Skip to main content


A wilderness guide's approach to youth voice

By Jeremy Freeman As a wilderness educational guide, you have a balance to understand and employ. If you retain all control over the group experience, you lend your group to a sightseeing experience. If you swing the pendulum too far to the other side, abdicating all ownership, the group risks its own safety, and will suffer without the guide's experience and knowledge. Learning how much control to pass over to a group is a delicate task.  As a guide, the level of ownership you transfer needs to accurately reflect the needs of the group as well as their skill and understanding of the situation. For one group, personal ownership may mean giving them a voice to set how far and fast they want to travel on a hike with the occasional glance at a map to gauge progress. To another group, it may be appropriate to 'hand over the compass' and let them chart their own course. In this second instance, while the group may have control of their destiny, an experienced guide retains a mea
Recent posts

Expanding global citizenship with theatre

By Sarah Odendahl "The need to attend to global citizenship education is essential" are the first words of a 2006 article from UNESCO . The article identifies that of the four pillars of education from an earlier UNESCO report, " 'learning to live together', remains the biggest challenge." One of Minnesota 4-H’s goals is to help youth develop global citizenship skills. A quick Google search identifies many other organizations - from Fulbright to National Geographic - that have learning opportunities with the same goal. How can youth workers across organizations help youth build these skills? Emerging research shows that youth’s personal sparks help direct them to growth, contribution, and connection. Youth workers who can harness the skills, interests, and special qualities of youth and connect them to desired learning outcomes see increased odds of success. My personal spark for theater arts is one I enjoy sharing with youth; it’s also one that can easily

The role of coaches in facilitating learning through STEM

By Rebecca Meyer The Minnesota 4-H STEM program recently wrapped up the 2023 Engineering Design Challenge with in-person and virtual showcases . The youth and coaches who engaged in this year’s challenge theme "Take Your Best Shot and Celebrate" in honor of the program’s tenth anniversary demonstrated immense creativity and innovation, along with learning related to their understanding and challenges of simple machines but also of one another. One of my interesting observations among the various activities was some of the differences among the teams. For example, one team I was privileged to engage in deeper conversations with came together from multiple clubs in their county to form the team and had only been working together on the challenge (many for their first time) since May. This team not only had an exceptional machine that ran well when demonstrated, but they also seemed to work really well with each other. When asked what their favorite part of the machine was, one

5 tips for evaluating youth programs

By Samantha Grant Do you do something for work that comes so naturally it’s almost hard to explain it to other people? I’ve spent my career conducting evaluations with youth. Youth evaluation is a language I speak fluently. Last month my colleague John Murray and I presented to Extension staff in Pennsylvania about evaluating youth programs. In this session we had to translate what we naturally do as evaluators.  Maybe you’re new to evaluation or maybe you’ve been evaluating youth for years like me. From my experience, youth workers are natural evaluators because you are always asking questions about your programs. Have you found yourself thinking: How can I make this program better for youth? Why are youth struggling to come together as a team? What could I plan that would get youth engaged? If you nodded your head along with these questions, you’re a natural evaluator. (If you didn’t, start getting curious about your programs. Curiosity is a natural precursor to evaluation.)  If you

Artificial intelligence and the need for social emotional learning

By Kate Walker In today's rapidly evolving world, artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly integrated into our daily lives. From smart homes to autonomous vehicles, AI has the potential to reshape how we live and work. However, as this technology advances, there is a growing realization that young people must develop not only technical skills, but also social emotional learning (SEL). Youth programs can play a vital role in equipping the next generation with the social emotional skills crucial to thrive in an AI-driven society . Artificial intelligence refers to the development of computer systems capable of performing tasks that typically require human intelligence, such as problem-solving and decision-making. Yet while AI can automate many routine tasks, it cannot replicate essential human qualities, such as empathy, creativity, and critical thinking. Here’s why social emotional skills are needed to successfully navigate the complexities of an AI-driven society: Empa

Using the Networked Knowledge Activities framework for informal learning

By Karyn Santl One of my roles is to develop training, tools and resources for Minnesota 4-H volunteers. We depend on volunteers to deliver high-quality, culturally relevant programs for youth. I am always looking for ways to use different modes to reach volunteers with the tools and resources they need to be successful in their roles. At the National Extension Conference on Volunteerism (NECV), I attended a workshop by Florida 4-H staff that introduced me to the concept of Networked Knowledge Activities (NKA). NKA is an instructional design framework that describes the knowledge activities that people use in networked online contexts (e.g., online classes, social media, virtual communities of practice). The framework’s purpose is to guide the design and development of social media-based learning activities in a formal learning context. Florida 4-H staff gave the example of their Network Knowledge Activities with this diagram: Graphic created by Heather Kent, UF/IFAS Extension Northwes

Building a healthy camp environment

By Karen Beranek Camp is an amazingly unique and powerful experience - especially residential or overnight camps. For many first-time campers, this is the first time away from family and with so many other youth their age for an extended period of time. This new environment - physical and social - often comes with some big feelings.  A well-designed, high quality youth camp can be a great opportunity for campers to learn about and practice navigating their emotions and reactions. Let’s dig into some tips... Design programs to support campers: Create space in the schedule for smaller groups of campers and counselors to get to know each other. Have the opening session of camp outside! An open space can be easier to hear than a loud room. Share a basic schedule both verbally and posted in writing so campers know what to expect. Staff can model interactions with youth - specifically during transitions and meal time. Think about the location or space for each activity. The size of the spac