Youth Action Lab: Undergraduates Reflect on Leading and Learning with Local Youth

By Anya Pfeiffer, Kennedy Eagle, Olivia Burke, Kate Price, & Alexis Allen

Highlights:

  • Youth Action Lab (YAL) helps young people develop social science research skills to transform their lives and communities.
  • YAL uses a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) framework to engage youth as researchers who systematically explore community issues they care about.
  • In this article, undergraduates serving as mentors in the YAL reflect on their experiences working with local high schoolers to design research studies, gather and analyze data, and take action to address the issues they explored.
Source: Students participating in YAL created this video to explain the YPAR framework.

As Youth and Social Innovation (YSI) majors, we joined Youth Action Lab (YAL) as our community-engaged project for the YSI capstone class, an accumulating applied course required for all seniors in the YSI major. The goal of YAL is to equip young people with research skills to transform their lives and communities.

Youth Participatory Action Research

In YAL, we used a Youth Participatory Action Research (YPAR) framework where youth become researchers, systematically exploring issues that impact their schools and communities. Building on their lived experiences and expertise, our high school students develop research questions, design social science studies, gather and analyze data, and then take action to address the issues they explore. YAL uses a mentor-led approach, where we, as undergraduates at the University of Virginia, teach a YPAR curriculum through interactive lessons tailored to meet each group’s needs and objectives. By building community and promoting equity and inclusion, YAL empowers youth through research and collaboration.

Tackling Virtual Learning

One of our first tasks for YAL was researching best practices for virtual learning. Some strategies we found helpful were using digital collaboration tools and providing opportunities for flexibility and student choice. Collaboration tools (such as using breakout rooms and Padlet) allowed students to work together in smaller groups and participate in interactive experiences.

Allowing students to co-construct our lessons by asking what they’d like to learn or how we could support their project also created a more engaged learning environment. Sometimes, this looked like just showing up to listen and provide a space to discuss current events instead of a lesson. Most importantly, we learned to make a plan but be open to adjusting — extending a meaningful activity or discussion is much more important than doing scheduled activities.

YPAR in Action

We applied our research on virtual learning as we started working with two high school student groups, Charlottesville City Youth Council and Albemarle High School Black Student Union. Throughout the year, our team meets with each group biweekly to help guide them through lessons that support the research process.

Youth Council (YC) decided to explore why some students attend private middle schools instead of Walker and Buford but then return to Charlottesville City Schools for high school. Here are some highlights from their research project:

  • The students created a survey to ask local high school students about their middle school experiences and perceptions of different schools. The survey received over 70 responses.
  • YC is now in the process of interviewing adult stakeholders including parents and school board members. Conducting a mixed methods research project has allowed them gain experience with surveys and interviews and engage with different community stakeholders.
  • By the end of the year, YC will present their research findings to City Council and/or the Charlottesville City School Board. YC hopes their research will push the City to implement more programming to address the stigma around public middle schools.

Our team of facilitators have loved working with this group. They are wise beyond their years and show a high-level understanding of societal issues including classism and racism which they are mindful of in their research.

Black Student Union (BSU) is a student organization focused on sharing and supporting the culture and experiences of Black students at Albemarle High School. During our first meetings, BSU identified several issues at their school and decided to examine the lack of racial/ethnic diversity in Dual Enrollment (DE) and Advanced Placement (AP) classes. Since most BSU students have experienced being one of few Black students in higher-level classes, they had a personal connection to the issue. Here are some highlights from their research project:

  • With support from their principal, BSU recently sent surveys to students, teachers, school counselors, and families and are planning interviews to help identify potential solutions. 
  • One idea they have is a summer program that will serve as a bridge to prepare students to transition to more advanced classes. BSU’s overall goal is to make higher level courses more accessible and ensure students of color are prepared to succeed.
  • BSU plans to present their research findings to the Albemarle High School staff and leadership and are also exploring the possibility of presenting to the Albemarle County School Board.

In addition to conducting this research project, BSU continues to advocate for Black students and has held multiple events for their school community to celebrate Black culture and history. Our team has been beyond impressed by this group of motivated and passionate students.

Final Thoughts

Working with two very different and incredibly inspiring groups of high school students has been such a wonderful opportunity. As YAL facilitators, we teach high schoolers how to frame and investigate real world issues through social science research, but we undoubtedly learned just as much from them about framing and addressing problems in our own lives and communities.


YAL is supported by the Equity Center and Youth-Nex. We are always looking for new partners interested in bringing YPAR to the youth they serve. To learn more about YAL and YPAR resources, please visit our website.

