Skip to main content

Fostering a love of discovery

By Karen Beranek

Five kids cheer on a rolling ball
Picture this: I’m sitting in an airplane with a bright and energetic 16 year-old 4-H member who is excited and nervous about her very first airplane take off. Her adrenaline is high and her senses are on full alert. And I get to be the adult to experience this with her.

Now picture another scene: I’m greeting excited campers as they arrive for their very first time at 4-H camp. The combination of hesitancy and curiosity shines on their faces. And I get to be the adult who introduces them to this amazing experience.

As a youth worker, one of the most meaningful and energetic parts of my work is giving young people the chance to try new things. They don't LOVE everything they try, and may not excel at everything. But it does give them a chance to build on their willingness and openness to discovery. A young person's desire to try new things and to enjoy challenges is an indicator that they are on a trajectory to thrive.

Mary Arnold, a youth development specialist with Oregon State University, shared her research on this concept with our Minnesota 4-H Youth Development staff recently. She said the key to enhancing youth thriving is thinking about it as an ongoing process.

So how can a youth worker or other caring adult guide this process? The Search Institute offers a few ideas:
  • Listen for things youth are curious about.
  • Ask questions such as, “What excites you about this?”
  • Expose young people to a wide range of people, places, ideas, cultures and careers.
  • Foster relationships. Connect young people to a caring adult who share their interest.
  • Encourage young people to try things.
  • Show how their interests can connect to future careers, interests and hobbies.
  • Model being a curious learner by asking questions and sharing your own new experience.

How have you encouraged a young person to try something new? What needs to be in place for a young person to be willing to take a risk?

-- Karen Beranek, Extension educator

You are welcome to comment on this blog post. We encourage civil discourse, including spirited disagreement. We will delete comments that contain profanity, pornography or hate speech--any remarks that attack or demean people because of their sex, race, ethnic group, etc.--as well as spam.

Print Friendly and PDF


  1. Thanks for your post, Karen. I think your comment is key, "A young person's desire to try new things and to enjoy challenges is an indicator that they are on a trajectory to thrive." If they aren't on a trajectory to thrive--maybe they're being abused at home, or are exposed to trauma or drug use in the home and don't have stability--then it's hard for them to thrive. So often, in order for youth to take risks to discover something new, they need to be in a place where they feel safe doing so. But we can provide those safe spaces. We can be the safe haven for those youth who don't have a safe place elsewhere. And when we succeed in supplying that safe haven, then even those youth most on-guard can loosen up and feel the joy of discovery.

  2. A place where youth feel safe to take risks or try something new is HUGE! By place, we may instantly think of a physical space, but I also think about the other people sharing that space who build a culture of "Hey, it's ok - be yourself." without ever saying those words.


Post a Comment