Skip to main content

How your youth program can encourage community

By Rebecca Meyer

Group of youth outsideSummer is a transitional period for youth, parents and families. Young people have finished an academic grade and many are looking ahead to the next. Summers are varied -- youth may take part in camps or other learning activities, travel with family or simply recharge with little day-to-day structure.

This time of year is a good time to recognize the changes taking place in young people’s development and design programs that take those changes into account.

We establish patterns of behaviors. The start of summer vacation is an excellent opportunity to reflect on these patterns, to identify potential program shifts, and to create summer routines to emphasize program elements. Intentionality in program design is crucial to a program’s success and impact.

In 4-H youth development, we ground our programs on four essential elements. These essential elements of positive youth development are belonging, independence, mastery and generosity. My colleague, Mary Arnold, recently published a synthesis of research focused on positive youth development and introduced a model for thriving. In it, she describes developmental contexts such as sparks, relationships, quality and engagement. Positive relationships are critical throughout a child’s development. Honestly, it’s important for all humans, no matter their age. Belonging is connected to our well being.

Here are a few strategies to encourage community and foster youth’s sense of belonging:
  • Learn youth names, and help them to learn each other’s names.
  • Use rituals, they provide predictability and stability for participants.
  • Collaborative games facilitate play, learning and fun.
  • Story-telling shares learning that connects experiences.

What strategies do you carry into summer programming to foster community?

-- Rebecca Meyer, 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