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Extension > Youth Development Insight > June 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Stories of diversity and inclusion

josey-landrieu.jpgIf you had a chance to tell your diversity and inclusion story, what would you say? What themes would emerge?

I am asking this because I am on a team that is putting together a digital media campaign about our efforts to reach new and under-served communities, our engagement with diversity, and how we've overcome barriers. To do this, I want to engage everyone in 4-H and beyond to help us tell our diversity and inclusion story.

We are thrilled to have this grant-funded opportunity; to share a diverse narrative of our work in youth development and we can do so by engaging staff, volunteers, youth, and partners! One of the reasons for sharing a diverse narrative is to overcome the opposite kind -- the "single story" that lumps many people into one, or many cultures into one.

The writer Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, "Life is about the journey, not the destination". In youth development we are often reminded of this. We often find ourselves caught up in the end goal, but what matters most in what we do is HOW we get to that desired outcome. When youth and adults come together in our programs, what makes a difference in the end are the relationships that are developed; what youth and adults learn from and about each other; and the skills that youth develop while working on projects, activities, and events that relate to their interests and passions. A journey-like metaphor is even more appropriate when we strive to work in diverse and inclusive programming environments.
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When you think about your own journey:
  • What are things you think are worth sharing with others?
  • What themes, ideas, or strategies would you share in a short video segment that others could watch and learn from?
  • What barriers have you overcome, and how?
Please share a short snippet! And remember "If we are always arriving and departing, it is also true that we are eternally anchored. One's destination is never a place but rather a new way of looking at things." (Henry Miller).

-- Josey Landrieu, assistant Extension professor, program evaluation

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Thursday, June 13, 2013

Communications skills for thriving in a global world

Jennifer-Skuza.jpgThe first step to thriving in a global world may be letting go of the concept of "common sense".

Anytime I have said or heard "Use your common sense!" there was a hint of judgment in it. Well, common sense is really cultural sense, common only to those who share a cultural lens, core values and patterns of behavior.

Starting with that fundamental insight, there are endless possibilities in how you can work with young people to help them sort out their own viewpoints and those of others. We can guide young people to developing thinking habits that lean toward openness in getting to know new people, experiences and ideas and to create new connections among them. That is one step toward knowing how to thrive in a global world.

As you think about your role in preparing young people with a global mindset of cultural understanding, here are a few design ideas to consider in your programs:
  • Enrich program curriculum with robust educational materials that multicultural-global.jpgengage youth in real-world critical incidents and stories of intercultural understandings and misunderstandings so that young people can see cultural contexts and dynamics within them. Here are a few resources to check out: Teaching Tolerance and Media That Matters.
  • Create exercises where young people learn to observe others without judgment. By honing this skill youth build habits to study and discuss cultural points of view, get to know peers and their values, and learn how those values influence what they say and do. Here are some more resources to peruse: Self-science and Peace Corps curriculum called Building Bridges.
  • Help young people to recognize positive intentions instead of quickly jumping to negative conclusions. With that recognition, they learn to understand other perspectives and manage cultural expectations. Over time youth may build bridges and creatively harness the values and intentions of others in their lives.
  • Model how to leverage cultural differences and similarities as assets for more effective solutions. By developing that skill, youth learn to work collaboratively with each other, maximize relationships within a group, and improve their problem solving by involving others and finding solutions that benefit those around them.
You can play a role that helps youth to thrive in a global world with a cultural perspective that enables them to examine their everyday lives and help them to take action that leads toward positive change in the world. Essentially we are a composite of cultures that influence how we act and react. What might seem like common sense to one may seem unusual to another. It is important for youth to recognize that they are not always right and that the standards and values they use in their own life should not be imposed on others.

What ideas do you have for helping young people to thrive in a global world?

Jennifer A. Skuza, PhD, assistant dean

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Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Citizen science, youth engagement and authentic inquiry

Pamela-Nippolt.jpgWhat are the best ways to engage youth and adults in authentic scientific inquiry? We are exploring this question with our Driven to Discover: Citizen Science project.

Public participation in science, known as citizen science, is when citizens collect and report data, using specified methods, to contribute to scientific research. In our Driven to Discover project, research teams made up of youth and adult citizen scientists are monitoring Monarch butterfly larvae, birds, and water quality, then conducting investigations.

This five-year project is now entering its fourth summer. Through it, we are designing a model and curriculum to prepare and support adults - content experts, youth leaders, parents. Their reasons for participation vary -- to volunteer, to extend their teaching, to deepen youth programs in nature settings, to learn through inquiry with youth.

Spring is a busy time for this project. A new group of adults has just completed a three-day workshop, and middle school-age youth are signing up to be citizen scientists through 4-H, Girl Scouts, their local nature centers, and through summer programs at their schools. Our main goals are to engage youth in citizen science, and to encourage them to do authentic inquiry. Along with those big goals, the youth in the programs can build their environmental and service ethic.
You may ask, "What does citizen science have to do with authentic inquiry?" youth-holding-Monarch.jpg As we work with a dozen or more teams from four states each year, and with the financial support of the National Science Foundation, our surveys of participants tell us that citizen science is a great "on ramp" for engaging youth to investigate their own questions about the world.
A teacher who leads a summer program noted the benefits for youth when they experience "real world" research outside of the classroom:
"That's very exciting, one of my groups really modeled so well how the inquiry process isn't linear because they ... started their observation and then they noticed something and then they went back and they wanted to tweak their question, which was of course OK, and then they got a little farther, and these are fifth graders, and so each time they would clarify their question more... We're learning it a lot of times as linear - you come up with these questions, you do your hypothesis, you do your procedure and you ... follow steps. But I think because I'm not working with 120 (students) right now I'm just working with the 12 (youth), I had that chance to be able to say "No you can go back and do that and it can be kind of messy, that's ok and so that was what was good."
One young person offered an insight about how her learning in the program transferred back to the classroom:
"And you really can learn a lot like I did something I was doing an experiment that showed which part of or which milkweed plant part was ... the most nutritious. And I raised so many Monarchs that I will feed them that food now, cause I know that they will grow and have a high survival rate. So it's just really helpful too to know, and you can teach so many other people. And there's so much stuff that you get from this experience that you don't even realize that you have learned until later when ... you'll be in class and we'll be learning about something else and the whole class will be... confused and I'll be like oh I know this cause it's like even when you weren't studying it that specifically you remember it cause it's something you just happened to learn while you were outside."
There is no question that youth are doing "real" science. Stay tuned for results from our ongoing research of the project. We will be sharing lessons about the model and what we learn about how it prepares adults and promotes learning for youth. In the meantime, I would like to know what you are doing. What are some of the ways that we can expand how we engage youth as citizen scientists in youth programs?
-- Pamela Larson Nippolt, evaluation and research specialist

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.
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