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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Agriculture, science and real life

“When am I ever going to use this in real life?” If you're an educator working with youth, you've probably heard this question, usually when they're faced with a complex equation, a problem-solving scenario, or are asked to read, remember, and recall information.

Agriculture educators have an advantage answering this question. They can simply reply, "Every day."

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Are we doing enough for special needs youth?

By Darcy Cole

Schools work hard to serve special needs students, but can youth programs say that they do the same? In the public school system, formal individualized education plans (IEPs) outline the supports that will ensure the success of special students. But youth programs don’t have IEPs.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Ways of Being: A social and emotional learning model

kate-walker.jpgTo make sense of the emerging field of social and emotional learning (SEL), we developed a model we call Ways of Being. It paints a picture of the whole social and emotional learner, describing the attitudes, skills, and behaviors that exist within a person who is socially and emotionally competent.

The model describes dynamic, interactive ways of being that exist in three layers -- identity, awareness, and navigation and three dimensions -- ways of feeling, ways of relating to others, and ways of doing.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Stories of refugee youth may be hiding in your program

Pamela-Nippolt.jpgIf you are working with youth, you are probably working youth whose families have sought refuge in the U.S. They may not tell you their stories, but you can learn more about the refugee experience -- and you should -- to create more effective learning spaces for them and for all young people in your program.

More than 50 million citizens across the globe were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2014, the highest number of refugees and internally displaced people since 1994. More than half of them were under the age of 18.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

How leaders develop trust

mark-haugen.jpgA leader needs to be trusted. Trust is an important element of the work I do with members of the community. But why should they trust me and the organization I represent?

I wish that everyone saw me as I see myself; someone who is worthy of their complete trust. Sadly, I'm not a perfect leader, and like all leaders, have been in situations where people don't trust me fully.

Not one of us is perfect. The truth is that in educational, non-profit and community settings there are people who don't know us or our programs, well enough for them to trust. As full time, part time, paid or volunteer leaders of programs we need to invest our time in developing and maintaining the trust of others.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Prominent misperceptions about social and emotional learning

Dale-Blyth.jpgA New York Times opinion piece published this week is titled, "Can we teach personality?" This is the wrong question in so many ways.

First, it's not about teaching personality but helping to equip youth with the skills they need in life - academic, social and emotional. These skills can be learned and should be -- not as a one size fits all or by forcing everyone into one mold. Rather, they should be taught as tools that can be used in navigating learning and life.

They also are, and need to be, taught by parents and expanded community learning opportunities. Like all skills important in life, we cannot and should not leave it to schools alone to help equip our young people.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The importance of readiness

Dale-Blyth.jpgWhat does it mean to be ready? According to the dictionary readiness means "the state of being fully prepared for something". As we approach each day or stage in our development are we in a state of readiness? Are we or the youth we work with ever "fully prepared" for what is going to happen? OK, maybe not fully prepared but at least prepared to take on the challenges ahead and make the most of the opportunities for learning in front of us. Prepared to try, fail, and try again.

We talk often these days about helping our children be ready for kindergarten or maybe ready for college. The Forum for Youth Investment talks about Ready by 21 - ready for work, college and life. But what does it really mean to be ready? And when we say ready do we mean ready in all the ways that matter - ready cognitively but also socially and emotionally?

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Why do adult volunteers need cultural competency?

molly-frendo.jpg"Our community isn't really that diverse. When there are so many important skills for me to learn, why should I focus on diversity?" I've often heard this question as I've worked with adult volunteers in youth development roles.

So often, diversity is reduced to what we can see: race, gender, age, and perhaps ability. But culture is so much more than what we can see -- it includes the experiences, beliefs, and values that give us membership to a certain group.

Individuals belong to multiple identity categories. For instance, I am a White, heterosexual female member of the Millennial generation. I am highly educated, a transplant to Minnesota, and a middle-class single adult. All of these things together (and beyond!) make me who I am. Only a few of these identity categories are apparent by looking at me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Working as a team can be the biggest challenge of all

hui-hui-wang.jpgWhat did young people on the Engineering Design Challenge teams this past year learn from the experience? Notably, one main takeaway for youth was that building a team can be as challenging as building a Rube Goldberg design.

At the end of the first season of our engineering design challenge recently, we asked each member of the 22 teams about the experience. What did they learn? What obstacles did they overcome as they built their Rube Goldberg Machine together?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Youth voice requires online access, literacy

trudy-dunham.jpg2014 marks both the 25th anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and the creation of the World Wide Web. It wouldn't have occurred to me to connect these two transformational events, but it occurred to Urs Gasser, and I'm glad it did. He reminds us that that the world wide web is a major tool for young people to access and exercise their rights. And that youth voice, their participation in discussions on the key issues of today, is vital.

Gasser acknowledges that even after 25 years, disparities remain in the well-being of children and youth: their ability to exercise their rights, and in their online access and network literacy. These disparities place our children at risk, as well as the health and well-being of our society overall.
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