- Author: Mike Hsu
Free downloadable curriculum recognizes diverse family circumstances
Not all young people are on an expressway to a four-year college, and a new publication from University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources acknowledges their many circumstances and possibilities. The “Pathways to Your Future” curriculum invites high school-aged youth – and their families – to map their unique situations and passions before embarking on their own road.
Whereas similar guides might convey advice on a one-way street, this free download outlines a “hands-on” experience – in school settings or out-of-school programs – to help young people steer toward their best post-high-school education, training and career options.
“We wanted to make a youth-centered publication,” said co-author Claudia Diaz Carrasco, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H youth development advisor in Riverside and San Bernardino counties. “A lot of the content out there is based on delivering content to kids – just like information on college and careers; with ‘Pathways to Your Future', it's actually a skill-building curriculum so that youth are doing research and having critical discussions and making comparisons.”
In a pilot program that engaged 228 high schoolers across California (primarily 9th graders recruited from local 4-H programs), many participants said they appreciated that the curriculum presented a variety of pathways, including vocational education, non-degree certificate programs, community college, on-the-job training or entering the workforce – as well as four-year institutions of higher education.
“They have been liking that it doesn't start with ‘pick a college and get there,'” Diaz Carrasco said. “But really it's a self-reflection approach, where they start going back to what they're passionate about and what they think they're good at – and how much money they want to make in the future – and really just having that opportunity to know themselves before jumping into college or a career.”
To help them attain that clear-eyed perspective, the modules in the curriculum also debunk myths about the college experience and incorporate budgeting activities.
“This program gives youth the opportunity to constantly reflect on their learning as they get more data,” said another publication co-author, Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, UC ANR's statewide 4-H director. “In the beginning, youth may have a very rigid or glamorized view of their future; the ‘Pathways' program grounds things and brings reality into the picture.”
Parents of the pilot-program participants – who predominantly identify as Latino – were also thankful for opportunities to engage in “real talk” with other parents about the wide array of options. Acknowledging the diversity of families across California, “Pathways to Your Future” also includes several sections in Spanish to make essential information more accessible.
“The parents need as much – or more – education on the processes, opportunities and expectations to support post-high school life,” Schmitt-McQuitty explained.
In addition to integrating families into discussions about their future, the curriculum also provides spaces for the high schoolers to participate in panel discussions with their slightly older peers, who recently went through their own decision-making journeys.
“The youth really appreciate seeing someone like themselves talking about what they went through, how they overcame obstacles,” said Diaz Carrasco. “They feel really inspired that there is a pathway for themselves.”
For assistance and support in bringing the “Pathways” curriculum to your community, contact your county's Cooperative Extension office, reach out to the local 4-H program, or email Claudia Diaz Carrasco at email@example.com.
The other authors of the publication are Shannon Horrillo (College of Agriculture, Biotechnology, and Natural Resources, University of Nevada, Reno Extension), Darlene McIntyre and Nathaniel Caeton (UC ANR), and Martin Smith (University of California, Davis)./h2>
Schools and children's social and club activities hastily moved online in the spring of 2020 when across the country Americans began to shelter-in-place to avoid spreading the coronavirus. Teachers, program directors and club leaders quickly made adjustments to continue serving children's education needs, often without access to proven techniques or training.
The volunteer educators and professional staff whose work provides thousands of California 4-H members aged 5 to 18 with invaluable learn-by-doing lessons were among those facing challenges, said Steven Worker, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development advisor. To provide information about effective online teaching techniques, Worker consolidated and summarized best practices for working with youth online, and has now published the material in three free online fact sheets.
“The bulk of research on online learning is focused on college education,” Worker said. “There is much less research in conducting virtual learning during out-of-school time for youth development, such as the techniques we use in 4-H.”
Nevertheless, the search of scientific literature was affirming. Worker found that about 80% of what leaders and teachers do in person is also effective in remote learning sessions.
“You just have to adapt your content and teaching methods,” Worker said. “Educators can use real-time group activities, and individual at-home activities. Educators can be present and create a supportive environment. They can reflect with the youth after each meeting and ask the youth to provide feedback.”
