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Showing posts from March, 2011

Ka-ching! Pieces of the youth engagement puzzle fall into place

By Rebecca Saito At our latest public symposium , Priscilla Little talked about research on engaging and retaining older youth participation in youth programs. During that event, there were a couple of times when I could almost physically feel, even hear, pieces of the youth engagement puzzle fall into a place; a kind of "ka-ching" sound. In a landmark study on engaging older youth, Little and her colleagues at the Harvard Family Research Project  identified two program variables that were significantly related to high-retention programs. These important variables were: multiple levels and kinds of leadership opportunities, and staff got to know youth outside the program. Leadership opportunities The HFRP study confirmed what Theresa Sullivan found in another soon-to-be-published Minnesota study on youth engagement. (For a preview, watch this 2008 presentation ). A common feature of successful youth engagement programs was that their programming grew with their parti

Learning environments are key to engaging youth

By Nicole Pokorney Youth engagement is the essence of deep, enriching learning in any experience. The physical environment in which that engagement happens does not necessarily matter; but the atmosphere matters very much. In fact, it is a key factor. How do we, as educators, create environments where informal learning is supported, encouraged and fostered? What are the characteristics of educators who cultivate fertile learning environments? As Stephan Carlson and Sue Maxa wrote a few years ago, "The role of teachers and volunteer leaders in non-formal education is to help youth process information on a deeper level and develop strategies for lifelong learning." Carlson and Maxa offer these guidelines: Individuals are encouraged to ask questions and reflect in a safe environment. There is active cooperation of the learning and guidance from the leader. Relationships and connections are built in order to have understanding. The leader creates an environment w

Fight childhood obesity with media literacy

By Carrie Ann Olson Food marketing to children is big business, and strongly influences children's food preferences and purchase requests, according to a 2006 Institute of Medicine Report, "Food Marketing to Children and Youth: Threat or Opportunity" . As a result, this and other reports say, childhood obesity is rising. The statistics are compelling: In 2006, food and beverage companies spent more than $1.6 billion, or 63% of their marketing budgets, to promote food and beverages to children ( Federal Trade Commission, 2008) The average American child  has more than 7.5 hours of screen time per day: watching TV or movies, using cell phones or computers, and playing videos ( Kaiser Foundation, 2010) and sees about 40,000 ads per year on TV, the majority of them for candy, cereal, soda or fast food ( Kaiser Foundation , 2010) The percentage of obese or overweight children nationally is at or above 30 percent in 30 states ( Trust for America's Health and Ro