Our New Creative STEM projects this month at Paisley YMCA 🌱

Big things have been happening this month at Paisley YMCA!  

Last week at our STEM clubs, our young people set up our new smart gardens which are currently displayed in our window display at our space at 39 High Street.  

Each of our gardens grows an assortment of yellow tomatoes, lettuces and basil. Assisted by the unique set up of their water tank and UV light to help them along, our gardens will hopefully be blooming soon in the spring with the help of our young people! They can be seen in our space and we can’t wait to see them bloom.  

Another feature that can be viewed in the window of our space is our new 3D printer, which regularly shows the creation of our new prints every week. We have created several small animal mascots already and intend to see which more ambitious prints we can create in the future.  

Our new smart gardens and 3D printer are a part of our continued effort to support young people to explore STEM in a fun, interesting and accessible way. As these projects continue, our young people are looking forward to learning about healthy eating and sustainable gardening, designing and making cool and useful items through the use of technology and building up a valuable skill-set that they can take into their future.

We are looking forward to even more developments in time for summer! Tickets for our STEM clubs are available from Eventbrite.

Follow us on Twitter (@YMCAPaisley), Instagram (@paisleyymca) and Facebook (We Are Paisley YMCA) for more updates and posts about current projects.  

A Space for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Mathematics; Reflecting on Science Week 2022 at Paisley YMCA

As we come to the end of UK Science week, we reflect on the importance role science and technology plays in our weekly clubs available for our young people. 

We have a variety of science-based clubs available at our makerspace each week, including STEM Girls on Wednesday and STEM Saturdays, which allows a space for our young people to create and explore STEM experiments and activities.  

With our latest technological additions to our space such as a vinyl cutter and 3D printers, this opens up even more possibilities for seeing what our young people can come up with using technology and household materials to create STEM-based projects that teach them about the imagination that goes into science.  

According to Youth Worker Mary-Jane McNally, this freedom to explore and create is part of why the science element to our clubs is so important to our young people, “The way science is normally portrayed is a very specific type that only appeals to one type of brain. And I feel that’s doing a science a disservice. It’s about repeating and recording and there’s other aspects. If you want to experience a range of things just casually on their own terms [..] It’s nice to be able to want to do something and just do it. School decides on your behalf what you’re doing.  

“They come here and if they want something, within reason, we’ll try to facilitate them getting towards their goals so the range of science can be broader. Some science-based environments are about results; here it’s about discovering things on your one terms instead of solely going through what people have done in the past so you can get something new.” 

At Paisley YMCA, we base the majority of our weekly clubs at the Makerspace from response to the suggestions of our young people. Therefore, the strong scientific element of our clubs comes from our young people’s enthusiasm for STEM/STEAM-based activities. These included the building of structures and project using household items and materials such as pipe cleaners, cardboard, spaghetti and much more throughout the week! While our Future Fridays are a great space for young people to just chill and hang out with their friends, Wednesdays and Saturdays are when the young people come to show us their innovation with our Youth Workers to help them along with their projects and ideas!

However, STEAM activities cover much more than just the S for science; it also stands for Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics which open up far more areas of opportunity for learning. Paisley YMCA are also known for our work in digital technology, an element we hope to expand upon even more with the arrival of our new kit! The young people are also passionate about the arts, as shown by their creations and drawings they present each week at club.

Both the freedom and proactivity of our STEM-based activities at weekly clubs’ showcase is one of the core elements to their enduring popularity with our young people. This is echoed by the young people themselves, as stated by one of our weekly STEM girls; “There’s actually activities we can do here and it’s not someone just talking and throwing information at you for an hour. Here you actually get to do activities and learn things, you’re not just sitting at a table.  

“You don’t have tests here, you do the activity and it makes it more enjoyable and makes you want to do it more.” 

While UK Science week may have come to an end, we intend on keeping our scientific roots growing all year round! And all information and tickets for our weekly clubs are available from Eventbrite.  

