What is it like to be a child in Hudson? How does learning happen? 

We believe that the actions taken by organizations like ours can make the greatest impact when informed by the experiences of real people. We believe that relevant social change is built from the strengths of the communities most impacted by dominant systems and institutions. And as educators, we believe deeply in rooting our work in inquiry. Our listening project keeps Kite’s Nest rooted in inquiry, and committed to the practice of listening to and learning from everyone around us.

When we opened our doors in 2013, we spent a year collecting one-on-one oral history interviews with people growing up, working with kids, and raising kids in Hudson, listening to a range of experiences of learning and education. These interviews were open-ended, and usually lasted about an hour. We asked interviewees about their experiences growing up, and about their memories of learning, both in and out of school. Who were their best mentors? What kind of learner were they? We asked about how they discovered and followed their passions, what resources and support they had access to, and what kinds of barriers they faced along the way. And we asked everyone about their dreams for the future of this community.

In the end, we found ourselves exploring the most fundamental question of all: what does it mean to learn?

It was the goal of the Listening Project to create opportunities for conversation, exchange, and encounter around people’s stories and experiences; to gain greater understanding of peoples’ experiences of and relationship to learning, and the strengths and resources of the communities most impacted by the education system; and to contribute more in-depth testimonies to the city-wide conversation about the past, present, and future of learning in Hudson. While we are no longer conducting interviews, the critical work (and joy!) of listening and learning from each other doesn’t ever end.

In Spring 2015, we hosted a series of workshops for educators and mentors in Hudson based on the stories we recorded. Groups of educators came together to listen to interview excerpts, reflect on our own experiences, and think about what it means to work with young people growing up today. We asked: how can we learn from these stories to be better teachers and mentors? If you'd like to hear more about this project, write to us at: sara@kitesnest.org.

Special thank you to the NY State Council on the Humanities for their support; to the Oral History Summer School and Suzanne Snider for their inspiration and training; to Maggie Clark and Kristi Gibson, who offered critical guidance; to the Listening Project guest interviewers, Laura Anderson and Mark Beauchamp; and of course, to all of the people who shared their stories, memories, and experiences. We have learned so much from everyone involved.