Using Pop Culture to Create Effective Affinity Spaces

by KellyAnn Bonnell, MA

This week I’ve had the awesome opportunity to go through ASPIRE training with the University of Arizona. ASPIRE is a coaching program for youth development programs to help them improve their ability to better meet the needs of young people between the ages of 9-18. One of the key issues we’ve been talking about over the past three days is Efficacy and Mattering for Youth. This is allowing youth to have a voice in their experiences in youth programs and to provide them with opportunities to feel as if they matter in the program as well as in their community.

I started Pop Goes the Classroom, the message I was trying to communicate was that we need to find ways to make learning relevant to the young people we serve in our classrooms, after school programs, libraries, wherever. Initially, I tried to lay a foundation for emergent curriculum (project based learning) and provide you with some best practices in using pop culture as a tool to communicate with and educate youth. This year, I went into depth on why classroom management is different when we introduce student led initiatives. Our track this year at Phoenix Comicon was focused on providing vocabulary for effective advocacy related to Pop Culture Integration and we explored how Pop Culture can be a tool to engage parents.

This year we’ll be focusing on how pop culture can be used to create affinity spaces. Affinity spaces are places where like minded young people can come together for informal learning experiences guided by their passions. It is informal learning in its purest form. Affinity spaces are a concept we should all adopt. This blog is our attempt at creating an affinity space for educators and youth workers who are passionate about making strong connections with youth. Nanowrimo is an affinity space for aspiring authors. We translate affinity spaces from virtual spaces to physical spaces when we look at high school clubs, youth sports, and more recently meet up groups that organize hobbyists online and arrange face to face meetings.

Pop Culture has long been used to define affinity spaces and it can be a perfect opportunity to engage youth in relevant experiences with like minded peers and possibly even inter-generational experiences. A local bookstore might host a gaming group once a week that allows young people in the community to spend time with adults with similar hobbies. You might host a sequential art club for teens to learn to draw comic books and graphic novels. Perhaps you have a web portal for fan fiction at your library. The ideas are endless. 

We hope you’ll share of the programs you are offering this season to give others ideas. We are always happy to have guest bloggers. What are you doing with affinity spaces in your classrooms, programs, libraries and communities?


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