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Coaching through change

By Jeremy Freeman As youth development practitioners, managing change is central to our practice. Whether it be with youth, adult volunteers or staff personnel, coaching through change is a foundational skill that helps us leverage the full extent of the potential around us. For example, a volunteer who has maintained overall control of a program is required to change when two or more volunteers are asked to co-lead the program to help its growth and expansion.  The challenge in change is, unsurprisingly, that it requires us to change! We often resist change, especially when it requires us to give up or modify previously held roles, values, actions, ways of being or power. In a recent course I took titled Leading Change, Transitions, and People I found the ADKAR Model to be instrumental in helping me think through a process that builds change through relationships. As we reflect on this model, I invite you to consider the ways it can embed itself in the context of change you are curr
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Outdoors for ALL

By Nicole Pokorney In the recent Minnesota DNR newsletter, The Trailblazer , the editors featured stories of people not always represented in the outdoors. As I reflected on the voices and images, I continued to think about the statistics of who is outdoors, and the future of our spaces. According to the 2023 Outdoor Participation Trends Report , 2022 showed record numbers and rates of participation in the outdoors, but a decline in the number of outings. Also, the report showed that participants that were new to the outdoors were more diverse, with increases in several BIPOC communities. However, the total population of outdoor participants still hovers around 70% white, mostly men. The trends report does give us hope: "Although the outdoor participant base isn’t as diverse as the U.S. population, diversity among kids who participate and of new participants (participated for the first time in 2022) strongly indicate that efforts to maximize inclusivity in outdoor recreation are r

Humor - A key ingredient to engagement, meaningful connection, and creativity in youth development

By Amy Sparks Student: Is Thursday crazy legging day or something? Teacher: It is now. The tale you're about to hear is true. Picture a packed tenth grade English classroom, 30 students begrudgingly tackling Shakespeare, and their 38-year-old teacher, freshly licensed and new to the teaching scene, adding excitement by flaunting leggings that had a design of the "Eye of London" ferris wheel on them. Over time, this teacher expanded her collection for each "crazy legging Thursday." That teacher was me, and I still don't take myself too seriously. According to Dr. Jennifer Aaker and Naomi Bagdonas, instructors of "Humor: Serious Business" at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, humor enhances intelligence, fosters meaningful connections, and stimulates innovative thinking. Laughter releases hormones that make us happier, more trusting, less stressed, and even slightly euphoric. Injecting humor into professional interactions can alter brain che

Partnering with schools: A conversation with a public school teacher

By Jessica Pierson Russo Jessica Russo , a 20+ year youth development professional, and her husband Mark Russo, with 20+ years as a public school teacher, discuss the benefits of partnerships between formal and nonformal education.  Jessica : Mark, you have been teaching in the school systems for over 20 years, but you’ve also done some nonformal education—Boy Scouts, you helped me lead a 4-H club for a while, and you’ve taught after school classes as well. I’ve seen your attitude towards nonformal education change over time because of your experiences and your conversations with me. I wanted to understand how that happened, because I know I, and many of my colleagues in youth development, struggle with starting partnerships with schools. Nonformal education tends to get overlooked or seen as merely a way to entertain kids. What can you remember about your previous experience and thoughts about nonformal education?  Mark : I remember being hyper-focused on the few things that I had con

Rethinking behavior management

By  Courtney Johnson & Katie Ecklund No matter what age group we're working with, most of us have experienced this frustrating situation: You have a great program planned, you’ve got everything prepped, but when you enter the program space, things go haywire. Emotions erupt, youth are struggling to stay focused, arguments are happening, and your program plan seems to be flying out the window. At this point, you may be looking for strategies on behavior management. But is behavior management what’s really needed, or is it something else?  Behavior management is the term we often use in programming to describe keeping order, and there is no end to the number of approaches out there. However, if we look closer, we may find the words themselves are problematic. Google the definition of management, and you’ll find "the process of dealing with or controlling things or people."   Other definitions include, the "judicious use of means to accomplish an end," which

Elevator speeches for youth

By Nicole Kudrle I attended a kickoff event for 4-H youth leaders in part of the northeast region in Minnesota. At this event, youth learned all about what it means to be a 4-H youth leader in their county, what they can do as a youth leader, and got to know other youth who also wanted to be a leader in their county.  After the meeting, I had a conversation with a few youth about how the event went for them and what they enjoyed the most. The conversation then led into what the youth wanted to learn about this year. The thing that stood out to me during our conversations was the youth wanted to learn how to talk to the public about 4-H. The youth indicated that they often talk with friends, family, and sometimes the media about their experiences in 4-H and they are always at a loss for what to say.  Youth are the heart of the 4-H organization and as youth get older they spend more time talking with friends about what they are passionate about. These conversations are really word of mou

Inspiration from a pioneer of youth development

By Karen Beranek "Fully prepared does not mean problem-free - just resilient." Karen Pittman, youth development researcher While researching for my thesis two decades ago, I found myself drawn to the work of Karen Pittman . Her education as a sociologist and lived experiences, combined with her leadership and ability positioned her to create movement in the world of positive youth development. She co-founded the Forum for Youth Investment and KP Catalysts . She coined the phrase "Problem-free is not fully prepared" as she describes how we work with youth.  This fall, I had the privilege of listening to her speak in person! She expanded on the research and the history of positive youth development that she has advanced in her 30+ year career. It was more than a little humbling to pause and contemplate the evolution of youth development. Karen was able to walk us through the journey of youth work. As youth development professionals, we now recognize that youth being