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Using data for program planning

By Samantha Grant It is critically important for youth workers to use data in their decision making. Too often we listen exclusively to the voices of a handful of vocal members rather than looking deeper into our data. Understanding and using data allows us to inform our program planning, identify our strengths, and learn about outreach.  Data can feel overwhelming, so here are a couple of ideas to get you started on your data sense-making journey.   Data can help you understand your community Use data to learn about your community. Are there youth in your community who aren’t served by your program? Chances are the answer is yes. Learn more about your community by visiting data rich sites. My two favorites are by Minnesota Compass and Kids Count . The Minnesota Compass Build Your Own Profile tool allows you to draw the geographic boundaries of your search, which can be helpful for neighborhood or multi-county projects. Also learn about trends for school aged children  - and much mor
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Growing changemakers with the 4-H Leadership Tree

By Jacquie Lonning & Amber Shanahan We are proud to introduce Minnesota 4-H’s foundational youth leadership framework--The Leadership Tree--developed to illuminate the pathways that inspire young people to be innovative social change agents through the Minnesota 4-H Youth Development program . The purpose of the 4-H Leadership Tree Leadership skills are acquired at all ages and in many forms for youth. The Leadership Tree was designed to define leadership at various levels and outline diverse access points for a young leader to engage in programming, no matter their age or prior leadership experiences. In articulating these definitions and pathways, we hoped to provide our Minnesota 4-H staff, along with other youth workers, with a framework to enhance the quality of current leadership offerings, identify gaps for new programs, and provide youth with a roadmap of how to learn and lead through our program. Once we landed on the tree as our main metaphor, our ideas took root (see wh

Do youth in your community have access to public parks?

By Dylan Kelly Map of Cloquet parks Take a moment to think about the natural spaces in your community. Are the spaces open to the public? Where are they located? Who can walk to them? There is a growing body of research showing that time spent in outdoor green spaces leads to positive social, environmental and health outcomes. However, not all youth have access to public green space in their neighborhoods. It is our responsibility as youth workers to understand how this equity issue affects the communities we serve, and use data to inform our outdoor programming decisions. One tool available to help guide us is the Trust for Public Land ParkScore index . The ParkScore index is a searchable database that maps communities across the United States, and measures the number of residents who live within a 10 minute walking distance of a public park. The ParkScore report divides the statistics by age, income, and race, allowing a deeper dive into the disparities. It also generates a map, sho

Valuing youth experience through cultural humility

By Jessica Pierson Russo Early in my youth work career, it was part of my job to help a group of about 30 middle and high school youth feel more comfortable with the outdoors. These kids had traumatizing home lives, so loving nature was not exactly their priority, but I was determined. One day, a few of the kids started freaking out about some ants. I insisted they were just ants; they insisted they were fire ants. Isn’t that just like a kid? To prove myself, I let the ants crawl onto my hand. I learned two things that day: 1) Fire ants really do exist, and their bite really does feel like fire. 2) I was a fool, not because they were right and I was wrong, but because I had completely discounted their experience over my own . Isn’t that just like an adult?  Eventually I saw how I could have approached the situation with more cultural humility. I could have learned from their experience if I had asked. This would have helped me earn their trust—something I needed first before I could i

Beyond limits

By Nicole Pokorney There's nothing more electric than watching a young person experience the ocean for the first time. In a recent mother-son trip to Oregon, I watched from a distance as my 18 year old son walked towards the massive Pacific. He has seen the ocean before but was so young, he doesn't remember it. Like a little kid, he took off his socks and rolled up his sweatpants and walked in. He dipped his hand in and brought the salty liquid to his mouth. I could see him raise his head and take in a deep breath. He turned to me and his face was lit up with a big smile. As outdoor educators, we can replicate this sense of awe and connection to nature when we create outdoor, adventure-based programs for the youth we serve. By creating intentional and engaging outdoor learning experiences, facilitators can provide participants with a unique opportunity for transformation and growth. Through a literature review, I have compiled eight key components of developing transformative l

Generational tensions can divide us, shared experiences connect us

By Samantha Lahman Originally published in the Dairy Star , as part of a series on youth in agriculture. When bringing together multiple generations within a farm operation, even the smallest tasks can create tension and frustration. It’s during these times that I have found that searching out even the smallest commonality can make a difference. With the changing of each successive generation, an operation will adjust their practices, operating systems, and employee structure, but there are traditions that span the ages. My favorite of these? The radio. In almost every barn, along the wall, just above shoulder height, hangs a common radio. In our barn, like others, the station has not been changed in years. The last time it was, I assume, was during a rebellious streak in my millennial youth when I was desperate to hear anything other than The Rolling Stones, Aretha, or broadcasts of Twin’s baseball. The change to early 2000’s hip hop didn’t last more than an hour before it was turned

Building connections through generosity

By Jeremy Freeman One of the things that the past year of quarantine life and pandemic fatigue has shown us is how much we need to learn to appreciate the mundane. It is the simple things that can carry us forward, such as a card in the mail, a surprise phone call, or a random act of kindness. Facilitating moments of generosity can play a pivotal role in the field of youth development. Cultures around the world uphold the value of generosity and many religious traditions speak of the process of giving as being mutually beneficial. Now there is research to support these ancient instructive words. Research done in the past year found participants who helped others more often reported higher positive emotions, lower negative emotions, and more satisfaction with their relationships. In her book, The How of Happiness , Sonja Lyubomirsky writes, “Being kind and generous leads you to perceive others more positively and more charitably,” and this “fosters a heightened sense of interdependence