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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Early sports specialization is incompatible with high-quality youth programming

By Margo Bowerman

I had the good fortune to grow up in an environment with a wide variety of things to do and plenty of free time. I loved competitive team sports, and as a student I played competitively through college and beyond. Today, though, many young people’s time is monopolized by sports and for some, even the very young, it’s only a single sport – even though the research says that’s not good for them.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Science is hard work and that makes it fun

By Rebecca Meyer 

Thinking of science as fun may bring youth to an activity, but they'll like it even more when they get to know more about the scientific process, challenges, and even the failures.

Effective science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education demands balancing fun, interest-building activities and attention to the authentic aptitudes and dispositions that prepare youth for professional careers. All too often we emphasize the fun-factor and minimize the notion that "science is hard." My colleague, Margo Bowerman, blogged about this recently: "I’m no good at science!"

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Let's talk about race -- It's important

By Jessica Pierson Russo

We need to talk to young people about race more - not less. A recent study suggests that minority and white children avoid talking about race. They learn this "color blind" approach from adults, and avoiding the issue only widens the divide.

Studies show that talking to young people about race is important to their development. Understanding one's own racial and ethnic identity is important to developing a positive social identity.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The key to quality youth development that keeps a kid coming back

By Karen Beranek

Recently families have been questioning the value of youth activities, as seen on the parent blogs and social media sites starting with "Why I don't pay for" and ending with: gymnastics, volleyball, band, basketball. Blogger Shad Martin has a good example with "Why I Don't Pay for Dance Anymore!"

Martin lists many good reasons why parents should involve their children in these learning experiences. But in my opinion, he has missed an important one - program quality.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Getting beyond graduation

By Amber Shanahan

Graduation is a joyous and proud occasion filled with anticipation of what's to come. But emotionally, it's a mixed bag -- anxiety, apprehension, grief, fear or sadness may live alongside relief, joy and delight.

One graduate's next steps and outlook can look quite different from another's and so can their attitudes about their future. Some may be thrilled to say goodbye to the comforts of home to explore parts unknown, but others may feel apprehensive about their new found freedom, and a few may have no plan in place at all -- causing feelings of unease, pressure and confusion.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

5 tips for continuous youth program improvement

By Betsy Olson

CC BY-SA 2.0, Katy Warner
Continuous improvement seems to be the new normal. Each year, funders, stakeholders and youth participants expect our programs to grow and strengthen, not to mention our own high expectations as youth workers. One tool in our tool box to help our programs continue to build and improve is interactive evaluation or feedback mechanisms.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

3 ways to help your volunteers and program staff facilitate inquiry

By Anne Stevenson

Imagine an after-school program in which second graders learn about chemical change by making pancakes. Or a club in which kids in fourth through sixth grades build a Rube Goldberg machine for a county competition. Or a group of teens re-engineering an underwater robot.

How do you, as the adult guiding the learning experience, facilitate inquiry to best engage them and challenge deeper thinking?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Wants or needs? The role that young people can play in developing a country

By Joshua Rice

My colleague Molly Frendo and I visited Bangladesh last month to consult on how to improve agricultural training in that country. Our hosts in the Department of Youth Development asked us to identify youth empowerment needs in the agriculture sector and outline the resources and interventions needed to close gaps and steps for implementation.

Program development is an aspect of my job that I am passionate about. I enjoy identifying a need or missing element within a community and then constructing programs to address them. I follow a four-step process: identify, develop, facilitate and evaluate.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Help set the research agenda: What do we need to know about nature-based learning?

By Cathy Jordan

Fueled by Richard Louv’s popular book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, and supported by the organization Children & Nature Network, (which Louv and several others co-founded in 2006) a worldwide movement has been gaining traction to reconnect children to the natural environment. More and more research is being published suggesting that nature play and nature-based learning provide children with benefits across the age range and across diverse developmental areas including: physical health, mental health, learning, motor development, cognitive development, and social-emotional learning.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

2 myths about young people and college aspirations

A major political strategy to address educational disparities has been to raise the aspirations of young people with a low socioeconomic status (SES). Case in point: This entertaining video features a rapping FLOTUS encouraging youth to "go to college".


I don't dispute the core message -- that going to college is a way to discover one's intrinsic value and professional opportunities, and yes, young people should go to college. But two key assumptions implicit in this video (and in many U.S. initiatives to address educational inequities) are just plain wrong.

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