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Anya Pfeiffer is a fourth year Youth & Social Innovation Major and a first year candidate for a Master’s of Public Policy and Leadership from the Batten School. After graduation, she hopes to work on education or housing policy.


Author Bio: Olivia Burke is a 4th year Youth and Social Innovation major and Public Policy minor who is passionate about education research. Next year she will pursue her M.Ed. in Quantitative Analytics at UVA. 


Author Bio: Kate Price is a fourth year student majoring in Youth & Social Innovation in the School of Education. She is extremely interested in applying youth developmental frameworks to practical settings which help prompt adolescents to critically reflect, use their voice, and make a difference in their communities. 


Kennedy Eagle and Alexis Allen are also YSI students.

The Unspoken Social Impacts of Virtual Learning

By Emma, a 15-year old WIT Teen, in New York.

Highlights:

  • Zoom classes have changed what “school” looks like to many students across the country, and in ways that go beyond academics.
  • Remote learning has eliminated many of the organic social experiences and opportunities that come with being a high-schooler, including the disappearance of hallway conversations.
  • These challenges also have some benefit, helping many teens to recognize and appreciate the value in everyday interactions.

It’s not breaking news to say that virtual learning has been a challenge for everyone. It’s difficult to sit in front of a computer and stay engaged for hours, the time being filled with busy work and assignments that all blur together.

But in my mind, the real cost of Zoom schooling has been the loss of social connections. High school is the time that we’re supposed to put ourselves out there and have fun and meet people and try new things. Simply being in the school building forces you to have interactions that seem casual, but turn out to be quite valuable.

Classroom friendships, developing personal connections with teachers, and even a quick laugh in the hallway are all aspects of the school day I once took for granted. Now, I miss them all.

And I believe many high schoolers will have a new respect for “in person learning” after experiencing what it’s like to learn remotely and not be able to interact with their peers.

The Loss of “School Friends”

“School friends” are people whom you don’t often talk to when you leave the classroom. Sure, you might follow them on social media or text them if you’re stuck on homework, but you wouldn’t necessarily make plans with them separately because you’re not really that close. They may be someone who was randomly placed in your group for a project, but over time they became someone you could glance at when the teacher said something funny, or that you would gravitate towards if you were told to “partner up.” You might have one or two of these “school friends” in each class, and even though you wouldn’t invite them to your birthday, they still make whatever class you had together that much better.

But, you can’t really share a smile with someone over Zoom; being stuck in a breakout room with someone just isn’t the same as toiling over a project in person. I’ve made hardly any “school friends” this year, and I’ve really missed the connection and bonds that came with those relationships. I didn’t realize the value held in the light friendships that appeared throughout my day.

The Student-Teacher Relationship Shift

Before this year, it was pretty easy to understand a teacher and get a good grasp on each class within the first couple weeks, and you could often feel like the teacher actually understood who you were and the work that you were going to produce as well. And though I feel most teachers have a sense at this point about who their students are, there’s still a certain lingering distance between the students and faculty.

It’s much harder to get to know someone over a screen than when you’re standing face to face. And, when you don’t know someone as well, it’s more challenging to be attentive, to want to learn, and to just be yourself.

It seems to be the consensus amongst students that we’re not as comfortable asking for extra help through one-on-one Zooms as we would be asking to stay after class to go over a question.

But I think the appreciation students have for their instructors will increase once we’re back in the classroom, due to the surprising impact this lack of connection has had.

The Disappearance of Passing Hallway Conversations

While in school, the time between classes were some of the best parts of my day. For students (such as myself) who enjoy being social, catching up with friends, saying hi to others, and just being able to see everyone and recognize the faces around me during the five-minute increments in the halls, passing time was…almost fun. Now, my time between classes consists pretty much of finding the next Zoom link (maybe I’ll get a glass of water or even go for a snack if I’m feeling really crazy). It’s just another factor that makes every day the same as the one before, and most likely a preview for the one coming after. I had never thought about the impact these short interactions had on my day, and now that they’re not there anymore, I really miss those moments.

The Silver Lining

However, it’s not all bad. Not being forced to see people every day means that we have to be proactive if we want to connect with others. I’ve been able to see who’s really important to me in a way that I haven’t before, noticing myself being more intentional with the connections I’m making, and not keeping in contact with some people who I previously thought were some of my good friends. With school no longer forcing us to interact, I’ve found out who I actually want to spend my time and energy with, as opposed to who I hung out with just because they were there.


