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16.10.2023 | Jamie Lee & Anna Paula Herrera

What happens when youth changemakers meet at the Innovation Summit?

In 2020, while the COVID pandemic prevented HundrED from hosting our annual Innovation Summit in-person, we hosted the event online, giving the opportunity for an even larger number of people to connect virtually. Among these participants was 17 year old Ron Berlinksi from Amsterdam and 15 year old Alice Machado from Rio.

Ron and Alice were the youngest participants at the Innovation Summit. While most youth were in school, Ron and Alice decided to skip class that day to participate in the Summit programme because they wanted to learn from the inspiring education innovators presenting. Alice's passion for education had already led her to become HundrED Youth Ambassador of the year in 2020, and inspired her to create MUNDO Debates with a team of other Youth Ambassadors. During the Summit, she interviewed Andreas Schleicher, Director for Education and Skills at the OECD

It was during this session that Ron met Alice and asked her for her feedback on his project idea, Curiosity Club. Ron’s idea was to create an afterschool club where kids could simply learn what they were interested in, without teachers, by channelling their intrinsic curiosity. Until then, Ron felt quite disenchanted with school, and realised that what motivated him the most to learn was exploring topics he was curious about - and this principle could work for others, too. Both Ron and Alice then continued on, becoming HundrED Youth Ambassadors in 2021 and stayed connected, organising weekly meetings with other inspired youth to discuss their education project ideas. 

Collaboration Coming to Fruition 

By 2023, Ron had already kicked off Curiosity Club, establishing clubs in four international schools in Amsterdam. Ron trains student “guides” on how to support other students’ learning in the afterschool group, and allows them to facilitate the groups in their schools on their own. The groups follow three main principles: guiding learners to develop their curiosity and achieve their goals; exposing learners to new ideas and experiences; and encouraging learners to work collaboratively and learn from one another. A variety of different projects have emerged from these clubs, including short film projects, party planning, and more!

But Ron wanted to expand Curiosity Clubs into a week-long Curiosity Camp during the summer. That’s when he called his old friend, Alice, now living in Lisbon, to come to Amsterdam during her vacation and volunteer as a guide at the camp. 

When Ron asked Alice to come help at his camp where there would be no one actually in charge, she was slightly hesitant, but excited to see what her friend had created. During preparation day, they gathered to establish a plan and assign roles, but Alice was unsure about the hands-off approach that Ron was advocating for: “I was genuinely worried about the lack of structure and discipline. In my head, there was no way that approach would work.”

However, once the kids arrived, she quickly realised the amazing potential that kids have when they are given responsibility and have to take ownership of their own tasks. 

“We were cooking together, painting together. Singing. Programming. Things were happening. Each guide took responsibility to do their best, remaining open and available to foster meaningful connections with both fellow guides and learners. Projects began to take shape as well, where the children could take pride in their independent creations, with the help of others when needed. The guides were simply there to assist and also learn. They weren’t trying to teach anything. They were peers, and colleagues adventuring together to discover and build new things.”

"They were peers, and colleagues adventuring together to discover and build new things."

Learner Photos (036 of 56).jpg

Alice was inspired by Ron’s approach to Curiosity Camp, which relied completely on self-directed learning. 

“The interactions that unfolded during that week showed me that power dynamics influenced by age or hierarchy were not present in that space. I witnessed 10-year-olds feeling a sense of importance and engaging in deep conversations they wouldn't normally be invited to participate in. And, at the same time, I could watch 18-year-olds running around and having a great time playing dodgeball in the same competitive spirit as the other participants. They were simultaneously teaching each other how to play chess, solve a Rubik's cube, and play the ukulele. Learning was magically happening, without the need for finger-pointing or imposed boundaries.”

"The interactions that unfolded during that week showed me that power dynamics influenced by age or hierarchy were not present in that space [...] Learning was magically happening, without the need for finger-pointing or imposed boundaries."

Could the principles behind Curiosity Club be implemented in schools as part of their pedagogy? When we asked Ron and Alice about this, they both said yes, since there are elements that can be adopted that could foster kids’ self-guidance and motivation to learn.

Alice’s experience at Ron’s Curiosity Camp was one that she would never forget. How could she have known that she would end up volunteering at a camp across the world started by a fellow youth she met online at the Innovation Summit in 2020? 

What’s next?

Ron, now 20, continues to work on expanding Curiosity Clubs and Camp. He is hoping to start clubs in more schools in Amsterdam and grow his team of 6 volunteers to 10 by the end of the year. Alice, a musician, has shifted her focus on her career but still continues to be passionate about education, teaching theatre to kids at school. Although it is hard for her to help Ron from afar, she is proudly watching the growth of his project and will continue supporting him in whatever way she can. 

Amazing connections happen every year at the HundrED Innovation Summit. Join us online from Oct 31 - Nov 1 to hear from an inspiring selection of education innovators and stakeholders. 

If you’re in Helsinki, you are welcome to come to the open Global Collection 2024 Launch event in BioRex Lasipalatsi. Register here.