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Showing posts from January, 2024

Partnering with schools: A conversation with a public school teacher

By Jessica Pierson Russo Jessica Russo , a 20+ year youth development professional, and her husband Mark Russo, with 20+ years as a public school teacher, discuss the benefits of partnerships between formal and nonformal education.  Jessica : Mark, you have been teaching in the school systems for over 20 years, but you’ve also done some nonformal education—Boy Scouts, you helped me lead a 4-H club for a while, and you’ve taught after school classes as well. I’ve seen your attitude towards nonformal education change over time because of your experiences and your conversations with me. I wanted to understand how that happened, because I know I, and many of my colleagues in youth development, struggle with starting partnerships with schools. Nonformal education tends to get overlooked or seen as merely a way to entertain kids. What can you remember about your previous experience and thoughts about nonformal education?  Mark : I remember being hyper-focused on the few things that I had con

Rethinking behavior management

By  Courtney Johnson & Katie Ecklund No matter what age group we're working with, most of us have experienced this frustrating situation: You have a great program planned, you’ve got everything prepped, but when you enter the program space, things go haywire. Emotions erupt, youth are struggling to stay focused, arguments are happening, and your program plan seems to be flying out the window. At this point, you may be looking for strategies on behavior management. But is behavior management what’s really needed, or is it something else?  Behavior management is the term we often use in programming to describe keeping order, and there is no end to the number of approaches out there. However, if we look closer, we may find the words themselves are problematic. Google the definition of management, and you’ll find "the process of dealing with or controlling things or people."   Other definitions include, the "judicious use of means to accomplish an end," which

Elevator speeches for youth

By Nicole Kudrle I attended a kickoff event for 4-H youth leaders in part of the northeast region in Minnesota. At this event, youth learned all about what it means to be a 4-H youth leader in their county, what they can do as a youth leader, and got to know other youth who also wanted to be a leader in their county.  After the meeting, I had a conversation with a few youth about how the event went for them and what they enjoyed the most. The conversation then led into what the youth wanted to learn about this year. The thing that stood out to me during our conversations was the youth wanted to learn how to talk to the public about 4-H. The youth indicated that they often talk with friends, family, and sometimes the media about their experiences in 4-H and they are always at a loss for what to say.  Youth are the heart of the 4-H organization and as youth get older they spend more time talking with friends about what they are passionate about. These conversations are really word of mou