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Showing posts from July, 2017

How to connect with young people through books

By Samantha Grant Years ago, I worked in a youth program with a group of young people who kept me at arm's length. Accustomed to a constant turnover of staff, they didn't want to get close. One day, a girl in the group came in bubbling about a book. Luckily, it was the latest Twilight novel , which I had just finished reading. We had a deep conversation about the merits of being Team Edward or Team Jacob, and this opened up a connection in our group. As a youth worker, you can build connections with youth through books. Here are some ways to do that.

Caring adults enable summer-long experiential learning

By Nancy Hegland In June, kids say goodbye to the school year and are ready for summer vacation.  For many of them, this doesn't mean a break from learning, but a chance to learn in different settings, with different teachers and mentors, and to direct their own learning to an extent. These lucky ones will learn all summer long, and may not even realize it. In summer, and with the presence of a caring adult, their learning can change to be more experiential -- focused on experiencing, sharing, processing, generalizing, and applying what they have learned. Research has shown that youth learn best when doing. This is a basic concept in youth development programs.

The power of the camp counselor experience: Social-emotional learning at its best

By Nicole Pokorney I recently had the privilege of working with 16 teen counselors for our 4-H regional camp. These youth applied for, were selected, and then trained to deliver high-quality youth programming and nurture younger campers. Their training introduced them to social emotional learning, specifically The Power of Empathy . They learned the difference between empathy and sympathy, and how to show genuine empathy toward campers. The one-week camp was great, but the really amazing part was what happened after the campers had gone home. The teen counselors stayed one more night to clean up and reflect. What came through were the SEL skills that the counselors had gained. Our camp is located at the bottom of a geographical bowl, with no cell phone service or internet. This lack of connectivity clearly enhances the focus of staff, counselors, and campers. Instead of posting selfies and tweeting, counselors engaged in deeply personal reflection around a campfire every night. A

Becoming a trauma-informed youth program

By Kyra Paitrick "Sam" is an American Indian youth in one of the 4-H clubs that I help lead. He doesn't participate in every meeting, but has stayed involved for two years. Sam is a natural leader. He has great ideas and has helped the club plan and carry out a meaningful service project. Sometimes, Sam comes in agitated and rambunctious, talking over others and derailing the meeting. Sam lives with his grandmother and younger sister. He has occasionally blurted out that his mother is in treatment and his dad died a couple years ago. Clearly, Sam is dealing with trauma. He is trying to cope with the loss of his father and separation from his mother. As I develop programming for American Indian youth in and around the tribal community, I know many of the youth experience Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). ACEs can affect young people even into adulthood. Examples of ACES are abuse, neglect, exposure to violence, separation or divorce and drug or alcohol use. To

How to foster youth independence

By Jessica Pierson Russo Thinking about this week's national holiday, it occurs to me how important it is for youth to develop a sense of independence and agency. An article that explores how youth develop agency says, "The challenging issue for how to support a developmental process in which youth are the central protagonists and agents of change." How can we build structures within youth programming that better support youth authoring their own lives?