Abstract

This article describes the organization, curriculum, and outcomes for New Stories/New Cultures, an activity-based program for after-school enrichment in five schools in the low-income neighborhood near a major American university. The program encourages students (70% Hispanic-American, 30% African-American) to experience themselves as producers of culture, not just as consumers. Its methods include (a) creative team use of video equipment and other expressive media and (b) lessons about media literacy (i.e., making critical choices about images and activities depicted in popular culture and commercials). Outcome measures with the cohort of fifth and sixth graders support the program’s occupation-based philosophy. They show that students are more likely to experience themselves as building skills when engaged in activities that are both challenging and enjoyable. The students reported greatest engagement and enjoyment in activities that were creative, team-based, and involving media production. These same activities were correlated with increased self-esteem. The term direct cultural intervention is used to describe the application of occupational principles and critical perspectives to provide a population with conceptual tools and skills for interpreting and successfully navigating the social world.

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