Positive youth development

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4-H Study of Positive Youth Development

We are looking for Missouri youth to be a part of a research project on youth development! The study is by researchers from University of Missouri Extension.

Here is some history and context:

  • From 2002 to 2012, Professors Richard Lerner and Jaqueline Lerner conducted the 4-H Study of PYD. The study investigated thriving across the adolescent years. Over 7,000 youth from 42 states took part in the study.
  • The researchers are launching a replication of the 4-H Study of PYD and Missouri is taking part! The goal is to examine if the findings from the first study can be applied to current youth. They are interested in learning about the positive development of youth and their experiences in youth programs.
  • Youth will answer online surveys three times over the next year. The first survey will be collected by April 30th and following surveys will be collected in the month of June and August. Each survey will take about 30-40 minutes and will ask youth about their beliefs, behaviors, and youth development programs.
  • We are asking youth in 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th grade to fill out the survey.
  • There will be no compensation for students participating in this study. However, participants will be added to a raffle giveaway for each time they complete a study survey. Prizes include Amazon giftcards, Air pods and Instax Mini Cameras!

Please see the Information for Students flyer for more information.

Student Information Flyer (PDF)

In order for a youth to be a part of the study, a parent/guardian will need to fill out an online permission form.

Online permission form

By filling out this form, parents/guardians are giving the youth permission to take the survey three times across the next year if they choose to. The youth will also be asked to provide their assent that they agree to participate.

Student assent form

These forms must be completed by April 19, 2021. The survey link will be provided upon completion of the permission forms and the first survey will need to be completed by April 30, 2021.

Please reach out by phone at 636-583-5141 ‬or email [email protected] if you have any questions.

We hope you will consider this opportunity. Please reach out if you have any questions.

Sincerely,
The MO 4-H Research Team
Tanner Adkins, Christal Huber and Sarah Morefield

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    Missouri 4-H Positive Youth Development

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      Finding youth Sparks

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      Everybody has a skill, a talent, an interest, or a special quality that they are passionate about. We call these things SPARKS. They provide joy, purpose, and direction. Sparks are self-discovered and self-identified. They come from deep within and provide energy, joy, purpose, and direction in one's life. Examples of sparks include:

      • Music, art, and sports (skill or talent)
      • Vintage films, cars, or fishing (an interest)
      • Social justice, environmental advocacy, pet adoption (passionate commitment)
      • Empathy, intelligence, spirituality (a special quality)

      Research feature

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        Why are Sparks important?

        A young farmer in a field standing in front of a tractor.

        Growth: Sparks provide the "intrinsic fuel" that powers youth to grow and build new skills, and to overcome barriers that stand in their way.

        A spark may drive an individual to face down their fear of public speaking, learn new tech skills, get more involved with their community, stay out of trouble, and much more.

        Contribution: Sparks create actions that almost always benefit the larger society.

        A love of music may lead to playing at a nursing home once a month; a passion for social justice may lead to greater civic engagement; A love of basketball may lead to volunteering as a coach for younger children. The possibilities are endless!

        Connection: Sparks spur youth to build networks of peers who share their interests. Sparks create engagement opportunities for caring 4-H adults who have the expertise to help them.

        Protective Factors: Youth pursuing their sparks are more motivated to succeed, stay out of trouble, and govern their own behavior.

        These youth tend to avoid behaviors that might endanger themselves or others, are motivated to succeed in academics, are self-aware, and make healthy choices.

        Positive Adjustment: Being engaged in one's sparks contributes to a larger sense of purpose in life, greater optimism, higher self-esteem. These youth tend to feel a sense of having a place in the world.

        Youth actively engaged in their sparks tend to feel a sense of knowing their "niche," and a sense of place in the world. They feel confident, knowing they have a place to fit in.

        Thriving Orientation: Youth who benefit from the people and places they are associated with grow in their connection, competence, caring, confidence, and good character. They have high personal standards and take responsibility. When they also start contributing, making the world around them a better place, they are said to be thriving.

        Sparks are at the heart of a young person's ability to achieve a thriving orientation, leading to highly positive 4-H outcomes.

        Research feature

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        How do youth find their Sparks?

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        Missouri 4-H programs offer many opportunities for youth to explore and discover their sparks.

