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Re-engaging Disconnected Youth

Transformative Learning through Restorative and Social Justice Education – Revised Edition


Amy Vatne Bintliff

As many young adults continue to disengage with learning each day, teachers and administrators struggle to find ways to re-engage secondary students with their schooling and communities. Re-engaging Disconnected Youth profiles a program that succeeds in doing so, one that can serve as a model for others. In a Midwestern alternative school, three teachers built a curriculum around hands-on learning, restorative justice Talking Circles, and multicultural education, in the hopes that it would re-engage and inspire youth. Drawing on Adult Transformative Learning Theory, the book is an in-depth, qualitative study of the ways the program transformed adult and youth perceptions of trust, connections, schooling and human rights. It breaks down stereotypes about youth labeled «at-risk» and provides evidence that it is never too late to become passionate about learning. This new revised edition includes updated research and a chapter exploring the impact of the program on middle school youth.
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Chapter 1. Introduction: Program Design and Implementation


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Program Design and Implementation

I’m probably not the only one, but up until not that long ago, no one really saw me. No one got to know me. No one gave a crap who I was or what I was about. Anything. But, in the past year, I’ve met some of the most amazing people and I’ve connected with more people then I ever thought I would have. And I never thought I would trust to tell people the things that I have. Especially this group. It’s hard to talk about the things that hurt you most, but we talk about it and I finally feel that I’m not so alone. Everybody’s unique, but everybody’s so much the same. It’s nice to figure that out. To find that connection.


This student and 75 (rather than 28) others, whose names have been changed to honor privacy, all shared in an experiential education summer school program that was designed and implemented at an alternative school in Minnesota. Students were offered credit in history, English, and science via a course that included an in-depth look at Westward Expansion history. During the three- to four-week course, students traveled from Minnesota to Wyoming stopping at historical sites along the way. The course, which included using restorative justice Talking Circlesa, hands-on learning, and curriculum that centered on human rights and social justice was designed by...

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