Organization What Kids Can Do, Inc.
Kathleen Cushman, Writer and Author
Barbara Cervone, President, What Kids Can Do, Inc. and Next Generation Press
WKCD writer and author Kathleen Cushman and WKCD President Barbara Cervone have developed an effective methodology for drawing out and documenting youth voices — and the critically acclaimed book Fires in the Bathroom (New Press, 2003) is just the first of its fruits. After founding the publishing imprint Next Generation Press, WKCD has produced a pioneering series of books, some as collaborative works by teenagers with adults, others presenting new youth writers and thinkers. All raise awareness of the rising generation as keepers and creators of vital knowledge and vision.
Fires in the Bathroom had its start when MetLife Foundation approached WKCD with a set of data gathered from a large-scale education survey showing how novice teachers in urban schools were ill equipped to deal with the complex needs and issues of low-income urban students. read more
Unique Practices and Approaches: First Ask Then Listen
WKCD's practice — First Ask, Then Listen — is rooted in inquiry. In other words, the entire project of publishing a book in collaboration with young people depends on the process of generating questions. These questions are shaped through, by and from the experiences of youth.
For Fires in the Bathroom, author Kathleen Cushman began with a preliminary inquiry inviting teachers to identify the questions they would most like to ask their students, particularly about their perceptions of teaching and learning. As Cushman explains, many teachers hesitate to ask students these questions, since the answers might reflect negatively on their own teaching. "Or teachers already have an answer in their head and, as with many of us, it is usually a knee-jerk response," continues Cushman. read more
Unique Practices and Approaches: Powerful Learning with Public Purpose
Created with the technique of First Ask, Then Listen, Fires in the Bathroom became an invaluable and best-selling resource for parents and teachers. Its success led the organization What Kids Can Do to launch its own publishing arm, Next Generation Press, with two more books providing advice from kids to educators and parents: Sent to the Principal: Students Talk about Making High School Better and What We Can't Tell You: Teenagers Talk to the Adults in Their Lives.
In these and numerous subsequent publications, WKCD strives not only to listen to youth voices but also "to push and professionalize the products so that they will be ready for a critical public audience." As Cushman explains, "We diminish the voices of youth when we don't do that." This signature pedagogical approach is described by WKCD as "powerful learning with public purpose" (PLPP). Cervone elaborates: "Learning is powerful when it connects to real interests that students have but also connects to the broad interests of adults in a community." read more
Change and Impact
Coles, Robert. The Political Life of Children and The Call of Stories: Teaching and the Moral Imagination