Follow us on Twitter (@YMCAPaisley) and Instagram (@paisleyymca) for more updates!  

The Early Action System Change Renfrewshire Project: A Study in Positive Change and Investigation                                                                              

Paisley YMCA were thrilled to have been included in the launch of Dartington Service Design Lab’s Change up! campaign on the 26th October. This online event was part of the Early Action System Change Renfrewshire Project, in which Paisley YMCA and many other youth organisations have been heavily involved, beginning with the first phase which consisted of the Early Action System Change Report which began in July 2020.  

The goal of the Early Action System Change involves Renfrewshire Council, Renfrewshire Health & Social Care Partnership, Dartington Service Design Lab, Engage Renfrewshire and other voluntary Youth sectors undertaking a three-year System Change Initiative (2018-2021). 

The initiative is funded by the National Lottery Community Fund Early Action System Change Fund that aims to identify and explore the roots cause of inequality and improving the emotional well-being of young people by exploring the effects of coercive control in their relationships.  

The Early Action System Change Report showcased research and reflections from over 500 young people and families across Renfrewshire, with individual workshops and information gathered from each voluntary sector. The purpose of these workshops was a focus on young people’s understanding and experience of coercive control in their relationships and their perceptions/experiences with community response or support. The report also sought to identify the most vulnerable groups of young people affected by coercive control in relationships and develop further ideas and solutions with their input.  

Each supporting sector showcased invaluable findings from their respective group of young people, with emphasis placed on their individual experiences and understanding of the nature of coercive control. Examples included RISE women’s group’s powerful open letter to Renfrewshire council; Action for Children’s focus group investigation on the familial relationships of young male offenders; The Linstone 20/20 project running 15 classroom workshops (13-15 years) with 100 young people reflecting on the many aspects of coercive control and how gender roles and expectations play their part; Create Paisley having four sessions over 2 days 17 young people aged 12 – 18 that focused on the effects of bullying, depression, anxiety and the creation of more safe spaces to explore mental health and many more examples from other participating Youth Based organisations. The report can be read in full on Dartington Early Action Page.  

Paisley YMCA sought to focus on understanding the experiences of coercive control amongst those with significant learning needs and achieved this through delivering workshops with 45 young people from Learner Development at West College Scotland.  

The results, categorised by our own Claire McGinley, showed that the young people in our investigation expressed anxiety over losing the relationships they had regarding coercive control as well as some difficulty finding a set definition for what constitutes as coercive control. Many expressed fear their concerns would not be treated seriously by authorities or believed many of these aspects were normal in teenage or young adult relationships.  

Our results also found that while materials for support in cases such as these are suitable for mainstream needs, more needs to be done to accommodate young people with specific learning needs as a vulnerable group. Our investigation came to the conclusion that there must be a concentrated and dedicated effort to support these young people to understand healthy and unhealthy aspects of interpersonal relationships, as well as clearer understanding of government laws concerning coercive control as well as how to report their struggles and feelings to those who will listen and take a proactive approach.  

The report marked the first phase of the Early Action System Change, with the findings and research collected in the report leading into the second phase, the Dartington Service Design Lab’s Change up! campaign on the 26th October. The online conference gathered representatives from the youth organisations represented in the report to further explore and discuss the findings of the report as well as a proactive approach to creating solutions.  

The event was hosted by Scotland Director Designate Catherine Rose Rankin and Scottish Director Kate Tobin for Dartington Service Design Lab and featured many contributors, including Paisley YMCA.  

Tobin stated in her introduction of the event: “Renfrewshire and others in this space have made tremendous moves towards centring young people’s voices that goes beyond just sharing experiences through surveys but working together with young people to meaningfully codesign and coproduce not just what is wanted, but also needed by blending data and evidence and this meaningful participation.”  

The research focus was the mental health of young people, and their experiences of coercive control in relationships. The project showed the results of a survey carried out from 10,000 young people, with 1 in 4 stating that they had experienced relationships with elements of coercive control.  

