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Extension > Youth Development Insight > March 2014

Friday, March 28, 2014

What if...

Dale-Blyth.jpgWhat if ... communities sought to educate the heart as well as the mind?

This is the idea behind the work of Kimberly Schonert-Reichl at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Canada. Kimberly will be one of the keynote presenters at the upcoming Social and Emotional Learning Summit May 5-6 at TCF Stadium. The two day summit presented by the University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development and Youthprise initiative is designed to move from understanding to action. Check out Dr. Schonert-Reichl's brief video on why we should educate the heart. At the May summit she will discuss how schools, neighborhoods and others have used data in Vancouver to change the way community leaders and citizens work together to educate the heart.

What if ... our communities did holistic assessments of children that included their sense of belonging, reflection, engagement, and assertiveness?

This is the theme of another keynote speaker at the May summit. Gil Noam is the Executive Director of PEAR (Programs in Education, Afterschool, and Resilience) at Harvard University. Learn how teachers, youth workers and others use holistic data on young people to inform and improve their practices.

what-if.jpgWhat if ... Minnesota wanted to ensure all our youth are socially and emotionally equipped to learn and persist in that learning toward goals they set?

This question is being explored in Minneapolis and Saint Paul by a Generation Next Task Force I chair. What does socially and emotionally equipped mean and how would we know if they were? The task force is working to refine a high level goal in this area as well as explore existing data and ways of measuring key dimensions of social and emotional learning.

What if ... learning opportunities beyond the classroom - opportunities in 4-H, sports, and the wide variety of community youth programs - became more intentional about developing and measuring key dimensions of social and emotional learning?

A small group of out of school time leaders and funders are asking this very question. How might our field focus on some social and emotional learning attitudes and skills. How would this relate to quality improvement efforts underway? How would assessing it help us become more intentional? How might it help us better report on outcomes that are valued by our families, communities and schools? How might it unintentionally negatively affect our programs? These questions are also the focus of the second day of the SEL Summit in the Extension Center for Youth Development's symposium Assess It to Address It.

What if ... your community leaders wanted to support social and emotional learning? How would you help them?

Dale Blyth, Extension professor, School of Social Work, College of Education and Human Development*

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Outcomes: The big picture of youth work

Samantha-Grant.jpgDoes creating logic models make you sweat? Don't worry, you're not alone. Building logic models -- which depict the resources, activities, outputs and outcomes of a program -- has often been seen as a dry, scholarly activity. But I would argue that a logic model is an important document.

It can help you build a results-based program and engage in a dialogue about what is important. Even if you don't produce the full-blown logic model, I want to highlight two core pieces of one that are essential to your program: outputs and outcomes.

Outputs are defined as the products and services which result from the completion of activities within an intervention. In our programs, this is often the people and the activities. You often hear people talking about outputs to convey a program's reach. For instance, "300 youth took part in an environmental education program," or "we delivered 75 programs to more than 500 participants."

In contrast, outcomes are results or changes from the program blue-and-green-arrows.jpgsuch as changes in knowledge, awareness, skills, attitudes, behavior, practice, decision-making, policies, social action, or condition.

Change is the key word here. Outcomes look at the changes that you expect to see in your participants because they participated in your program. Outcomes are often developed on three levels: short term, medium term, and long term.

Too often in youth programs, we are overly focused on the outputs. We obsess about having the right supplies, making engaging activities, and getting the right participants to come to the program. Of course these things matter, but if we are not intentional about why we are creating these programs, we lose sight of the big picture of youth work. This is where outcomes are important. You need to think about and build your programming around the changes that you hope to see in your participants.

Do you want youth to increase their engineering design skills or establish healthy eating behaviors or build 21st century skills? Depending on the outcomes of your program, you will design vastly different activities. So take the time to design meaningful outcomes first, and then worry about the outputs. Intentional program design matters!

How have you been successful in building meaningful outcomes for your program? Have you noticed the difference when you designed a youth program with outcomes in mind?

-- Samantha Grant, assistant Extension professor, program evaluation

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.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

What would Rube Goldberg do?

If Rube read the Next Generation Science Standards' 8 Practices for Science and Engineering, he might first let out a quiet cheer, then get back to designing the next step in a complicated machine that would zip a zipper or hammer a nail.

A Rube Goldberg Machine (RGM), is an overly complicated machine that performs a simple task, usually through a chain reaction. Building an RGM is a great activity for young people who want to learn the principles of physics.

Named after a Pulitzer-Prize winning 20th century cartoonist, (who was also an engineer), RGMs are a whimsical mix of engineering principles and creative design. They are made of common materials you'd find around your home or garage. You can spend hours watching them on Youtube, from a simple machine to pour milk on your cereal, to more complex contraptions, to commercials for toys that inspire girls to be engineers.

simple-machines-graphic.jpgBeyond being great entertainment, creating a RGM takes engineering design skills. RGMs use numerous variations of the six simple machines, among them pulleys, levers and inclined planes. RGM builders usually work in teams, thinking creatively, using principles of physics, mathematics, and the engineering design process to come up with a machine that solves the problem.

