Making Space For Young People – How Paisley YMCA continues help engage young social groups

The Makerspace groups run by Paisley YMCA are social youth clubs run by the youth workers and programme coordinators, with the aim of educating and engaging young people in group activities and unique perspectives to allow them to flex both their creativity and freedom to express themselves. They’ve been a staple of the resources provided by Paisley YMCA and have maintained a consistent streak of engagement and energy from their participants.

But what impact do activities like these have on the young people that attend them and how do they survive during a global pandemic?

Through chatting with Paisley YMCA Youth Programme Coordinator Claire McGinley, she was able to offer us some insight into the impact and benefits these clubs have had and how their way of working has changed following the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Makerspace clubs have been a set of passion projects from Paisley YMCA and have allowed young people to express their creativity and develop their skills in a positive and affirming environment. Claire expands on the impact that these spaces have had in the young attendees, as she tells us: “It’s created connections that they otherwise wouldn’t have had with people out-with their family or immediate circles. They’ve been able to see their friends from clubs and it also gives them protected space to just be themselves. The impact of the clubs are participation and increased confidence.

“Sometimes the young people don’t actually realise that they’re learning something because it’s not a style of formal learning, it’s something that they’re choosing to participate in. It’s informal learning but they’re learning really valuable skills such as coding, design-thinking, programming, all these types of things building their confidence and building their skills.”

Each of the Makerspace clubs now have an online session on Zoom, with free tickets being available online from Makerspace every week. The schedule consists of the Social Circle (a space for young people to have important conversations about relationships and society) on Tuesdays, STEM Girls (a club for young women and girls to get together to talk about STEM and participate in fun quizzes) on Wednesdays, the Friday Night Drop in (a free space for young people to come and relax with fun activities) and Digital Design Club on Saturdays (dedicated to digital projects for our young people to develop and showcase).

When elaborating upon the differences of having the Makerspace clubs move online as opposed to the previous meets in person, Claire explains that they have brought new challenges and different ways of learning to the table:

“It’s two completely different worlds. When we were in person at the Makerspace, it was easier to create those connections with young people, it was easier for the young people to create connections with each other and I think there is a lot to be said about that kind of creative atmosphere and it’s quite inspiring. It was really fast-moving, exciting and easy to just flow.

“And then when we moved online, I didn’t realise how challenging it would be at the beginning. I think the team have done amazingly and I think the young people have been absolutely brilliant, they’re still choosing to show up every single week and participate even when it’s harder and they can’t have conversations in the same way with their friends in that type of environment. It’s definitely been more challenging.”

However, there have also been benefits and learning experiences to this new, unconventional way of club activity: “The great thing about it is that people have not had to travel and we’ve been able to reach more rural communities. People who couldn’t travel have been able to connect from home. But it’s definitely a much more challenging environment on video conferencing.”

The Makerspace Clubs are one of the most distinguishing and valuable resources offered by Paisley YMCA and even with the challenges of a pandemic, they continue to be an exciting and important space for young people to learn and grow in a positive environment. And in spite of the difficulties video conferencing has brought, they still continue to educate and inspire.

For more information about the clubs and how to purchase tickets, please check the Makerspace list of dates and availability.

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