In his keynote speech, Head of Children and Justice Social Work John Trainer stated that the results went beyond the simple numbers of the survey and focused on the personal stories of young people to form definitive conclusions: 

“We asked those questions because as a professional social worker and working with the board of education, we actually identified that lots of the harm that was happening to young people was coming from families where gender-based violence and coercive control were very big issues. So, we asked some questions to try and surface what that looked like […] This is learned behaviour that starts way back in their early experience in family and young people confirmed that to us.” 

Renfrewshire Council Head of Schools Gordon McKinlay echoed this sentiment further, stating that the personal sharing and contribution of young people in this project should not be taken for granted: 

“It is a real privilege to work within a partnership that takes the views of our young people seriously and commit to making things better as a consequence. […] This afternoon’s event gives us all the opportunity to reflect on the vision and innovation of our young people who are challenging us to improve the services and supports for adolescent mental health and relationships across our services.”  

“It’s very important that we don’t view this participation of young people as something that we have to do, but something that we welcome and that will lead to real co-creation and systemic change in the long term.” 

The event showcased the work of Paisley YMCA in Social Circle project, with the data and sessions we had with our young people contributing greatly to forming the foundation of the study. It featured creative work and research from other exceptional youth organisations such as Create Paisley and The Star Project.  

The breakout rooms also featured important discussions about new methods that could be developed to help young people with their mental health and different ways to communicate their thoughts and feelings. They also allowed the participants to reflect and discuss our roles as youth workers and allies to young people, resulting in both new ideas and suggestions of how we can continue to improve and grow with the goal of educating and encouraging our young people to open up and discuss the trends and troubles in their lives.  

The event was an informative, collaborative and inspiring session that showcased the hard work of those involved as well as the importance and significance of empowering and helping our young people. As we reflect on the EASC project, we are proud to have been a part of an extensive and thorough examination of the complexities of the relationships of our young people with the goal to help, empower and assist them in every opportunity to combat inequality and help them build healthy and fulfilling life connections.  

Reflecting on Social Circle 💬

As we say goodbye to our weekly Social Circle project, we look back on the various important sessions we had with our young people and the value of this weekly project spanning several months.

Social Circle was a social space for young people to come together and discuss current events, the online world and building relationships with others. In particular, this club aimed to explore and discuss nurturing healthy relationships and how the digital age has changed and reshaped our worldviews with different topics each week.

It also aimed to be a safe environment for our members to discuss their feelings and emotions and share their views about what’s going on in our world. Our sessions intended to be informative, open and honest and most of all, fun!

Each week, our young people tackled social issues such as gaslighting, bullying, acceptance and what makes a relationship good or toxic. They discussed what makes a good friend, how to spot manipulative language and the best course of action to take when someone is being mistreated.

We are thrilled with the results of this project and we hope it will encourage our young people to take what they have learned into the future to be the change they wish to see in the world.

These final parting words from our young people showcase their hope for the future;

“I would like the world to have no bullies.”

“I hope that in the future, the world will be a more accepting place for everyone.”

“I would hope that the world could become a place where people aren’t afraid to show who they really are.”

Tickets for our other weekly Makerspace clubs are available from Eventbrite.

What place does Gaslighting have in toxic relationships? Social Circle debates 💬

As our Tuesday night Social Circle sessions continue, we have introduced specific topics concerning relationships and interaction for our young people to discuss and debate with the help of our youth workers.

This week’s session was a discussion between our youth workers and young people on the definition and examples of gaslighting, and how it can indicate a toxic or abusive relationship.

Our youth workers defined gaslighting as a means to manipulate someone into questioning their own reality. It was a term many of our young people were unfamiliar with but learned through giving examples of relationships in which someone could manipulate or twist another person’s words to make them believe what they want them to believe.

