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Showing posts from August, 2013

To help youth succeed, allow them to fail

Why do we shy away from letting young people try and fail?

When I first started my work at the University of Minnesota, 4-H was new to me. I can remember attending a day of judging at the local county fair. I sat in awe of this experience and was envious that I had never had it.

I remember in that county fair judging experience that one youth brought an arts and craft project that was less than stellar. Rather than hyping up the project, the judge got the boy to reflect on what went wrong. In the 10 minutes that they spent together, this young person was able to take constructive feedback, and I honestly think that he walked away knowing how to improve.

People will often tell you that judging is a place for youth to reflect on their learning with the support of a caring adult. True. What they won't tell you is it's a place where failure is okay.

What?! Failure is okay. That might seem like an odd thing to associate with learning, but I would argue that we have to do more in th…

STEM learning: Which is more important, creativity or content?

When it comes to program goals, what is the relationship between inventiveness and engineering content? I am working on strategies to engage youth audiences in engineering education. While searching for effective curricula to facilitate inquiry learning through hands-on activities, I reviewed the Design Squad Invent It, Build It curriculum. It suggests that invention is about "making the world a better place." Struck by this definition, I started to wonder if or how "invention" is different from or related to the engineering process.

Digging a little, I find that engineering is the systematic process of solving problems (using science and math skills). Invention, on the other hand, is the creative act of making something new - the critical step that actually solves problems. The "necessity," that is often cited as the "mother of invention" sparks the engineering process. Likewise, the engineering process feeds creative invention. After mulling …

Is there a "secret war" on after school at the federal level?

I listened with interest during the recent National League of Cities webinar about the federal financing proposals to revise use of the 21st Century funds. During the webinar, the Afterschool Alliance and state representatives from after-school networks, including homegrown City of St. Paul Sprockets leaders, held a discussion on the revision of the current 21st Century funds policy and how these changes could affect after school programs here in our community.

My recap of the proposed policy: "How do we open as many doors as possible for schools to access the funds currently designated for after school programs?" My conclusion - if passed in any iteration being considered, community youth programs will have even less access to public support than they have now.

Harsh criticism I know, but it is hard not to get angry when the only specified source of federal funding through education for community youth programs is being compromised. In a Washington Post blog, Jodi Grant fro…