While the fact sheets were developed with 4-H programs in mind, they are appropriate for leaders and teachers of any learning activity that takes place out of school, such as scouting programs, tutoring, music lessons and other youth groups.
The three fact sheets are three- to four-pages each and present best practices in short narratives, graphs and bulleted lists. The topics are:
Supporting productive educator practices for out-of-school time – Teaching during out-of-school time differs from school environments. Educators become coaches, mentors, facilitators and partners. This fact sheet offers key points for online learning: Teaching methods first, technology second; involve youth in choices of digital tools; and focus on relationships.
Integrating experiential education into the digital realm – Experiential education is critical to the mission of 4-H, which uses a hands-on approach to learning. Readers of this fact sheet will understand preferred outcomes, such as agency, competence and belonging. Examples help educators divide learning between times when the group is together on Zoom or another platform, and providing assignments that the youth can complete between meetings.
Promoting positive youth development – Just as in person, important components of youth development include safety and belonging, youth-adult relationships, life skills development and opportunities for youth leadership. This fact sheet lists and discusses the six C's of positive youth development: competence, confidence, connection, character, caring and contribution.
Although the options are better for distance learning than expected, Worker, like many teachers, still look forward to returning to in-person activities.
“On computers, participants will often keep their video turned off, so it's hard to gauge whether they are interested and on task,” Worker said. “But in this unique time, it's better to do something than nothing.”
The PDF fact sheets may be downloaded from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources catalog, https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu.
- Author: Ricardo A. Vela
"I guess the fact that my parents told me whatever I set on my mind I would be able to achieve set me up for success," Diaz Carrasco stated. "Once I enrolled in Food Science Engineering, I loved school so much that when I was done with that degree, I pursued two more."
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) is committed to developing an inclusive and equitable society by reaching all segments of the state's population. On the front lines building trust and credibility are professionals who bring their unique skills, passion and commitment to make California a better place.
"The most rewarding is the opportunity to build bridges between the university's research-based programs and our local communities. When they do not fit, I have fun creating new programs or adapting from what we do have. I do believe science mixed with traditional knowledge has an infinite power to change people's lives," said Diaz Carrasco.
A native of Atizapán de Zaragoza, México, Diaz Carrasco has been part of UC ANR since 2015 as Youth Development Advisor focusing on Latino and /or low‐income youth and families. She faces many cultural and economic challenges to achieve her mission; thanks to her tenacity, dedication and hard work, she and her team have turned their goals into a reality.
"When I joined ANR, there were really few people in the state and around the country doing work intentionally with Latino youth development and 4-H," she said.
Since joining 4-H, she has been instrumental in increasing Latino participation in 4-H programs statewide. Her geographical area of work is the Inland Empire, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties. These are two of California's largest counties, with almost 5 million residents, and 65% are Latino.
"About 60% of school-aged youth in Riverside and San Bernardino are Hispanic/Latino," said Diaz Carrasco. "Since the beginning, the primary focus of my position is to develop, implement, evaluate, strengthen and expand local 4-H programming to serve the current under-represented population better."
In an environment that is generally not friendly to changes and challenges, Diaz Carrasco faces a daily array of obstacles to achieving her goal. Among them are high levels of poverty in the families she serves, high crime rates in some communities, and a lack of interest from the parents, who in most cases work two or three jobs to make ends meet.
"The success of my work as the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisor relies on how effective my extension team and I can be in sharing knowledge. We have gained this knowledge through research, education, program evaluation, and transfer these into the communities we serve in ways that are relevant for their day-to-day lives while embracing their cultural context," said Diaz Carrasco.
The knowledge that Diaz Carrasco and her team bring directly to the youth, their families, and communities in the Inland Empire creates positive changes and healthier lives. "The way we educate the public matters, and who are our educators matters. Science and culture are at the core of every program we have implemented since I started," she said.
She gives two reasons why her work is penetrating the thick layers of the communities she serves. The first is that she is an immigrant, like many of the families she works with. "I approach my work knowing that a lot of people are going or have gone through the same process I went through in 2014."
