Bridgebuilders Nutshell

I am currently revising a cross-cultural youth curriculum for Atlantic Bridge in the Netherlands. I was asked yesterday to write a one-page summary of the concept for general distribution.

The mission of Atlantic Bridge is to connect young people living in a climate of conflicting worldviews so they can develop personal expression and faith through cross-cultural friendships. Our primary way of doing this is through the “Bridgebuilders” concept. We combine a balanced cultural understanding with the mission of building bridges of friendship and faith. A fourteen lesson curriculum is the training method; while international festivals and other events co-ordinated by Atlantic Bridge bring young people face to face. As we work with high school students, we are careful not to make this heavily intellectual or theoretical, but rather a practical and experiential learning tool. Our aim is to make a targeted curriculum that prepares youth for the realities of a multi-cultural society; we equip youth to become the next generation of “complete” citizens in a world that needs people with these special skills.

Bridgebuilders is a combination of team building and cross-cultural training. By first breaking down walls, we become more knowledgeable about others and remove our prejudices and indifference to other cultures, races, and faiths. We can then build bridges which allow two sides to meet and learn from each other. There are five main goals for a complete Bridgebuilder’s cycle (the club meets for roughly a year to complete the following):

  • Bridgebuilders weekend (an event introducing the club members to each other and outlining expectations for the year)
  • Host a group from another country (one club acts as hosts for another)
  • Visit a club in another country (preferably the same group hosted previously)
  • Participate in an International Youth Festival (a yearly multi-national festival gathering Bridgebuilder clubs from Europe and the US) and,
  • Complete the Bricks curriculum

This curriculum is an informal and experiential learning plan, not a university-level course. Our aim is a fun and active experience for young people, designed to broaden their worldview and equip them to draw their own conclusions and solutions concerning problems they see around them. To teach them to build bridges and break down walls, we have created the following “Bricks.” Each Brick is one more step toward the goal of empowering participants with knowledge (about themselves and others), attitudes (concerning the topics we explore), and skills (to put their knowledge into practical use). The sessions are (in no particular order):

  • team building
  • discovering your culture
  • communication
  • introduction to world religions
  • world changers
  • identity
  • discovering others
  • empathy
  • developing a personal faith
  • expressing your culture and convictions
  • personal autonomy
  • hospitality
  • standing in the middle
  • flexibility

Each Brick takes approximately one and a half hours to complete, depending on the group and the leader. At every stage, we encourage the participants to ask questions about themselves and their role in society such as: What are my skills and strengths as and individual and in a group? What is the past and future of society; how do I fit in? How can I make better links between myself and others? What role does faith play in my life and how can I use it to benefit others? What positive actions will I undertake for myself and my society? We hope they will discover a new sense of self worth and responsibility; each of these Bricks is designed to give participants tools for finding a productive place in their own community, country, and world.

As of August 2006, Atlantic Bridge has existing Bridgebuilder clubs in several countries and is preparing leader training for start-up groups (NL in August, US in September, and CZ in October). Now that we’ve basically established the structure and look of the curriculum, I’m ready to start putting them all out on paper for review and clarification by the leaders over the incoming months. (I think I’ll write a separate entry about the difficulties and considerations of writing materials in English for multiple cultures and ESL leaders and participants). This is something I will continue working on for some time; we hope to have the complete set ready for publication by next Spring. In the meantime, we will do beta testing with our existing clubs. If you are interested in further information please contact Atlantic Bridge or e-mail me at nicholas[dot]media@mac[dot]com (replace the [dot] with actual dots).