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July 2012 Archives

The question of youth program accreditation


Kate-Walker.jpgA youth program funder posed this question: Should Minnesota funders require accreditation of out-of-school programs to ensure implementation of high quality learning opportunities? While accreditation systems to endorse after-school programs exist at the state and national levels, there is no widespread consensus for support in Minnesota.

To explore the implications of youth program accreditation, Greater Twin Cities United Way, the Minnesota Department of Education, and the Extension Center for Youth Development sponsored three invitational forums with a cross-section of field leaders that resulted in an issue brief on the topic.

STEM learning = inquiry + content


Hui-Hui-Wang.jpgSTEM education programs need both inquiry/process and content. Most programs that I am familiar with do inquiry well. They do content less well. In fact, some programs are all inquiry and no content. This is a critical flaw. However, it is relatively easy to fix, because even small elements of content can make a complete STEM learning experience.

Recently a colleague and I had an enlightening discussion with some nonformal STEM educators at the Colloquium on p-12 STEM Education Research. We asked them "What do you want youth to learn in your program?"

The key words for their answers were: inquiry-based learning, learner-directed learning, less content, fun, hands-on activities, lifelong learning, real-world context, collaborative, and technology literacy.

These are great responses and fit very well with two important framing documents for STEM learning today: Framework for K-12 Science Education (2011) and the soon-to-be-published Next Generation Science Standard (2013), both from the National Research Council of the National Academy of Science.

However, we need to make sure that skills and practices (the inquiry, or process) are balanced by content knowledge. Engaging in science requires both of these.

Positive youth development through gaming


Trudy-Dunham.jpgI was in New York City recently for the Games for Change Summit, where keynote presenter Jane McGonigal reminded us how computer games can change our lives through enhancing our personal development, helping us learn and adding years to our lives. Heady claims.

Yes, we know that games are engaging and get us moving at twitch speed. We've heard they can change how our brains are wired and how we learn. But did you know that games make us happier, that they enhance our emotional resiliency? That they can help us build the mental resilience we need to trust, to take risks and to fail? That they can increase our confidence in self, our sense of self-efficacy?

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