        • Community clubs offer a variety of projects that youth can enroll in. This allows for exploration of a new interest and connection to other youth who are also interested in exploring that interest.
        • Like a project, 4-H SPIN clubs offer youth an opportunity to explore a new interest and connect with peers who have that same interest.
        • Afterschool programs introduce youth to different potential interest areas in a shorter amount of time, with freedom to branch off from structured activities and explore any one for as long as they wish.

        Learn more

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      Developmental relationships

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      4-H relationships are about trust, mutual warmth, and respect. 4-H adults are safe and they are here to help. When youth and adults do 4-H work together and everyone grows from the experience, it is a developmental relationship.

      Qualities of a developmental relationship:

      • Secure attachment between youth and adult.
        The relationship has mutual warmth, respect, and trust.
      • Bidirectional relationship.
        Youth and adult engage together in their 4-H work, with both gaining from the experience.
      • Grows over time to address changing needs.
        As their world grows more complex, so do the skills youth need to navigate it.
      • Shifts power over time.
        Developmental relationships eventually move from adult-driven to a partnership, reflecting the young person's "increasing competence, personal autonomy, decision making, and identity formation"

      Listening • Dependability • Accountability • Reflection • Empowering • Advocating

      Research feature

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      Quality programs

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      4-H programs are structured to make a positive difference in the lives of youth through high program quality.

      • Youth are safe at 4-H events, secure in knowing their ideas matter and that they belong.
      • Youth work in an environment they can trust to be positive and supportive, where they are encouraged to persevere when adversity arises.
      • These 4-H environments are structured for youth to believe in their abilities as they build new skills.
      • 4-H is a place where a young person's family, school, and community can all come together.
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      How do we know youth are thriving? Five indicators

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      4-H relationships are about trust, mutual warmth, and respect. 4-H adults are safe and they are here to help. When youth and adults do 4-H work together and everyone grows from the experience, it is a developmental relationship. Thriving occurs when youth are growing from their 4-H experience, and using that experience to help the world around them. Thriving occurs when youth are actively pursuing their sparks, supported by their environments (such as a 4-H program) and in developmental relationships that encourage this pursuit.

      An openness to challenge & discovery: They enjoy a challenge, and like to explore new things!

      A hopeful purpose They have a sense of purpose in life, and optimism for future.

      Positive emotionality They are genearlly positive and optimistic, and can manage their emotions.

      A pro-social orientation They are respectful, honest, responsible, caring, and value helping others.

      Intentional self-regulation: They set goals and create effective strategies to achieve them.
      They persevere, making adjustments when necessary to achieve their goals.

      Research feature

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      4-H developmental outcomes

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      According to to Arnold's (2019) Thriving Model of Positive Youth Development research, youth in 4-H are particularly likely to:

      • Grow in competence with their skills
      • Have high personal standards
      • Become more connected to their world.
      • Experience academic motivation and success
      • Engage in fewer risk behaviors
      • Make healthful choices
      • Contribute more to their club, community, country, and world.

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      Strategies for best results: What YOU can do.

      A hand holds a camera lens up in front of a moutain and lake view.
      • Encourage youth to explore many interests.
        This is how they find their sparks!
      • Celebrate the uniqueness of each individual.
        This helps your program enrich each young person, And creates opportunities to add value to 4-H.
      • Actively recruit underrepresented youth.
        This enriches your club with new perspectives, prepares youth for career success, and broadens the impact of your work.
      • Create engagement from a variety of safe and caring adults, rather than the same ones every time.
        This provides expertise for youth as they explore their sparks, and creates developmental relationships needed for thriving!
      • Model two-way communication between youth and adults.
        Mutual warmth and respect enhances fun, efficiency and growth.
      • Shift over time from adult-led to youth-led with adult support.
        This creates challenge, helps older youth prepare for careers, inspires younger youth, and makes your program more appealing. It is often the hardest thing for adults to do.
      • Help Missouri 4-H maintain high quality standards.
        Trained & screened volunteers with youth-led activities in a safe and fun environment provides a nutrients for opportunities to grow.
      • Recognize competence, connection, caring and character when you see it in youth.
        This reinforces the top developmental outcomes 4-H is wired to produce, and leads to contribution that benefits club, community, country and world.
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      PYD research base

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      Tools for success: Further reading

      In 4-H, Positive Youth Development is the idea that all youth have potential for bright futures. With opportunities to discover their sparks, and positive networks of youth and adults to assist them, 4-H helps youth thrive. The 4-H Thriving Model helps us understand how positive youth development works, and the power of youth makes 4-H the largest youth development organization in the world.

