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Data injection could be a shot in the arm for your program

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betsy-olson.jpgEven the strongest youth program can stagnate. The initial energy can wane over time, leaving you as a program leader wondering why. Data about your program may offer some insights and solutions for re-energizing.

Demographic data and the population characteristics often drive initial program design and creation. Updating our understanding of these data can help us to reinvigorate a program by showing the continued relevance of the program to the community we serve, or to adjust the program by seeing the changed landscape.

Inquiry-based learning for volunteer-led youth programs

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josh-rice.jpgDo you learn and remember better when somebody tells you the answer, or when you work through the problem yourself? Chances are you will say "when I figure it out myself". This is the crux of inquiry-based learning, and it's one of the things that 4-H does best.

From the time a 4-H member selects a project area until its completion, 4-H youth are immersed in solving problems hands-on. As you may know, the 4-H program is delivered primarily by volunteers using the resources of a land-grant institution. It's up to us as program leaders to make it possible for volunteers to help young people do hands-on learning in an effective way.

Slow down and see cultural resilience

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margo-herman.jpg"Cultural resiliency is what we call the competencies acquired through diverse life experiences, which then become the foundation from which students can develop essential 21st century skills: innovation, adaptability, critical analysis, cross-cultural communication, and teamwork." -- E3 - Education, Excellence, Equity

This quote set the context for our Oct. 2 public symposium on social and emotional learning Dr. JuanCarlos Arauz of E3 spent two days with us challenging our thinking about SEL, sharing his talent and his research that bridges academic assessment with culturally responsive teaching.

When times are bad

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Nicole-Pokorney.jpgThis blog post isn't going to be research-filled or one of great insight and wisdom, but one that comes from my heart. As I sit to write this week, I am reminded that ten years ago, a student I worked with passed away in a sudden accident. He was a senior in high school. I was six years into full-time youth ministry and had been in the youth development field for over ten years. I was on a bus full of youth headed back to the church from a service project when I received the call. Nothing had prepared me for having to break the news to the high school students on the bus. When we arrived at the church, youth had started to gather and within two hours, over 200 youth congregated in the basement of the church.

WeConnect: A global youth citizenship curriculum

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Jennifer-Skuza.jpgCitizenship is a concept commonly used in the field of youth development. It typically refers to young people being positively engaged in their communities. But what happens when you add global to citizenship?

Your source for youth development research

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Jennifer-Skuza.jpgI want you to know about a valuable educational resource. We have a new trove of research papers, presentation recordings, and analysis about youth development research available on our website. These resources are curated by our Extension faculty specialists in youth development, STEM education, program quality, culture and diversity, program evaluation, citizenship and leadership and much more.

Skills development should not be our primary goal

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Joanna-Tzenis.jpgTo what extent does skill development matter for youth and their futures? What else do they need to follow their dreams in education?

In a past blog entry, I used the capabilities approach as a framework to understand the various conditions that may influence whether or not a youth may translate his or her STEM knowledge into a STEM career. I offered that scenario as an example, but this doesn't mean we expect all youth in STEM clubs to pursue STEM professions. If we measured the effectiveness of STEM programs by the number of engineers we produced, we'd be painting an incomplete picture.

Breaking habits and building creativity

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Rebecca-Meyer.jpgCreativity is on the decline in the U.S. I am learning that creativity takes practice--actually, it takes a LOT of practice--and that sharing ideas is a far better strategy than holding ideas close.

In a prior blog post, Mark Haugen challenged us to improve our programs by changing a habit. I'm taking a MOOC (Massive Open Online Course) called Creative Problem Solving. It's a way to learn more about sparking creativity in our youth, (a 21st century skill) and maybe to become more creative myself.

Increase reflection to strengthen program quality

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anne-stevenson.jpgReflection is essential for learning. Creating opportunities for young people to reflect on their experiences is a critical component to strengthening program quality, yet is often the most challenging to implement.

So why is it so hard to do in our programs?

  • We fall into the trap of thinking of reflection as something that can only be done at the end of a program session, and we often run short of time to finish an activity, let alone reflection.
  • Most of us are not taught to be reflective learners nor are young people offered much opportunity to pause and reflect as part of their typical day or out-of-school program schedule.

Who is getting outdoors? Mainly the white and well-off

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Cathy-Jordan.jpgHave you been to a national park lately? If so, then chances are, you're white and have a relatively high income.

Recently I've attended several events about children, families and outdoor play and learning. I noticed that, whether it was a professional event held in a conference room or a family event in a park, most of the attendees looked like me. This observation is borne out by research. Though some advances in gender diversity have been made within the "green workforce", racial diversity lags far behind.

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