilege

Adolescent Development Handout

The afternoon of the Retreat was spent collaborating with peers and reflecting on how Positive Youth Development can be fully integrated into our work at Marwen. IMG_3625

I will definitely keep in mind what we learned about adolescent development with my students. I always try to be kind to my students, but what we learned about how their brains and bodies are developing in the teen years will help me to be more patient and understanding of what they’re going through. Two other important things: (1) being consistent by setting up boundaries and goals from day 1 is very important, and (2) asking students questions throughout the course as a way to check-in with how they are feeling and learning is important. I also really like the example that our guest presenters set by starting with personal reflection, then everyone sharing ideas, before they gave us a lot of information. I think that is a great way to approach my own classroom, and will help students make personal connections to what we are learning in class.


I don’t remember who made this point but someone touched on the idea that there is a huge transition between going from school to Marwen within a short amount of time. They are completely different environments and it could be difficult to adjust. Though I’ve already been sensitive to the idea that students will be tired or hungry at the end of a long day, I would like to think of a way to ease into classroom time instead of jumping in quickly. I’m not sure how that would look- if it is a question of a routine they can fall into, or a moment of reflection, or a really quick activity in their sketchbook to break the ice and shift their thinking.


Creating both community and student autonomy is very important to my practice. I will incorporate the language we discussed on preferred gender pronouns for the first day, during attendance.


Usually I do all large group class activities but I think it would benefit the students and their interactions with one another if I had smaller group exercises to build a sense of community and more of them then mass activities.


I really enjoyed the way it refreshes and rejuvenates my teaching practice. Even when not learning something totally “new,” I feel that by reflecting and sharing with each other, we reinforce our best practices with each other. (With all those “re-“s I can see why we still call it a retreat!) In particular, a lot of the retreat’s experiences reminded me of something big that solves a lot of issues that come up in the classroom: to stay present. Sometimes we are so bombarded with competing interests at teachers that our minds can get foggy, but if we remain present with our students, and really listen to what they are saying, and figure out what direction to steer the class, we can make more genuine decisions rather than just getting through the day.

Kate Adams About Kate Adams
Kate Adams is an artist, teaching artist, and mom. As a Marwen staff member she oversees Marwen’s teaching artist professional development, student assessment, and program evaluation. Through her artwork she explores concepts of home, generations and change. You can reach her at

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