Youth-Nex is excited to feature teen entrepreneurs from the non-profit WIT – Whatever It Takes. The posts in the Youth Nex + WIT series are submitted by teen entrepreneurs who are interested in exploring and discussing topics ranging from education inequity, mental health, political issues, and more. The teens choose the topic and the views expressed in their posts are theirs and not connected to WIT or Youth-Nex. 

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Emma Wasserman is a 15 year old from Chappaqua, New York, attending Horace Greeley High School as a freshman. When not in school, she’s either playing piano, dancing, writing, hanging out with friends, thinking about science, or running her social enterprise “The Sweet Project.

Mentoring Innovations: The Power of Groups

By Nancy Deutsch & Gabe Kuperminc

Highlights:

  • Group mentoring programs can be effective in fostering at least short- term improvements in a broad range of youth outcomes.
  • The multiple types of relationships between and amongst peers and mentors in group mentoring programs contributes to youth’s experiences in, and outcomes from, group mentoring.
  • Limiting the size of the mentoring group (i.e., the ratio of mentors to mentees) and incorporating practices that foster peer support among the mentors can support program quality.
Source: National Mentoring Resource Center

January is National Mentoring Month. When you think about mentoring, you probably picture an adult who has volunteered to take an active and supportive role in a young person’s life. If you’ve heard of programs like Big Brothers Big Sisters, you’re probably familiar with the one-on-one approach to mentoring. But whereas one-on-one mentoring programs are widespread, did you know that group mentoring programs actually now serve more youth than one-on-one programs?[i] Group programs come in various shapes and sizes but are differentiated from one-on-one programs in that one or more adults work with multiple youth.

This may sound like a lot of settings you see every day, like after-school clubs, sports teams, or arts programs. Indeed, the basic ingredients for group mentoring exist in many places where multiple youth and one or more adults interact together over time.

But what makes group mentoring different from other programs that involve adults and youth is that it must include intentional mentoring activity and group processes, including meaningful, two-way interactions between one or more mentors and at least two mentees.

Formal programs that match mentors with groups of youth are very popular, with estimates that 35% of youth mentoring programs use a group format and an additional 12% use a combination of one-on-one and group mentoring.[ii] In other group settings, like after-school programs, sports teams, and classrooms, specific efforts may be needed to systematically foster mentoring relationships between the adults and youth.[iii]

In a recent review of group mentoring for the National Mentoring Resource Center, we found three main types of programs:

  1. The first type includes programs in which all activities occur in a group or team-like setting. An example of the first type is a program in San Francisco, CA called Project Arrive, where groups of six to eight students who are vulnerable to dropping out of school meet with mentors each week throughout their 9th grade year to build a sense of belonging in school and a supportive peer network.
  2. The second type of group program blends the popular one-on-one approach to mentoring with group activities. An example of this second type is the Young Women Leaders Program based here at UVA.
  3. The third type of program occurs in existing youth programs, like sports or arts organizations; these programs incorporate intentional elements of mentoring into existing youth programs, and usually include specific training of the adult leaders in topics related to youth development and mentoring and time during the program for explicit mentoring activities.

As group mentoring grows in popularity it is important for researchers and practitioners alike to be attuned to both the potentials of this program format for supporting young people, and also the recommendations that have been identified by the field so far for best practices (see, for example, the recently published supplement to the Elements of Effective Practice for Group Mentoring). In terms of the potential of such programs to have a positive impact on young people, our review uncovered evidence that group mentoring programs can be effective in fostering at least short- term improvements in a broad range of youth outcomes, including those in the behavioral, academic, emotional, and attitudinal/motivational domains. Evidence of longer-term effects is still limited. It should also be noted that there is limited evidence on incorporated programs, as most research has focused on conventional or blended group mentoring programs.

In terms of who benefits the most from group mentoring, our review found some isolated evidence suggesting that group mentoring is particularly effective for youth exposed to higher risk, but group mentoring appears to be potentially effective for youth from a variety of backgrounds.

Program effectiveness may be influenced by the socioemotional and relationship skills and histories that mentors bring to the program, and group facilitation skills is an important additional skill for mentors in group programs. Two features of programs that appear to be important for program quality include limiting the size of the mentoring group, or the ratio of mentors to mentees, and incorporating practices that foster peer support among the mentors.