This year, Minnesota 4-H is launching the Engineering Design Challenge: Build a Rube Goldberg Machine. It's open to Minnesota third- to eighth-graders. Teams of 3-10, supported by adult volunteer leaders, are invited to develop their own RGMs that will zip a zipper and show them at their county fairs this summer, and the Minnesota State Fair in late August.

As an integral part of this challenge, each team will do online journaling, chat with the other teams across the state about their progress and create a portfolio of their learning experience. They'll be coached by University of Minnesota engineering students. These students and adult volunteers will be trained by Extension STEM faculty, including me.

For those wondering how to best guide an engineering design experience such as a RGM team, check out this short tutorial..

An essential goal in all STEM programming is to engage youth in the eight practices of science and engineering (one phase of the Next Generation Science Standards), which mirror the practices of professional scientists and engineers. Through intentional program design, we can create youth learning experiences that build one or more of the eight practices of science and engineering:
  1. Asking questions and defining problems
  2. Developing and using models
  3. Planning and carrying out investigations
  4. Analyzing and interpreting data
  5. Using mathematics and computational thinking
  6. Constructing explanations and designing solutions
  7. Engaging in argument from evidence
  8. Obtaining, evaluating, and communicating information
Youth programs offering STEM learning opportunities in the out-of-school time (OST) hours are essential partners in the effort to reach the goals of the Next Generation Science Standards. STEM programs can address disparities in education, the development of 21st century skills such as critical thinking, problem solving, and technological literacy, help young people explore potential career pathways, and support workforce preparedness.

Have you ever seen one of these competitions, and been inspired to get young people involved in engineering design? Are you engaging young people in the 8 practices of science and engineering? How? What are the needs or barriers you see?

Anne Stevenson, Extension educator and Extension professor

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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Social-emotional learning crews in the classroom

elizabeth-hagen.jpgMinnesota's 2013 teacher of the year works at Open World Learning (OWL) Community, a school that incorporates social and emotional learning (SEL) into every class. Megan Olivia Hall teaches science to seventh- to twelfth-graders at OWL. I spoke with her about the strategies they use to help young people develop SEL skills.

LIZ HAGEN: How is social emotional learning taught at OWL?

MEGAN OLIVIA HALL: Our school has identified five non-cognitive skills, or "habits of work and learning," to promote.

These skills are integrity, perseverance, responsibility, collaboration, and stewardship. We exercise the skills in an advisory class called Crew, after Kurt Hahn's saying, "We are Crew, not passengers." Crew is a safe, low-stakes environment in which kids can actively learn and practice these skills. Crew is a multi-age class including students in grades 6-12, where students may remain with the same Crew leader for up to seven years. Conferences and parent communication are channeled through Crew leaders, who serve as touchstones for parents and advocates for students. Crew meets for 30 minutes every school day. This set-up fosters caring and consistent relationships between teachers and students, as well as between students.

LH: How do these lessons fit with regular classroom instruction?

MOH: School-wide teaching practices and behaviorCrew-Compassion-Chain.jpg policies serve to promote and reinforce the skills first practiced in Crew. For example, one of the skills that best correlates with academic and lifelong achievement is collaboration. Collaborative work is highly valued in the workplace, yet many students express extreme frustration when faced with group projects in school. The promotion and development of collaborative skills mitigates frustration and prepares students to be effective colleagues in the world beyond school.

LH: So what does that actually look like in the classroom?

MOH: A particularly challenging collaboration sub-skill OWL students face is accepting personal differences so that they can work with any of their peers. A series of Crew team-building games helps students take on assigned group roles, solicit the opinions of group members, and work toward group goals. In academic classes, teachers often assign roles to students working in groups. Students who have previously fulfilled roles in collaborative groups playing card games, untying impossibly knotted ropes, and crossing imaginary shark-infested oceans have experiences that transfer to roles in collaborative groups conducting science experiments and constructing historical timelines.

LH: Besides Crew, is there anything else you see as especially important for supporting SEL?

MOH: James Comer said, "No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship." The foundation of a positive, trusting student-teacher relationship is essential in social and emotional learning. For a student to exercise and develop in the affective sphere, she must feel safe and supported. Teachers can establish and deepen positive student-teacher relationships by addressing students by name, greeting students individually, answering student questions, honoring students' home cultures with respectful curiosity, and providing help when students ask for it.
Does your youth program have components similar to Crew? What other strategies do you use for fostering consistent and caring relationships between youth workers and the young people they serve?

-- Elizabeth Hagen, graduate research assistant for the Howland Social and Emotional Learning Initiative, doctoral candidate in school psychology

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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