Holistic Pedagogical Approaches and Youth Empowerment

David Fazzino (Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania)
NEOS Volume 12: Issue 1, April 2020

Return to Table of Contents

Two recent geographically disparate youth education experiences, one in Pennsylvania and the other in the Federated States of Micronesia, highlight the value of cross-disciplinary engagement and collaboration to empower youth through holistic pedagogical approaches.  

The first is Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania’s ANCHOR Program (2020) for fifteen to eighteen-year-olds involved in the foster care in Pennsylvania.  It is an intensive one-week residential program with year-long support and mentoring.  The residential program matches students up with courses and activities that align with their interests.  I co-led workshops with Bloomsburg University undergraduate Anthropology students, including hands-on activities in archaeology and agroecology in 2017 and 2018.  During one of these workshops, in the late July mid-afternoon sun, students worked to weed and prepare beds for transplanting out seedlings.  One student, “Kim,” from inner-city Philadelphia, admiring the agrarian landscape and sweeping views, exclaimed that it was very pretty and looked “like a postcard.”  She said she had never seen anything as beautiful as this and it was part of what inspired her to continue her studies.  This impressed upon me the importance of innovative, place-based and holistic pedagogical approaches to inspire youth. 

This was reinforced again in summer 2018 as I volunteered at Kosrae State Historic Preservation Office (KSHPO) in Kosrae State, Federated States of Micronesia, to co-lead an ethnographic field school for high school students between their junior and senior years.   This trained youth in ethnographic methods and provided them with an opportunity to reflect on their lives, culture, and participate in an exchange of information and ideas with elders from throughout the island. We supplemented this with field visits to natural features of the island where guides, staff, and youth interacted with one another to learn more about animal behavior.  We summited Mount Oma with nearly 360-degree views of Kosrae on the final day.  Although many of these youth could literally see their home communities from the summit, none of them had previously been into the forest. I saw that same look on the faces of these youth that Kim had nearly a year before.  They were in awe of what was around them, of what they could accomplish, and elated to have the opportunity to feel like they belonged somewhere.  Holistic educational programming had created this sense of empowerment by holding a space for them.    

These moments of joy, of knowing that adults have their backs, and knowing that they have a vision for the future that is better off today than it was yesterday are a result of program participation.  This joy and knowing counters the shadows or marginalities which come in a variety of forms and scales.  Marginalities that are produced through climate change, colonialism, dependency for Micronesians. The shadows of structural violence along the lines of race, gender, and class.  If the conditions which produce these marginalities are systematic, then so too must be our solutions in praxis and pedagogy. Implementing such solutions ensures that youth may shape their future by reconciling the past with the present, providing them with the opportunity to reveal and root out marginalities and become their own guiding lights.


Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania. 2020. Anchor Program. https://intranet.bloomu.edu/anchor, accessed March 5, 2020.

Author contact: David Fazzino (Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania), dfazzino@bloomu.edu

To cite this article: Fazzino, D. 2020. Holistic Pedagogical Approaches and Youth Empowerment. NEOS 12 (1).

To link to this article: https://acyig.americananthro.org/neos-current-issue/fazzino_neos-12_1_april-2020/