From Jennifer: How do we inspire youth to understand, relate and connect to other people?
I am passionate about an idea called global citizenship. Many people, when I tell them this is my specialty area, assume I’m describing some sort of foreign concern, something that happens across international borders. But global citizenship is close to home rather than far away. In fact, it begins with how we relate to our neighbors.
As 4-H leaders, it is our privilege and responsibility to partner with youth in creating learning experiences that challenge them to be change agents who think globally and act locally. To consider the world as they engage with people in their family, club and community.
Does this get you excited?
Here are a few ways you can build global citizenship skills into your upcoming 4-H learning experiences:
- Introduce new words and phrases. Language is a tool to name the world and describe reality. Encourage youth to expand their vocabulary with words that reflect the spirit of global citizenship such as empathy, mindfulness, perception, privilege, power, worldviews, culture, tolerance for ambiguity, and more. You can create puzzles that help youth learn new words or create laminated posters that illustrate vocabulary and hang them each time your club meets.
- Build responsibility. Help youth cultivate a sense of agency and personal responsibility by encouraging them to identify goals that are increasingly challenging over time. Teaching youth to set goals effectively can be life-changing. You could also pair youth with mentors. Mentors not only help expand the world of youth, but they can also provide feedback that enables youth to gauge their own progress.
- