In 1993, Bainbridge photographer Linda Wolf came up with an innovative idea for getting teens to connect and work through the issues they face. She launched The Daughters Sisters Project for teen girls the next year. Twenty years later, what is now known as Teen Talking Circles and includes boys as well is still going strong and has just captured the attention of NHK, a Japanese Public Broadcast Station. An NHK crew of four will be on the Island Saturday, September 14, to film a talking circle with 12 teens.
NHK is doing the filming for a series in production on the myelin sheath, the electrically insulating material that protects the axon of a neuron. Yes, we’re talking about brains. And you might reasonably wonder what the myelin sheath has to do with a Bainbridge talking circle. Research has shown that during the teenage years the myelin sheath begins to thicken, which increases the efficiency of neural connections. So one segment of the series will focus on the developing teen brain and the corresponding increase in certain hormones.
Wolf said the NHK series producers want to record the strong and changing feelings of teens: whether they’re depressed, how they feel about their parents and their friends, what they care about and worry about. Director Kaneko Masatoshi was sure he wouldn’t find a group of teens in Japan who were comfortable enough to talk openly on camera. So he looked east and decided to focus on Bainbridge, the birthplace of the modern Teen Talking Circle.
The TTC program developed out of the belief that a mature self-identity and healthy relationships develop naturally when kids feel free to speak their truth and hear the truth of others. On Bainbridge, a talking circle—usually about 11 or 12 teens and two adult facilitators—is scheduled one day a week after school for nine months of the year. The program has been recognized nationally and internationally by universities, diversion programs, community organizations, health educators, and youth-serving organizations, including the Office on Women’s Health in Washington, DC. In 2001, TTC was given the Athena Award for Excellence in Mentoring. TTC offers facilitator training and educational materials as well as running the circles.
NHK meanwhile has won scads of awards for its documentaries, including Peabody Awards, International Emmys, the Prix Jeunesse, Hugo Television Awards, U.S. International Film & Video Festival awards, and International Wildlife Film Festival awards. The series in production will air in Japan next year. The producers hope to release an English-language version after that.
For the event, Wolf recruited a group of volunteers, six boys and six girls in the age range of 13 to 18. She found them largely through Buy Nothing Bainbridge, and it was through BNB that she found the location for the filming, the home of Peter Athans and film director Liesl Clark.
The kids have all been briefed on what will be expected of them and on the topic of the series. The kids’ parents have all given permission for the filming. Wolf said she will work with the kids for an hour before filming starts. During that hour, Corbin Lester, a vocalist and spoken-word artist and the son of Councilmember Debbi Lester, will work with the kids to help them “open their voices.”
Teen Talking Circles will get a stipend from NHK. But the community is also supporting the event: A number of local businesses—Hitchcock, Safeway, Storyville Coffee, and A Woman Sconed—are donating food. Two of the parents are handling carpooling. Wolf said that David Franklin, the author of Radical Men, is co-facilitating the circle, and her daughter Genevieve Wolf Smith and pal Tracey Denlinger are helping coordinate the event. The Lynwood Theatre is donating movie tickets for the kids.
A new TTC for girls is starting here on Monday, and new members are welcome. With enough interest, a group for boys could also be launched. For more information about joining or getting your own teen involved in a talking circle, contact Wolf at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also visit the TTC website.
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Photos courtesy of TTC.
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