One of the most valuable parts of the session came from a word/phrases game, in which a youth worker would read a phrase aloud and the young people would debate on whether the phrase counted as an example of gaslighting.

When prompted with the phrase “What you’re joking about is upsetting me. I’m not okay with it,” our young people stated: “I would say you’re not gaslighting… the way you were saying it sounds like you’re just trying to have a conversation with someone. Like if you sat someone down and tried to give them your feelings in a way to help yourself and them. If someone was joking about something personal and kept going on about it, you would end up being upset and if you react calmly with that, I don’t think it’s gaslighting.”

In response to the phrase “Take a joke!”, they responded, “Not really, because if you only said it once, that could be just you getting defensive. I think a lot of people do this, when they realise they’re in the wrong they start instead of apologising. I think especially if you’re male, then you might start getting defensive instead of trying to open up and say you’re sorry.”

By contrast, our young people said of the phrase “You’re too sensitive!”,: “I think it is gaslighting … See if you say to someone they’re too sensitive but you mean it in a way of trying to help them out, if someone is dealing with something and getting upset a lot and you say to them they’re too sensitive to try to help them, then I guess in that sense it’s not. But see if you say it over and over again, then I get that it can be then. That would qualify.”

Social Circle highlights the importance of having these conversations with young people, as their contributions are both insightful and informative, leading to them having just as much to teach as they do to learn. It also highlights these terms and dynamics so young people can identify them easily, leading them to recognise what makes a relationship healthy or unhealthy.

Tickets for next week’s Social Circle are available from Eventbrite.

The New Dimension to Social Circle

During the pandemic in accordance with government guidelines, many of our clubs were moved to online zoom calls every week as opposed to physically interacting in the space. In spite of this and the challenges it posed, Paisley YMCA were committed to giving their young people a space with our youth workers to enjoy club activity and conversation that many of them look forward to each week through the use of technology.

However, most of our club activity has now moved back to being able to physically meet and interact in the space and it has marked a new phase for one of our most recent club projects.

Social Circle is a Makerspace club launched by Paisley YMCA whilst in lockdown, with it beginning in online zoom sessions similar to the other clubs. Social Circle is devised as a space for young people to come together and discuss important social issues, the online world and building healthy relationships with others. This project was made possible through funding from the Early Action Systems Change Initiative.

With government restrictions now allowing our Makerspace clubs to once again meet in person, this has brought out a new dimension to Social Circle. YMCA Youth Worker Kieran McPhail states:

“As Social Circle came to a close with the online sessions and opened up to in person sessions, we’ve seen much more engaged and conversation driven sessions with lots of ideas, views and even some debate arising throughout.”

Kieran goes on to explain what the young people at Social Circle have been having debates about:

“The in person sessions have had a focus on friendships and how to recognise signs coercive control – or as we have been calling them; good and bad vibes between friends and what those signs are or could mean. There’s a lot of focus being given to the context of what’s being said and done during the sessions.

“The young people are very keen to discuss and dig into the “what, why and how” of the issue of coercive control and healthy relationships!”

Kieran also states the key differences the physical presence has brought to Social Circle compared to its online origins and the value of this club as a space for our young people:

The online sessions were a good platform, don’t get me wrong, a good place to talk and discuss with a heavy focus on just that, talking and discussion. These were very valuable and good sessions. But the in person sessions have a lot of energy and allows for a bit of light with games to break up and ease the heavier topics of discussion.

“I think Social Circle is a place to come and discuss the idea of how a healthy relationship should look and be as well as a space to discuss topics that are affecting the young people, such as the climate crisis, social crisis, anything the young people feel strongly about that they will have to confront as they step into the world as adults or even right now.

“These sessions would be incredibly valuable to keep continuing with, as these topics of discussion do not have enough young voices being heard despite it being young people who will have to pick up the pieces and stand up to and against the issues they want to speak out about and discuss.”

Tickets for Social Circle and all of our other clubs during the week are available from Eventbrite!