Lessons 5: Understanding Our Youth


Shake out your body one limb at a time. Starting with eight shakes of the right arm, then eight shakes of the left, eight shakes of the right leg, then eight shakes of the left. Continues with a round of four shakes of each limb, then two, then one, ending in a big cheer


  1. Participants will understand at least 1-2 physical, emotional, social and academic needs of youth.
  2. Participants will brainstorm ways to adapt their teaching in age-appropriate ways.

What research says about youth (Ages 16 – 30)

Physical Characteristics

  • It is a time when people are at their healthiest.
  • The brain is still increasing in size.
  • Full physical maturation is complete: full height and secondary sexual characteristics are attained.
  • There is a need to be physically active.

Emotional Characteristics

  • Develop self-reliance.
  • Have greater concern for others.
  • Adopt a personal value system.
  • Enter final stage of brain development for emotional regulation.
  • Develop thoughts about their role in life.

Social Needs

  • Develop stable peer relationships
  • Family formation is being considered while still remaining a member of their birth family.
  • Experience changes in parental relationships.
  • Development of romantic and sexually oriented relationships.


  • Transition to adult roles and responsibilities and may learn a trade, work, and/or pursue higher education
  • Fully understand abstract concepts and are aware of consequences and personal limitations
  • Identify career goals and prepare to achieve them
  • Interests stabilize
  • Enter final stages of development of complex reasoning, problem-solving, thinking ahead, prioritizing, long-term planning, self-evaluation
  • Objectives of the lesson

Understanding the needs of youth

Here are ways that research has shown learning in the classroom can help youth prepare for a successful life both in and out of their workplace.

Physical Needs

What Youth Need To Be Present in the Classroom

  • Create places and spaces where they can learn.
  • Create places where it is safe to be themselves.
  • Continue to provide different ways of learning that include physical movement.

Emotional Needs

Help Youth with What They Want to Become

  • Help youth form an identity as an adult in the work world.
  • Allow youth to take responsibility for themselves and to lead an ethical life.
  • Help youth to have greater confidence in their future.

Social Needs

Understand How Youth Want to See Themselves

  • Have relationships that allow them to be true to themselves, where they can have deeper relationships.
  • Give the youth respect for who they are, how they behave, and what they value.
  • Help youth create and address a desire to serve others, to make the world a better place for all.
  • Provide learning that enhances a positive self-identity, life satisfaction, and a sense of purpose.

Learning/Cognitive Needs

What Youth Need to Learn

  • Engage youth in thinking, reasoning, and solving abstract and theoretical problems.
  • Help youth learn skills that lead towards financial independence and responsibility.
  • Teach life skills to help youth avoid pitfalls and help create solutions to real life conflicts.
  • Keep youth busy with real life skills and do not allow them to be idle.
  • Give the youth the credentials of a degree or certification that tells them and the working world that they know their craft.