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Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Practical ways to connect children to nature

By Cathy Jordan

More and more parents, health care providers, and educators, in both formal and informal settings, are recognizing the value of connecting children to nature. It's good for their physical and mental health and academic success.  It's also good for the planet - children with meaningful, frequent nature-based experiences develop attachments to nature that lead to a desire to take care of the environment.

The question is: How can we best provide these nature-based experiences? The answer depends on the age of the child and the benefits you desire.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Should we measure social and emotional learning skills?

By Samantha Grant

My oldest child is in a classroom that gives students points for good deeds done throughout the day. My guess is that the teacher is trying to encourage social and emotional learning (SEL) skills. Every day I check in to see how my child did, and every day I think about how this would have gone for me. I was the kid in class who could never stop talking, so my daily points for "works quietly" and "on task" would have been abysmal. I wanted to talk- and was willing to talk about learning or my new shoes or what we were going to do at recess- the topic didn't matter. It did matter that learning for me was a social activity.

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Social and Emotional Learning in Practice: A Toolkit of Practical Strategies and Resources

By Kate Walker

For several years now, our center has been digging into social and emotional learning (SEL). We've studied it, hosted a series of public symposia about it, and developed trainings to support it. Now I am delighted to announce a free online resource to help practitioners bolster SEL into their programs.

This toolkit is a flexible set of practical tools, templates and activities that can be used with staff and youth to increase intentional practices that support social and emotional learning.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

What does it mean to make a difference?

By Karyn Santl

Like me, you probably decided back in college that you wanted to make a difference in the lives of young people. I've been fortunate to work in the field of nonformal education for the past 20-plus years (and have three daughters), so I've thought a lot about this mission. And the way to make a difference in the lives of youth is pretty well defined.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

We can prepare youth for college, but not in the way you think

By Joanna Tzenis

“College prep” programs that stoke youth college aspirations and scholarship programs to make college affordable are great, but they're not enough. They leave out something important -- the young person herself!

As I've written about previously, laudable efforts to instill in youth the desire to go to college and the hard skills to qualify do help.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

For personal sustainability, mind your relationships

By Nicole Pokorney

Last week I was reminded of the importance of just sitting down and talking with another person for the sake of honest, open discussion and networking.  I sit on a national committee with staff from all over the country, from Hawaii to Vermont. We come together once a year face to face and while we have two full days of business to tend to, we also take intentional time to go out to dinner and talk without an agenda. It's not an option - it's essential.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Make meetings meaningful

By Brian McNeill

Meetings can be important and useful, or they can be a waste of time. How many of us have sat in a meeting and thought, "Is this meeting ever going to start?" or worse, "Is this meeting ever going to end?"

The typical American professional attends more than 60 meetings per month, and about half of that time is wasted.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

What does it mean to be a youth development professional?

By Margo Bowerman

I've been a youth development professional for 17 years now. And it is not just because I get paid to do this work that I proudly claim the title of a professional.

How do you define "professional?" There are all sorts of professionals in society: youth development professionals, professional football players, professional politicians, and professional ecologists, among countless others.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Choir singing is good for your health. Yes, really.

By Sara Langworthy

I've been a singer as long as I can remember. As a kid, I used to sing solos at church but was too scared to speak to strangers who complimented me on my voice. Ahh introversion! But as I grew, my love for music grew with me. From middle school on, I was pretty solidly a "choir kid." There's something deeply soul-filling and rich about joining my voice with others that's hard to describe.

Simply put: singing together connects me with others in a way that nothing else can. And as it turns out, the data bear out this belief.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

How to foster youth empathy

Lots of recent events have me wondering how to encourage and foster empathy. Empathy is when one person is able to understand how another person is feeling. This sense of understanding is not something we are born with, it is a skill that we learn. The ability to empathize is critical because it allows us to understand other people. It's an opportunity to show caring and compassion; one of the 5 C's of positive youth development. And, it's an essential skill for creating an inclusive world.

We as youth workers have an important role play. We can facilitate strategies to develop and nurture empathy in young people. Embedded in hands-on experiential learning processes, the following strategies can help support development of empathy in youth:
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