Diaz Carrasco also cites thinking out of the box as a reason for success. "I believe creativity and flexibility are at the core of any programs I develop," she stated.
For example, Diaz Carrasco and her team partnered with the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino, where they held a successful summer camp and strengthened the partnership with the Consulate. Youth could participate in this unique program that aims to help them embrace their Mexican identity, even when, in some cases, they or their parents cannot travel outside the U.S.
The summer camp program was designed to increase positive ethnic identity, and to provide youth development reflecting the Latino and immigrant youth experience and the physiological and social effects of discrimination. The program also responded to economic challenges by assisting families with transportation, providing snacks, and in some cases other items such as toothbrushes, water bottles, or connecting families to health and food agencies. "Above all, we hold the camp in a place that the families were already familiar with and felt safe. This place was the Consulate!" said Diaz Carrasco. "Yes, we turned their art gallery, where official agreements are signed, into a playground. That is what I mean by out of the box,” she added.
The program's interest was visible from day one; in a matter of hours, they reached 100% of the participant count. In the end, the parents expressed their gratitude for offering the programs in an accessible way.
Thinking out of the box has also allowed Diaz Carrasco to partner with major companies in Southern California to benefit the youth.
In five years, she has increased 4-H membership in her area from 667 to 6,021. The overall percentage of Latino youth in 4-H went from 28% to 85%, and the number of volunteers grew from 175 to 354.
Diaz Carrasco measures her success by the words of Sofia, a Moreno Valley student and one of the participants to the 4-H Juntos conference: "Juntos 4-H provides a home and a place where you can safely feel like it is your community. I hope expanding the program gives more students, not only myself but an identity also as to what the community is like and that there are people that care for them and have someone to relate and trust."
Diaz Carrasco has a straightforward message to all those girls who contemplate the idea of getting into the sciences: "My success in science has more to do with resilience than with knowledge. So, the ultimate thing is to pick something you like, have fun doing it and find people around you that also like it or are willing to support you when things get hard."
The joyful reunion of two 4-H children, Leia and Caroline Carrico, with their parents after spending 44 hours lost in the Humboldt County wilderness in early March has raised awareness about the benefits to youth involved in the UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Program.
Established more than 100 years ago, UC Cooperative Extension launched 4-H to teach children research-based agriculture and rural living skills. Over time, it has evolved dramatically, reaching children in urban centers, inner cities, suburbs as well as rural communities with leadership opportunities, life skills, nutrition education and other information to help them grow into resilient adults.
The Carrico children, ages 5 and 8, had participated in a 4-H outdoor training training program. They lived in a rural area and were well acquainted with the redwood forest surrounding their home. Recalling lessons they learned, the sisters stayed in place when they realized they were lost – a key survival skill, said Yana Valachovic, director of UC Cooperative Extension in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. There were more things they learned from 4-H project leader Justin Lehnert's teaching that helped them survive unscathed.
“Justin told them to leave signs. Searchers found granola bar wrappers and deep boot marks. They knew that they should shelter in a dry place,” Valachovic said. “They knew to keep positive and how to find safe drinking water without endangering themselves by drinking from a creek.”
The 4-H program in Humboldt County has been inundated with calls for a curriculum that can be used elsewhere to teach these valuable skills. The UC 4-H Youth Development advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties, Dorina Espinoza, is working with Lehnert to develop a project sheet so the survival skills used by the Carrico sisters can be made available in 4-H and other settings to young people throughout the U.S.
The sisters' odyssey and its happy conclusion shows the hoped-for result of the research-based 4-H learning model, Espinoza said.
“The sisters are smart girls,” Espinoza said “They attribute their application of survival skills to family camping trips, movies about people who get lost and 4-H adventures. 4-H reinforced new or existing skills. We know kids learn with multiple exposures. 4-H is a hands-on approach to learning that other settings don't offer.”
In 4-H, children choose “projects” they are interested in. The projects are led by adult volunteers from the community.
“What's different about 4-H is we have adult volunteers who develop partnerships with youth. They partner in learning, leadership and decision making,” Espinoza said. “That's a beautiful part of 4-H.”
Lehnert is a 4-H parent and volunteer who operates a business in Humboldt centered on enjoying the outdoors.
