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Experiential Learning, Art, and the Power of Positive Youth Development

Updated: Mar 8

Art creation

Leaders aren’t born; they’re grown. At Thrive, we say this a lot, but we don’t often get to talk about the second part of that statement: “Growing leaders requires an intentional approach to child and youth development.” This post will look at the intersection of creative experiential learning, Positive Youth Development (PYD), and leadership development. From the PYD formula to real-world case studies, let's uncover how taking a PYD approach fosters positive relationships, develops critical leadership skills, and paves the way for a brighter future.



Understanding Positive Youth Development (PYD)

Positive Youth Development (PYD) is a holistic approach to working with youth that shifts the focus from correcting problems to enhancing strengths and potentials in young people. The PYD formula emphasizes the five Cs—competence, confidence, connection, character, and caring—work synergistically to support youth and create a sixth C: contribution. It's more than overcoming obstacles; it's about full potential and flourishing personally and socially. 


Six Key Assets in the PYD Formula

  1. Competence: Building skills and competencies.

  2. Confidence: Instilling a sense of self-assurance.

  3. Connection: Fostering meaningful relationships.

  4. Character: Developing a solid moral compass.

  5. Caring: Encouraging empathy and compassion.

  6. Contribution: Inspiring youth to make a difference.


Thrive Youth's Approach

Art creation

Our programs are use creative experiential learning, the process of learning by doing through art-based interventions. In a hands-on environment where effort and thought are valued more than artistic perfection, trying something new to express thoughts or feelings can support the development of attributes like self-confidence, self-worth, and self-efficacy–the sense that you can achieve something you’re excited about. In short, it helps young people see their own potential.


For many of our participants who struggle in traditional learning spaces, the feeling of learning new skills, expressing themselves, or even connecting with peers in an inclusive environment can change how they view themselves. 


This approach blends seamlessly into the tenets of PYD, allowing them to make positive changes in their lives without using an externally driven "corrective" force. in this context, art-based interventions serve as a therapeutic and developmental tool. These interventions allow youth to explore their emotions, express their thoughts, and develop creative problem-solving skills.


  1. Enhanced Self-Expression: Art as a universal language.

  2. Emotional Regulation: Therapeutic benefits of artistic activities.

  3. Skill Development: Fostering creativity and critical thinking.

  4. Building Resilience: Embracing mistakes and learning from them.

  5. Fostering Connections: Collaborative art projects for community building.



Sustained Impact: PYD in the Long Run

PYD isn’t just about preventing negative outcomes; it's about supporting a generation of young people in developing critical leadership and life skills. Integrating experiential learning through art-based interventions and PYD provides a vibrant and practical approach to achieving this goal. By encouraging artistic expression and creating supportive environments, we nurture our youth's talents and potential and invest in a brighter, more creative future.


Want to get involved? Learn more about how you can work with Thrive to support young Canadians across the country.



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