Outside Looking In
Outside Looking In is a national, community-driven dance program for middle school and high school aged Indigenous youth living in diverse communities. Beginning in 2017, Outside Looking In was created to inspire Indigenous youth to pursue education, engage in self-expression, and celebrate empowerment. The program aims to guide youth on a journey to academic achievement, well-being and prosperous futures.
The Outside Looking In program is run as a credit course so youth can contribute the course towards their Secondary School diploma. Outside Looking In works with the Ministry of Education to develop OLI based courses that meet curriculum expectations. In addition Outside Looking In requires all participating communities, friendship centers, organizations or schools to implement at least one OLI credit course to provide an additional and creative method to support academic success of youth. OLI staff work with the leadership to train staff, plan a credit course, and ensure that the program runs efficiently during the programming year.
For students to participate in the program they must meet program requirements that includes academics, regular school attendance, behaviour, choreography. Each year those youth who are successful in the Outside Looking In program, meeting all the program requirements, are provided with a two week trip to Toronto where get the chance to join other Indigenous youth from across Canada, preparing for an ultimate performance on stage to show off their talents and abilities before thousands, at the Sony Centre for the Performing Arts!
OLI understands that there must be a structured and unwavering support and motivation from all partners and key stakeholder groups if youth are to succeed. OLI staff works with community leadership; education staff, teachers and volunteers; and parents and families supporting youth to ensure that they are organized, committed and fully on-board with running the program. Decisions, actions, motivations, and negotiations are centered on what is going to be the best for participating youth.
Below is a description of the Outside Looking In Program Model and how it works.
1. Communities, organizations and friendship centres apply through a written or video application process. If approved, OLI staff begin weekly conference calls with each community partner to plan for program implementation.
2. Outside Looking In launches the program (usually near the beginning of the school year in October) in the community and youth begin dancing. Youth learn about program expectations and requirements (academic, attendance, choreography, behaviour) and about the goal to travel to Toronto to perform with youth from across Canada. OLI staff conduct an orientation for all volunteers involved in the program.
3. Each community has a designated dance instructor who travels to the community to work with the youth 2-3 hours per day for 5 days per week, on a monthly basis, over 6 months. When dance instructors are not in the community participants continue dance practices with the support of volunteers.
4. Over the course of the 6 month program implementation, program managers run weekly scheduled conference calls with volunteers. During monthly visits by the program manager, youth are assessed on academic progress, attendance, choreography, and behaviour.
5. If youth have met all program requirements, they travel to Toronto for 2 weeks where they engage in daily rehearsals to prepare for the annual performances. OLI youth perform at two performances where they are the stars of the show for over 6000 audience members cheering them on.
OLI works solely with Indigenous youth (middle and high school students ages 12 to 18+) in communities, organizations, Friendship Centres, and Public School Boards across Canada
Maureen Hatherley – Program Director, Outside Looking In
Head Office 50 Generations Drive Suite 226, Box 2 Ohsweken, ON N0A 1M
Presently Outside Looking In is being delivered in 13 communities with 130 youth participating.
In order for students to participate in the program them must meet academic, attendance, behaviour and choreography requirements. Over the course of the 6-8 month program implementation, program managers run weekly scheduled conference calls with volunteers. Program staff monitor participant progress, track attendance, and ensure youth continue to meet program requirements. Students who may be at risk of leaving the program are monitored weekly and given additional support and encouragement
106 youth and Alumni of the Outside Looking In program were surveyed in the Spring of 2017 via document analysis, workshops, and focus group discussions, community visits, key informant interviews and Web-based survey. Here are the key outcomes;
• 96.2% of those eligible to graduated have completed High School (compared to 36% National Indigenous High School Average Graduation Rate)
• 90.1 % of students reported clearer understanding of Education
• 85.9 % improved their academic standing
• 85.9% improved school attendance
• 91.5% wanted to gain meaningful employment in the future
Health and Well Being
• 84.5% increased motivation
• 80.3% increased mental health
• 80.3% improved self-confidence
• 63.4% more physically fit
• 84% program helped discovered things they didn’t know about themselves
• 76.1% having more friends and higher quality friendships
• 87.3% better behaviours at school and in the community
• 70>4% greater openness and sociable
• 97% reported themselves successful due to support of choreographers, staff and teachers/community members
• Funding is an on-going given the cost of travel to the various communities across Canada. Requires on-going efforts and resources to secure funding.
• It is difficult for the general public to understand the profound qualitative impact this program as on the youth. Qualitative data is collected as to program outcomes related to youth’s education; health and well-being; and social connections.
• set and maintain high standards and the youth will rise to meet and exceed them
• community buy-in, shared ownership and support of youth is essential to youth experiencing success
3 important program components are Community Engagement, Life Skills, and Camp Experience
Community engagement and buy-in are an essential component of the program. In addition many students are being invited to perform at festivals and events taking place in their community; linking them more closely to their community.
Life Skills: (transferrable skills such as showing up, attitude, commitment, accountability, dedication, improved behaviour) Behaviour and attitude are also important to the program. Participants learn the importance of attending regularly, being on time, working as a team, helping others, taking instruction, skills development, hard work, persistence, commitment and working towards a goal.
Camp experience: Those students who travel to Toronto are hosted for 2 weeks at the Tim Horton Onondaga Farms camp in St. George, ON. Youth participate in the camp’s regular curriculum, such as recreational games and group activities. Outside Looking In believes that having youth stay at camp provides them with opportunities to broaden their horizons in a positive atmosphere and encourages youth to develop as healthy individuals.
Incorporation of Essential Skills
While the actual dance program covers the ES indicated above, students in the program must remain in school and do well academically. This academic criterion ensures that participating Outside Looking In students are also addressing ES such as Reading, Writing, Numeracy and Computer Skills through their school curriculum.
The Essential Skills indicated are integrated throughout the learning and performance of dance. Students learn to work as a team; communicate with each other, instructors and their audiences; express themselves; problem solve and make decisions; set goals and achieve them. They memorize dance steps and routines and build their dance skills and abilities through their commitment to on-going and continuous learning.
Youth are assessed on academic progress and dance performance. During dance sessions students are observed by instructors and assessed based on demonstration of skill, while receiving regular constructive feedback. Academic skills are assessed by educational/school staff and teachers and academic requirements for the program are monitored by OLI volunteers and staff.
Storytelling, performance and self- expression through dance is a tradition in Indigenous culture. We are building on that tradition. Also programming is taking place in the participants’ home communities so students are surrounded by their culture, their families and their peers.
Energy, open and sensitivity to Indigenous culture, willingness to learn, understand realities of participating communities and youth; adaptability, knowledge of the education system; ability to build trusting relationships with youth, partners and host communities.
Students have the encouragement and support of school staff, community-based volunteers who work with the program, family/friends and Outside Looking In staff and choreographers. These trusting relationship are ongoing over a period of years. Some participants have been connected to Outside Looking In for up to 10 years.
Host communities, organizations, school boards.
Tim Horton Children’s Foundation: host the youth at the Tim Horton Onondaga Farms camp for the 2 weeks while they are in Toronto
Sony Centre for the Performing Arts