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Showing posts from April, 2014

Transforming traditional youth programs for today

4-H is changing. A couple of weeks ago at our annual staff development conference, the theme was "Building on traditions and inviting transformation." A few short months from now, we will host the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents (NAE4-HA) National Conference, where the theme will be "Tradition and Transformation".

Do you see a pattern? Transformation! Tradition has been the foundation to the 4-H educational model. The model includes youth-adult partnerships, the development of 21st century skills and a pathway to higher education. Today we are transforming our traditions for the 21st century.

How do we go about this? How do we make sure transformation feels right at home now that we've invited her in? My mom used to say "a good education starts at home." I would add that transformation starts at home, too.


Two recent experiences made me reflect on how both our staff and our programs are being transformed. I have been part of a Shared Lea…

Countering youth-oriented hate speech

Viral Peace. Can you imagine peace going viral as quickly as the latest online video? Can you imagine peace and tolerance overcoming hate speech?

This fantastic concept is the name of a non-government initiative whose purpose is to build capacity to counter hate speech. Small cadres of credible community leaders in eight or so countries have been trained to effectively respond to hate speech in social media and online communities. Considered counterterrorism, the leaders 'trolled' online sites relying on strategies such as logic and humor to undercut the power of the extremist rhetoric.

Is the Viral Peace model an effective strategy to spread peace and tolerance in the world? To reduce the prevalence and acceptability of hate speech? I don't know, but this past week Harvard announced the formation of a network which builds on the Viral Peace model to counter online youth-oriented hate speech. I find the announcement hopeful and the approach compelling on several levels.

We…

Different kinds of smart

Youth perceive

and process information in very different ways. In fact, their learning styles are based on those two fundamental cognitive functions. Learning styles theory suggests that how much individuals learn has more to do with whether the educational experience is geared toward their particular style of learning than whether or not they are "smart." So, we should ask, How is this youth smart? rather than, Is this youth smart? Here are some general learning style classifications.

Concrete perceivers and abstract perceivers
Concrete perceivers absorb information through direct experience -- by doing, acting, sensing and feeling. Abstract perceivers, however, absorb information by analyzing, observing and thinking.

Active processors and reflective processors
Active processors make sense of an experience by immediately using the new information. Reflective processors make sense of an experience by reflecting on and thinking about it before acting on it.
Some authors su…

Is youth homelessness a hopeless problem?

"I can remember being out walking around late at night, nothing to do, exhausted from a long day of walking, and I would see things that I thought I'd never have to experience. I never thought that one day I might be homeless in Seattle. It's a tough world when you are battling to stay alive on these district streets"
~Anthony, homeless teen in Seattle

In a single night in January 2013, across the U.S. there were a total of 46,924 unaccompanied homeless youth, approximately 8% of the total homeless population for that night. Of them, 86% were 18-24 year-olds, and 13% were under the age of 18.

Homeless youth are a particularly vulnerable and invisible population because they are often unaccompanied by family, are runaways, or have been kicked out of the home by their biological or foster families. They might try to keep safe at night by riding the city bus, sleeping in locked porta-potties, or crashing on a friend's couch. Others may live on the street in groups wit…