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Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Youth can positively influence citizen science, research and stewardship

By Rebecca Meyer

Summer is a fantastic time to support learning. Often, it occurs in informal settings like summer camp or family vacations. These opportunities can be structured or unstructured. They may not always be unique but afford greater flexibility than school classes.

In 4-H, we are uniquely positioned to offer these rich learning opportunities across contexts and topics. I have written before about the importance of building science and failure into youth learning, referencing a project, Driven to Discover: Enabling student inquiry through citizen science (D2D), in which I worked with a group of Extension faculty to develop a program model with two important attributes for using citizen science as a setting for STEM education.

Healthy competition -- It's a thing, right?

By Trisha Sheehan

We all want our youth to succeed. We want them to win in the show ring or on the field or court.  But what does that win look like to you? Is it winning the game, or is it learning a new skill or improving their performance? Being competitive and developing mastery can go hand in hand but there are times when that balance might need to be equalized.

Competition is natural. Research shows that kids as young as four and five start to compare themselves to others. They start to develop the drive to compete. Competition is everywhere. Whether in sports, jobs, school or 4-H, we find opportunities to compete with others.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Build a culture of healthy risk taking

By Karen Beranek

We know that young people take risks. An image of a group of teens drinking, smoking or skipping school may instantly form in your mind when you think about risky behavior. But risk-taking is not necessarily something to avoid. Teen brains are programmed for experimentation.

We must build a culture of healthy risk-taking for youth. Research shows us that young people need to reach outside their comfort zones to try new things in order to reach their potential. Taking healthy risks is a normal part of positive youth development.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Cohort learning takes a 'front yard' approach

By Amber Shanahan

I read a wonderful article in our local paper last week about the resurgence of front-yard patios; the idea is that positioning yourself in the front yard rather than the back generates an atmosphere of camaraderie and community.

Learning environments can be seen in the same way. Online learning platforms take the back yard approach. They can be meaningful and convenient for busy professionals and offer lots of privacy. They can also feel isolating. Cohort learning environments, on the other hand, take the front yard approach.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

How to connect with young people through books

By Samantha Grant

Years ago, I worked in a youth program with a group of young people who kept me at arm's length. Accustomed to a constant turnover of staff, they didn't want to get close. One day, a girl in the group came in bubbling about a book. Luckily, it was the latest Twilight novel, which I had just finished reading. We had a deep conversation about the merits of being Team Edward or Team Jacob, and this opened up a connection in our group.

As a youth worker, you can build connections with youth through books. Here are some ways to do that.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Caring adults enable summer-long experiential learning

By Nancy Hegland

In June, kids say goodbye to the school year and are ready for summer vacation.  For many of them, this doesn't mean a break from learning, but a chance to learn in different settings, with different teachers and mentors, and to direct their own learning to an extent. These lucky ones will learn all summer long, and may not even realize it.

In summer, and with the presence of a caring adult, their learning can change to be more experiential -- focused on experiencing, sharing, processing, generalizing, and applying what they have learned. Research has shown that youth learn best when doing. This is a basic concept in youth development programs.

Monday, July 17, 2017

The power of the camp counselor experience: Social-emotional learning at its best

By Nicole Pokorney

I recently had the privilege of working with 16 teen counselors for our 4-H regional camp. These youth applied for, were selected, and then trained to deliver high-quality youth programming and nurture younger campers. Their training introduced them to social emotional learning, specifically The Power of Empathy. They learned the difference between empathy and sympathy, and how to show genuine empathy toward campers.

The one-week camp was great, but the really amazing part was what happened after the campers had gone home. The teen counselors stayed one more night to clean up and reflect. What came through were the SEL skills that the counselors had gained.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Becoming a trauma-informed youth program

By Kyra Paitrick

"Sam" is an American Indian youth in one of the 4-H clubs that I help lead. He doesn't participate in every meeting, but has stayed involved for two years. Sam is a natural leader. He has great ideas and has helped the club plan and carry out a meaningful service project.

Sometimes, Sam comes in agitated and rambunctious, talking over others and derailing the meeting. Sam lives with his grandmother and younger sister. He has occasionally blurted out that his mother is in treatment and his dad died a couple years ago. Clearly, Sam is dealing with trauma. He is trying to cope with the loss of his father and separation from his mother.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

How to foster youth independence

By Jessica Pierson Russo

Thinking about this week's national holiday, it occurs to me how important it is for youth to develop a sense of independence and agency. An article that explores how youth develop agency says, "The challenging issue for how to support a developmental process in which youth are the central protagonists and agents of change." How can we build structures within youth programming that better support youth authoring their own lives?

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Tips on writing surveys for youth

By Betsy Olson

Collecting opinions from the youth in your program can be as easy as asking the right question. But in surveys, asking the right question can be tricky. The questions can be too complex, the responses can be mismatched or the vocabulary can be confusing.

Don't go through all the hard work of collecting survey data from a group of young people without ensuring the responses measure what you intend to measure and accurately reflect their experiences. Research into how young people respond to survey items is a topic that has gotten more attention as researchers and evaluators have begun to understand the value of collecting data directly from youth. Here are some tips:

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