Skip to main content


Showing posts from April, 2023

Equity-informed volunteer recognition: One year later

By  Marisa Coyne  & Madeline Eaton One year ago, I wrote a blog titled Equity-informed volunteer recognition: Three shifts in practice , suggesting that youth serving organizations with a commitment to equity and inclusion should evaluate their volunteer recognition practices with the goal of moving away from using exclusively tenure and status-based appreciation methods. Drawing on Tema Okun’s work on dismantling racism in institutions, I suggested three shifts in formal volunteer recognition practices. Focus volunteer impact over volunteer tenure Celebrate many volunteers rather than few Explore online recognition in addition to in-person events One year later, our youth serving organization has implemented some of these practices in our formal, statewide volunteer recognition program. I’m back to report our results and share our learning.  We developed and launched Northern Lights , a volunteer recognition focused on the impacts made by volunteers, regardless of their tenure wi

Building social emotional skills through outdoor learning

By Nicole Pokorney Paddles dug into the water as the waves crashed over the front of the canoes. It was the last leg of our 7-day trip, and the large lake and wind against us was proving too much for our already tired bodies. The dock on the other side of the lake slowly got closer and closer, yet painstakingly slow. Tears ran down many faces and the high school students grew quiet. After what seemed like forever, a young person broke out into song as we knew that we were going to finish this. Everyone started singing and we were renewed with energy as the canoes, one by one, docked and our journey was complete.  Outdoor adventures like this can help participants gain social emotional skills. The inherent challenge and emotional intensity, coupled with intentional reflection, can increase resiliency, emotion management skills and self-awareness. Challenge  Challenging experiences take participants out of their comfort zones, but within their chosen limits. A blog from Outward Bound de

Intentionally designing impactful outdoor learning

By Nicole Pokorney In last week’s Youth Development Insight blog post, Creating safe and supportive outdoor learning experiences , I described the foundation of building safe and supportive environments for outdoor learning with regards to risk management and fostering an environment for learning and social support. This week, I will explore the next three components of impactful outdoor learning experiences that relate to intentional program design - the importance of having the ability to break away from normal life, providing a guided experience in nature and giving an invitation to explore. Ability to break away from normal life Outdoor experiences provide participants a chance to get away from their normal routines and remove themselves from external influences such as family, work, social media and school, creating a sense of autonomy. At our 4-H residential camp, there is a natural void of cell phone service which creates an even stronger break away from technology and social me

Creating safe and supportive outdoor learning experiences

By Nicole Pokorney Wilderness and outdoor education programs can be traced back to the 1940s with elements of success and impact woven throughout its history, according to the 2013 article, The Youth Adventure Programming Model . In the last ten years, great strides have been made in youth program quality, social emotional learning, inclusivity in outdoor spaces and the benefits of connection to nature, which enhance youth experiences in outdoor programming.  In a research brief I co-authored with Kristina Abbas, we outline eight key components for creating inclusive and impactful outdoor learning experiences . In a series of three blog posts, I will offer additional explanations and resources of these eight components: A sense of safety and support An environment for positive, social support An invitation to explore A guided experience in nature Ability to break away from normal life Activities to foster self-awareness Challenge Intensity A sense of safety and support In our effort to