Group mentoring shares many features of more traditional mentoring programs, but what makes group programs unique is the presence of peers and, often, multiple mentors. This allows for multiple types of relationships between and among mentors and peers that can contribute to youth’s experiences in, and outcomes from, group mentoring. In addition, attributes of the group, such as cohesion and belonging, mutual help, and a sense of group identity, may also contribute to youth outcomes. Researchers and practitioners are often concerned with the potential for negative outcomes, or “negative contagion effects,” particularly when youth exposed to significant risk are grouped together. Our review found that the potential for negative contagion in group mentoring programs does exist, but the presence of strong group facilitators and training for mentors in group programs, as well as intentional planning of assignment of mentees to groups, helps guard against negative consequences. Overall, group mentoring appears to be a promising approach to extend the reach of mentoring to a larger number of youth (and maybe even at a lower cost) than one-on-one mentoring, and to open up new avenues for promoting important skills and social connections that young people need.


Citations

[i] Garringer, M., McQuillin, S., & McDaniel, H. (2017). Examining Youth Mentoring Services Across America: Findings from the 2016 National Mentoring Program Survey. MENTOR The National Mentoring Partnership.

[ii] Garringer, M., McQuillin, S., & McDaniel, H. (2017). Examining Youth Mentoring Services Across America: Findings from the 2016 National Mentoring Program Survey. MENTOR The National Mentoring Partnership.

[iii] Banister, E. M., & Begoray, D. L. (2006). A community of practice approach for Aboriginal girls’ sexual health education. Journal of the Canadian Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry / Journal de l’Académie Canadienne de Psychiatrie de l’enfant et de l’adolescent, 15, 168–173.


If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Nancy Deutsch is the director of Youth-Nex, the UVA Center to Promote Effective Youth Development at the School of Education & Human Development. She is a Professor of Research, Statistics & Evaluation and Applied Developmental Science and is also affiliated with the Youth & Social Innovation (YSI) Program. Deutsch’s research examines the socio-ecological contexts of adolescent development, particularly issues related to identity. She has focused on the role of after-school programs and relationships with important adults, and is especially interested in the process of adolescent learning and development as it unfolds within local environments for better understanding about how to create settings that better support youth, especially those at risk due to economic or sociocultural factors.

Author Bio: Gabe Kuperminc is Professor of Psychology and Public Health and Chair of the Community Psychology Doctoral Program at Georgia State University. His research focuses on 1) understanding processes of resilience and positive youth development in adolescence and 2) evaluating the effectiveness of community-based prevention and health promotion programs. He is studying the effectiveness of innovative approaches to youth mentoring, including group mentoring and combining mentoring with other youth development approaches (projects funded by the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention). He also works with youth-serving non-profit organizations at local, state, and national levels, studying the effectiveness of prevention and youth development programs. A common thread in his work is an interest in understanding how cultural factors play a role in developmental processes and health behavior.

Keeping Students Safe: Talking about Alcohol and Hazing

By Susie Bruce, M.Ed.

Highlights:

  • Alcohol overdose and hazing can be prevented.
  • Educating youth on the signs of alcohol overdose can reduce risk of death.
  • Encouraging students to learn about organizations before they join can reduce hazing experiences.
  • Successful conversations with teens focus on openness, honesty, mutual respect, and trust. 

“It never occurred to me that he wouldn’t be able to handle a situation. I really didn’t have any worries.”

– Leslie Lanahan, mother of hazing victim Gordie Bailey

Lynn Gordon (“Gordie”) Bailey died 3 weeks into his freshman year of college from an alcohol overdose related to hazing. After a bid night tradition where pledges were encouraged to drink large quantities of alcohol, Gordie passed out at his fraternity house. His new “brothers” put him on a couch, wrote all over his body with permanent marker, gave him a bucket for vomit, and then left him alone. By the time someone checked on him the next morning, it was too late.

“Everybody thinks it’s not going to happen to them. We were in that crowd. It wouldn’t happen to us.  We want parents to learn from our tragedy.” 

– Michael Lanahan, Gordie’s step-father

Most parents and schools talk with students about the dangers of drinking and driving, but far fewer discuss the lethal risks of drinking too much alcohol too quickly or the prevalence and risks of hazing. Teens are unlikely to initiate conversations on these topics with adults, and it can be easy for parents and caregivers to avoid these uncomfortable topics. However, it’s worth noting that parental expectations and opinions do have an impact on student behaviors, both positively and negatively.

How can you prepare for these conversations? Be factual and straightforward about your expectations as well as your concerns. Teens want to talk with adults if the conversation is structured for openness, honesty, mutual respect, and trust. Focus more on strategies to protect health and safety and less on legal consequences.

Ready to get started? Here are some initial topics to cover.

Make sure youth know the signs of overdose

Even if a student doesn’t drink, or is under the legal drinking age of 21, knowing the “PUBS” overdose symptoms could save someone’s life. Seeing even one sign is an indication of a medical emergency requiring a call to 911. 