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    PYD - Youth version

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      Finding youth Sparks

      Two uniformed boys on opposite teams playing soccer in a field

      Everybody has a skill, a talent, a passion, or a special quality. We call these things SPARKS. They provide joy, purpose, and direction. Your Missouri 4-H experience will help you explore your sparks and support you in growing them. Sparks are central to who you are, and comes from deep within. It might be a talent, a skill, an important cause, or a special quality.


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        Why are Sparks important?

        Sparks create actions! With our heads, they help us make good choices, keep learning, and being our best. Sparks fuel our hearts, helping us grow and build new skills.

        This is almost always good for the world around you! Your sparks will give you many fun new ways to lend your hands to larger service. These sparks will help you stay healthy in mind and spirit, connecting you with friends who share them and adults who can help you build them.

        Pursuing your sparks helps you feel good about yourself, become more optimistic, and feel your place in the world. This is 4-H.

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        How do I find my Sparks?

        Five sets of hands rest on a piano keys

        Missouri 4-H offers many ways to do this! Take any 4-H project in a community club, join a 4-H SPIN club for a few weeks, or participate in a 4-H afterschool program.

        When you do these things, you will meet other youth who are probably there for the same reason you are. 4-H is a good way to meet new friends who like some of the same things you do!

        Get connected


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      Important relationships

      A young woman poses with her elderly grandmother for a portrait.

      4-H is about trust, mutual warmth, and respect. The 4-H adults who you work with are safe, and they are here to help. When youth and adults do 4-H work together and everyone grows from the experience, it is a developmental relationship.

      Getting older will bring changes in your life, so you can expect a higher level of challenge in your 4-H work as well. This will help you build the skills you need to lead and succeed when life is complex.

      Over time, as you grow new skills you will take more of a leadership role and adults will support you! You can be a leader and a teacher.

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      Quality programs

      Children jumping in front of a full moon that rests on the horizon.

      4-H programs are different than a lot of others. Here are some signs you're in a 4-H environment:

      • You feel safe, secure in knowing that your ideas matter and you belong.
      • You can trust the environment to be positive and supportive.
      • You find people encourage you to persevere during times when life feels difficult.
      • People remind you to believe in your abilities as you build new skills.
      • 4-H is a place where a your family, school, and community can all come together.
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      How do I know I'm on the right track?

      Portrait of a young smiling girl

      In 4-H, when you are following your sparks and are supported by great peers and adults in your life we call this thriving. Here are some signs from research that show you are on the right path:

      • You find you enjoy a challenge.
      • You like learning new things.
      • You are optimistic about the future.
      • You feel a sense of purpose.
      • You find you can manage your emotions.
      • You feel good about yourself.
      • You are respectful, responsible, and honest.
      • You find you care, and value helping others.
      • You get good at setting goals and creating strategies to achieve them!
      • When things get hard, you notice that you can persevere. You make adjustments when needed.
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      Developmental outcomes

      Portrait of a young man in a suit.

      According to research, here are some things that reflect you are getting the most out of 4-H:

      • You have high personal standards.
      • You are very competent at your skills.
      • You are connected to the people around them.
      • You are motivated to earn good grades and learn.
      • You make choices that contribute to good health.
      • You avoid choices that put themselves at risk.
      • You contribute, using your abilities to make the world a better place!
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      Strategies for best results: What YOU can do.

      A piar of hands with self-descriptive words written on the palms.
      • Explore many different interests.
        This is how you find your sparks!
      • Be yourself. Let other people be themselves too.
        Everyone's different &ellip; and we like it that way!
      • Connect with peers who are different than you.
        This gives you new ideas, helps you be more career ready, and helps you make a bigger difference in the great things you do!
      • Listen to adults, but share your ideas too.
        It's way more fun and useful!
      • Lead when you're ready, with adult support.
        This helps you get career ready, inspire younger youth, and keep things fun!
      • Engage with a variety of safe, caring adults.
        They have expertise that can help you!
      • Stick with high quality programs.
        4-H volunteers are trained and screened, to keep you safe and growing as a person!
      • Recognize the best in your friends.
        This reinforces the qualities you want to see!