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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Can our programs foster societal change?

By Joshua Kukowski

I've had the privilege of teaching some sessions to some local youth program managers.  At the end of each session, many want to know if they are actually making a difference.  I always answer "yes", because they of course are! I tell them that their work is important and each of them is a key person in a young person's life. But it doesn't seem to resonate with them and I can't quite figure out why.  It may be because they want to make an impact beyond the individuals they serve.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

The importance of imagination and play

By Brian McNeill

Taking a break from our technology-driven society has given me new opportunity to think about my growing up years. It was a time of very few school opportunities and of family financial struggles. It was also a time where I developed creativity and imagination.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Getting back to youth work basics

By Kari Robideau

Recently I have been reviewing our Youth Work Matters curriculum with a team of colleagues. This process has caused me to review the basics of the positive youth development approach to youth work. It's reminding me why we do what we do - and why we do it the way we do it.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Clean up your charts in five easy steps

By Samantha Grant

Evaluators spend a lot of time creating reports and presentations to share data with stakeholders. In the last decade, we've become much more aware of the way in which we package our data to get audiences to pay attention. We know that dense reports with no charts or pictures get filed in the "will read someday" pile, so evaluators focus on making reports that people will actually read.

One way to do that is to add charts for variety, color and emphasis. You've probably created a report or presentation with a chart. Chances are that when you did, you inserted the default Excel chart. But the Excel default doesn't make well designed charts. I have created the following video with five easy steps to help you to clean up your charts and to make your reports and presentations more readable.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

The power of storytelling to foster understanding

By Jessica Pierson Russo

We all want to feel a sense of harmony, but when prejudice and intolerance prevails within a group, harmony can seem impossible. The reasons for intercultural conflict are complex, and the task of working on solutions is daunting. But … do they have to be? What if we spent more time listening to others’ stories? What if we spent more time learning to tell our own? Would we then care more about each other’s well being?

Monday, October 30, 2017

Improve your program by including youth voice in evaluation

By Betsy Olson

Research continues to confirm what we youth workers have known for years – that youth voice is critical for high-quality youth development programming. An important part of this picture – one that is often overlooked – is evaluation.

The Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality offers three strategies to ensure youth have a voice in your program.

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.
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