  • P – puking while passed out
  • U – unresponsive to a pinch of shaking
  • B – breathing is slow, shallow or has stopped
  • S – skin is blue, cold or clammy.  If the person has darker skin, check their lips or nailbeds to see if they are getting pale.

Consider showing the Gordie Center’s 1-minute PUBS video and ask:

  • “How likely is it that you’d call 911 if you’re in a situation where someone has one of the PUBS symptoms?”
  • “What would you do if friends minimize your concerns and tell you not to call?”

Encourage youth to add the national Poison Control hotline to their contact list

Students may be scared of getting themselves, their friends or their group in trouble and hesitate in a situation where seconds count. The Poison Control hotline (1-800-222-1222) connects to a national network of regional centers that provide confidential, expert advice 24/7. Talking with a medical expert can make the difference between life and death by giving students someone to “blame” for calling 911.

Talk with youth about how to choose groups that don’t haze

As Gordie’s story illustrates, hazing can happen to anyone. Hazing is perpetuated in all types of organizations, and nearly half of college students endured some level of physical or psychological hazing in high school. Students want to feel like they worked hard to achieve the privilege of being part of a group, so how can parents and other adults provide guidance in choosing groups that don’t haze?

The discussion starters below are also provided in an animated Gordie Center video:

  • Which types of groups or organizations have you thought about joining, and why?
  • What do you know about the group you are joining? How can you find out more?
  • Is this group included on your school’s hazing violation list?
  • What kinds of activities are required to join? Will it take away from academics? Is drinking involved?
  • How comfortable are you with those activities, or the unknowns of the membership process?
  • Will you promise to tell me if any activities cause you physical pain or emotional distress, even if the group swears you to secrecy?

Viewing HAZE to start the conversation

The Gordie Center’s 37-minute HAZE documentary film tells Gordie’s story through interviews with his friends and family, as well as with national experts on alcohol misuse and hazing prevention. The film is available for purchase or rental to schools and anyone who wants to view HAZE with their family can request a link to stream the film for free.  A free discussion guide is available.

The first discussion on a challenging issue is often the most difficult, so don’t try to cover every topic at once.  Spreading out conversations on alcohol, hazing, and other safety issues will have a more long-lasting impact than one marathon session.  Keep your focus on having a two-way discussion where your teen gets to share their thoughts and ideas instead of a one-sided lecture. Sometimes the best question can be a simple, “What do you know about…?” and see where the conversation goes.

“Before Gordie died, I’d never given any thought to death by alcohol. I’d received almost no education about it—teachers never talked about it.”

-Serena Keith, close friend of Gordie’s

If you have any comments or questions about this post, please email Youth-Nex@virginia.edu. Please visit the Youth-Nex Homepage for up to date information about the work happening at the center.

Author Bio: Susie Bruce, M.Ed., is director of the University of Virginia’s Gordie Center, which works to end hazing and substance misuse among high school and college students.  She is a Faculty Affiliate of Youth-Nex, and directs the NCAA-funded APPLE Training Institutes: the leading national strategic training program for substance misuse prevention and health promotion for student-athletes and athletics departments.

Special Journal Focuses on Civic Engagement, Moral Identity: Charlottesville’s Summer of 2017

We resume blogs about Positive Youth Development with a focus on the center’s three new core areas: a) Out-of-School Time; b) Educational Systems: Middle School; and c) Community Engagement: Civic and Political.

We start with the Journal of Adolescent Research Special Issue focus on Youth Civic and Moral Engagement. Nancy Deutsch penned the introduction, posted with the permission of the publisher, which shines a light on the events that transpired in Charlottesville over the summer of 2017.

Introduction to the Journal of Adolescent Research Special Issue on Youth Civic and Moral Engagement

As our editorial team was putting together this issue, our home, Charlottesville, Virginia, was still reeling from the events of the summer of 2017. Images of angry White, mostly male, faces holding tiki torches and weapons, wearing white polo shirts and khakis, chanting fascist and racist slogans were still fresh in our minds. Many of these faces were young; the leaders were under 40. The man charged with killing Charlottesville community member Heather Heyer, who was one of the counter protestors on August 12, was 20 years old. For those of us who study young people, these images could seem to signify a crisis of civic engagement—a reflection of youth whose disengagement from the moral fabric of our society was so great as to lead them to a White supremacist movement that advocates violent hatred.