“Justin brings years of personal and professional experience, having completed a Wilderness First Responder Course of the National Outdoor Leadership School. He studied outdoor recreation at Feather River College and has been an outdoor recreation enthusiast for years,” Espinoza said. “We are so very grateful to Justin for sharing his expertise with our 4-H community.”
Californians can find UC Cooperative Extension 4-H projects near them at http://4h.ucanr.edu.
4-H has come a long way from its rural roots – now encompassing projects that range from mathematics to mindfulness, robotics to rock climbing. But it's not about to toss out the projects that have built character and confidence in 4-H members since the program's inception more than 100 years ago.
Most people don't sew their own clothing these days, but fashion and textiles are not dying art forms. That was clear at the March 4-H Fashion Review in Fresno County. Dozens of 4-H members modeled their creations, which represented their sewing skills, financial smarts and creativity.
“The Fashion Revue project gives kids the opportunity to gain skills and also to show and compete with their final products,” said Tracy Newton, 4-H Youth Development program representative in Fresno County. “It brings a sense of pride and accomplishment.”
Many 4-H members enjoy traditional sewing projects, in which they showcase sewing skills and the ability to coordinate an outfit. Participants can take on additional challenges, including the “box challenge,” which this year involved sewing one or more garments that contain three colors – red, white and blue – and items in the box, such as buttons, zippers and trim. Other challenges are the “make it mine challenge,” in which the 4-H participants alter a commercial pattern or make their own pattern; and the “retro/historical challenge,” in which the outfits they make are inspired by a pre-2000 design.
Twelve-year-old Atianna Marquez of Fairmont 4-H made a red, white and blue romper with buttons, buttonholes and bias tape from the “box.”
“This romper is special to Atianna because it is the first piece of clothing she has ever made,” Newton said. “She had fun learning how to make button holes, especially learning to cut the fabric with a seam ripper.”
Gabbie Hall of Fairmont 4-H, who has been sewing for three years, wanted a challenge. She selected a skirt pattern with box pleats in order to learn something new. The skirt is fully lined and has deep hidden pockets within the pleats.
“Gabbie complimented the skirt she made with her copper tank top to give her outfit a charming mix,” Newton said. “She plans on wearing this to dinner with her family or to special occasions.”
The most popular challenge at the Fresno County Fashion Revue in March was the consumer science challenge. The participants each put together outfits with the total cost not to exceed $40.
“This part of our fashion review teaches the participants they can be thrifty and stylish,” Newton said. “I like that many of them shop in consignment stores or thrift stores and see value in that. They are learning to appreciate the value of a dollar.”
Ella Hood of Fairmont 4-H started her search for an outfit at the Hinds Hospice Thrift Store. She found a white lace dress in her size for just $4.20. She splurged on a pair of fancy light pink dress shoes for $16.20, and found a necklace and earring set in light pink to complete the look.
“She will wear this proudly to church and dressy events,” Newton said.
Emmalee Balch of Fairmont 4-H modeled a trendy spring outfit she put together for $36.97. Balch purchased a new off-the-shoulder jumpsuit for $14.99 and natural brown high heel sandals for $17.99 at Ross. The outfit came together with a rose gold bangle bracelet and matching stud earrings that cost just $3.99.
Lone Star 4-H member Diana Flores used her great eye for yard sale bargains to put together a designer outfit for under $40. She modeled an Abercrombie and Fitch beige turtleneck paired with light blue Lucky Brand jeans. She completed the look with Lucky Brand riding boots and a pearl necklace with matching earrings to highlight the colors of the shirt.
“She loves wearing this outfit to school because it's within dress code and stylish,” Newton said.
Six-year-old Ashley McCann paired a black and white checkered sundress with white sandals. She accessorized her ensemble with a jeweled cat ear head band, dangle heart earrings, glittery silver choker and, to add a pop of color, lemon yellow sunglasses. The total came in at $33.66.
Following the fashion show, Newton handed out awards. Winners at the county level will have the opportunity to compete in the 2019 State 4-H Fashion Review June 1 in Olson Hall in Davis.