The Extension Center for Youth Development held its fourth in a series of symposia on social and emotional learning last week. The topic continues to capture the attention of local, national and even international professionals in the field of youth development, and was attended by more than 320 people who participated in person and online from 37 states, Canada and Puerto Rico.
The symposium explored how young people learn social and emotional learning skills in youth programs and the strategies adults who work with them use to support this learning.
Out-of-school time programs provide rich settings for youth to learn and practice social and emotional learning skills. In 4-H, youth engage in hands-on activities and projects, work in teams, take on meaningful roles, face challenges, and experience the accompanying up and downs. As a result, youth learn 21st century skills such as problem solving, teamwork, responsibility, initiative or grit, and emotional management. It is critical that we understand how this learning unfolds, and how we as adults can support that process.
Our speakers were Reed Larson, a professor in the Department of Human and Community Development at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and past president of the Society for Research on Adolescence. Reed spoke about how youth learn a distinct set of skills in youth programs, and the important role that youth, programs and staff play in that learning process.
Natalie Rusk, who has a PhD in child development at Tufts University and is a researcher and developer at the Massachusetts Institute Of Technology Media Lab, where she specializes in designing programs that build on young people’s ideas and interests, spoke about how young people learn about emotions in youth programs; learning not only to manage emotions, but also to use emotions in constructive ways.
Lisa Diaz is the assistant dean & director of 4-H Youth Development at the University of Illinois Extension and a learning scientist with over 23 years of experience promoting spaces for youth development that connect both classroom and out-of-school time. Lisa shared a case example to illustrate the programmatic structures that are key to supporting learning skills.
The symposium also provided opportunities for attendees to have rich discussions about what the information shared meant for them and the programs they support.
I encourage staff who were unable to participate to watch the recording of the presentations, which will be available soon on the SEL web page.