Yet that is not the full Charlottesville story. On the evening of August 11, 2017, a group of students from the University of Virginia faced down a mob of tiki torch wielding White supremacists who had marched across the school’s campus. The students linked arms, surrounding the statue of Thomas Jefferson that sits at the heart of campus, in front of a sign proclaiming “VA Students Act Against White Supremacy.” These students took the ultimate civic stand—putting their bodies in harm’s way to defend the values that we hold dear. Members of the antifascist movement, whom some clergy members credit with saving their lives during the protests on August 12, are also primarily young people. Furthermore, for weeks, months, and even years before the August events, local youth had been working within our community to organize for racial and social justice. It was a high school student who started the petition to have the confederate statues removed from our local parks. Local high school students started a Black Student Association and an organization to help undocumented students. Their story is one of civic and moral engagement of the highest caliber.

This fall, as I walked across campus every day, I was reminded of the courage and moral fortitude of our local youth. At the same time, I could not ignore the continued presence of White supremacy and the increasing public presence of hate groups across the globe, groups that often prey on disengaged young people for recruitment. The time for a developmental focus on youth civic and moral identity and engagement is now.

In line with our mission, and following that commitment, our editorial team decided to create a special issue featuring articles focused on civic engagement and moral identity. The four articles in this volume feature a range of perspectives from across the globe. Some consider contexts or interventions that may promote civic engagement, such as schools, service learning, and youth councils. Others consider the development of moral and/or civic identities. We felt that this topic was timely and deserving of a dedicated issue. We hope that you agree. And we hope that some day #Charlottesville can come to represent not the violent reemergence of hate groups in the United States but the power of youth civic engagement and moral identity, and the tremendous ability of young people to promote positive social change.

Nancy L. Deutsch
University of Virginia
Youth-Nex: The UVA Center to Promote Effective Youth Development
Charlottesville, VA
nld7a@virginia.edu

Articles in the issue: (access depends on your individual or institutional permissions):

If Someone Asked, I’d Participate: Teachers as Recruiters for Political and Civic Participation
Rebecca Jacobsen, David Casalaspi
First Published October 24, 2016; pp. 153–186

Youth Civic Engagement: Do Youth Councils Reduce or Reinforce Social Inequality?
Astraea Augsberger, Mary Elizabeth Collins, Whitney Gecker, Meaghan Dougher
First Published January 4, 2017; pp. 187–208

Globalization and Moral Personhood: Dyadic Perspectives of the Moral Self in Rural and Urban Thai Communities
Jessica McKenzie
First Published October 9, 2016; pp. 209–246

Development of Adolescent Moral and Civic Identity Through Community Service: A Qualitative Study in Hong Kong
Huixuan Xu, Min Yang
First Published March 20, 2017; pp. 247–272

https://doi.org/10.1177/0743558418756524
Journal of Adolescent Research
2018, Vol. 33(2) 151–152
© The Author(s) 2018
Reprints and permissions:
sagepub.com/journalsPermissions.nav
DOI: 10.1177/0743558418756524
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The final, definitive version of this paper has been published in the Journal of Adolescent Research, Vol. 33(2) 151–152, February/2018 published by SAGE Publishing, All rights reserved.

Why Enroll Your Child in After-School Activities?

By Nancy L. Deutsch, Ph.D.

Deutsch is an associate professor of Research, Statistics & Evaluation and Applied Developmental Science at UVA and is an affiliated faculty member with Youth-Nex. Her research examines the socio-ecological contexts of adolescent development, particularly issues related to identity. She has focused on the role of after-school programs and relationships with important adults.

This blog was originally published at www.infoaboutkids.org, as “After-school activities: Why are they important and what should you look for?”

As the school year begins, many parents are thinking not only about what classes their children will take in school, but also what their kids will do after school. After-school activities offer opportunities for kids to learn new skills, explore different areas of talent, deepen existing expertise, get support for areas they aren’t as strong in, make friends, and form relationships with supportive adults. Participation in structured after-school activities has also been linked to a number of positive outcomes. For working parents, after-school activities are often more than a luxury, they are necessary child care in those gap hours when children are out of school but parents are still at work. Research shows that there are risks of kids being unsupervised after school, so after-school activities are an important resource to parents seeking to make sure their kids are in a safe and structured place once they leave their classrooms.

So what does the landscape of after-school activities look like and how should you choose the right one for your kid?

After-school activities range from extra-curricular activities (school-based clubs or teams), to comprehensive after-school programs (school or community-based), to private lessons, faith-based groups, and specialized tutoring or mentoring programs targeted towards specific needs. Programs differ in their costs and offerings. Whereas both of these factors are important for families, the aspect of programs that affects kids the most is their quality.

Research suggests that participation in structured after-school programs and activities can have benefits for kids, including social skills, emotional development, and academics. But the quality of and the child’s engagement in a program both influence the impact it will have.

High quality programs provide a safe space with supportive relationships, appropriate structure, and positive expectations for behavior. But beyond that they also provide opportunities for belonging and skill building and give youth a place to express themselves, take on responsibilities, and tackle challenging tasks. Researchers studying after-school programs focused on social and personal skills found that programs with four features, called the “SAFE” features, had an impact on both social-emotional and academic outcomes. These programs had a (S)equenced set of activities, emphasized (A)ctive learning, had a component that (F)ocused on building social and emotional skills, and communicated in an (E)xplicit way about the skills they were trying to develop in youth. Other researchers have found that programs that allow youth to actively shape activities and take on meaningful roles in “real world” projects (including artistic performances and other types of public presentations) provide opportunity for youth to develop important social, emotional, and cognitive skills. The adult staff in such programs play an important role in creating opportunities for learning, setting expectations, serving as role models, and providing useful feedback and scaffolding.

So can there be too much of a good thing?

About a decade ago, the notion of the “over-scheduled child” took hold. Some people argued that children are too scheduled during the after-school hours, leading to undue pressure on kids, with potentially negative outcomes. In reality, very few kids participate in extremely high levels of after-school activities. Overall, kids average about 5 hours per week of scheduled after-school activities, and about 40% of kids don’t participate in any organized after-school activities. There does not appear to be evidence that more activities, in and of themselves, have a negative impact on kids. But of course it is important to be sensitive to your kid’s needs.

Whereas parents in some communities may be concerned about over-scheduling, parents in other communities are struggling to find high quality programs for their kids. Youth from lower income households participate in out-of-school activities at lower rates than their higher income peers and there is substantial unmet demand for high quality programs, especially among lower income families.

So, what are some things to keep in mind as you try to find the right after-school activities for your kids?

  • Stay focused on what your child likes to do. It is fine to suggest trying new activities to expose your child to a variety of interests. But your child’s enthusiasm for the activity is also important. Even if it is necessary for your child to participate in after-school programming every day, talk to them about what types of activities they find most engaging.
  • The after-school hours can be a great time for kids to explore different talents. As many schools have faced cuts in enrichment programs, after-school activities can offer your child the chance to demonstrate talents and learn skills they may not get to in school. This can be important not only for developing new interests, but also for kids to experience competence in different areas.
  • Be sensitive to your kid’s needs. Although there is no evidence to suggest that more activities are bad for kids, if your child is expressing a dislike of particular activities or a desire to do less, talk to them about what is motivating those feelings. Think about how you might be able to balance their activities in a way that gives them opportunities to develop skills and participate in activities they enjoy while also having some time for play and socializing in safe and structured environments.
  • Look for programs that offer sequenced, active, focused and explicit activities in safe spaces where youth have opportunities to shape and take on meaningful roles in activities. All of these are program features that research has linked to positive learning experiences and outcomes for kids.
  • Pay attention to the adults. Relationships with caring adults are associated with positive outcomes for kids. High quality after-school activities can be environments where kids can form relationships with adults who can supplement the support that you give your child. And good adult leaders translate to better experiences for kids.
  • If you have a limited budget, look into local community-based organizations that offer sliding scale fees for families, and often waive fees altogether for families that need it.

Proper citation link for this blog post originally published on infoaboutkids.org:
Deutsch, N.L. (2016, September 07). After-school activities: Why are they important and what should you look for? Retrieved from http://infoaboutkids.org/blog/after-school-activities-why-are-they-important-and-what-should-they-look-like/

Ethnicity and Health: How Can We Maximize Urban Green Space for Health Promotion?

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by Jenny Roe, Ph.D. and Alice Roe
Originally published on The Centre for Urban Design and Mental Health (UD/MH) blog, here. [Jenny Roe, Ph.D., is Director of the Center for Design and Health, School of Architecture, University of Virginia. Her recent talk, at our sponsored lecture series, can be found here.]

 

Access to parks and urban green space facilitates exposure to nature, exercise and social opportunities that have positive impacts on both physical and mental health. In the last decade, rates of migration have risen dramatically across the globe: by 2038, it’s expected that half of London’s residents will be of a black and minority ethnic origin (BME). Our cities, towns and communities are becoming increasingly multicultural and, yet there are inequalities. A recent report by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission showed that in the UK, ethnic minorities are experiencing worse health outcomes. This is particularly the case for mental health: in 2012, the proportion of adults in England who were at risk of poor mental health was found to be higher among Pakistani/Bangladeshi and African/Caribbean/Black respondents than White respondents, and there were inequalities in accessing healthcare.

Hence, it is increasingly important that research reflects the diverse make-up of these populations. A new study has sought to better understand the differences in use and perception of urban green space among BME groups in the UK, and illustrated the need for park facilitators to accommodate the needs, attitudes and interests of our multicultural population.

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Restorative Practices and The 3 R’s – Restore, Rebuild, Reconnect

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This month’s blog is by Mark Marini, known to most as “Muggsie,” an Intervention Specialist at Albemarle High School. For the past 19 years, he has worked diligently in education to support struggling learners, both with behaviors and academics, by working both with students and teachers. He fills many roles at Albemarle High including: Intervention Specialist, English teacher, Special Education teacher, Mediator, School Based Intervention Co-Chair, Response To Intervention Specialist, AVID English teacher, and lifelong learner. Check out his blog, On Education.

Youth-Nex had the pleasure of meeting Muggsie at this year’s conference, “Youth of Color Matter: Reducing Inequalities Through Positive Youth Development.” We are grateful for his and fellow educators’ participation at the event.

There are some children in the world who were just born to be good. My daughter, who is now nine, seems to be one of those children. When she was small, still crawling around, my wife and I remember her going past an electrical outlet in our house. She started to reach towards it, and my wife gently said, “No; don’t touch.” She looked at my wife, looked at the outlet, and kept crawling. Several days later, she was crawling past the same outlet, and she stopped. Pointed at it and said, “No.” Then she continued crawling. For the most part, my wife and I did not have to teach her good behavior. It is as if she was born with a gene that helps her to do the right thing. But that does not mean she always does.


“My experience is that Restorative Practices, if implemented with the required support and training, can have a great impact on a community. This could be a school, a neighborhood, or even a family. With time and dedication, the gains for our next generation are great. For, while resolving conflicts with Restorative Practices, we teach children how to resolve future conflicts on their own.”


SomeWalkingAwaytimes, she needs additional support. She has a younger brother who tests her and her ability to make the right choices. In those moments when she is tested, she needs support to know how to act, and how, if she has caused harm, to fix it.

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Down and Dirty – Impacting Youth Wellness

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Students with onions from the garden project – a University-school partnership.

Eleanor V. Wilson, Associate Professor in the Curry School of Education, has been a faculty advisor for three “Wellness and Gardening” projects, all a part of a University-elementary school partnership which she says is having a cumulative impact on the community. Charlottesville’s Burnley Moran Elementary school and university students co-lead the work and “it is an example of not only school-university cooperation,” says Wilson, “but as examples of ways to incorporate principles of healthy living as a part of Positive Youth Development at the elementary school level.” Following is her summary of the projects.

Ellie Wilson_edit_4322 copyFor the past three years, U.Va. students have participated in projects initiated by a Charlottesville non-profit organization and then, a Community Based Undergraduate Grant, (funded by the Office of Undergraduate Research at the University of Virginia) and followed by two Jefferson Public Citizens grants have collaborated to enrich the Charlottesville City Schools “City Schoolyard Garden Project.” Initiated in 2009, the City Schoolyard Garden (CSG) was a non-profit venture dedicated to cultivating academic achievement, health, environmental stewardship and community engagement through garden-based, experiential learning. A pilot garden program was founded at Buford Middle School and in 2011 the partnership was extended to all city elementary schools. Once this project was underway, University students became involved as partners in expanding the goal of creating healthy living habits for elementary school students. View video: “Wellness and Gardening.”  Continue reading

Inspiration Through the Humanities at Maximum Security Facility – Residents Relay Impact

U.Va. students with inmates at Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center

U.Va. students interact with incarcerated youth at Beaumont Juvenile Correctional Center

Guest contributor, Rob Wolman is the teaching assistant and primary research assistant for the Books Behind Bars / Awakening Youth Project. Rob is a Montessori teacher and corporate trainer.

Related posts: Research, Seed Funded Research, Community

Awakening Youth Through the Humanities is an interdisciplinary, mixed-methods study that seeks to understand the outcomes of a U.Va. course called Books Behind Bars: Life, Literature, and Leadership. In this course, undergraduates travel to a maximum security correctional facility to lead incarcerated youth in discussions and creative activities related to great works of Russian literature. The course brings college students and correctional center residents together in a community of learning that uses the power of literature to inform, transform, and build connections between people from widely diverse backgrounds. Continue reading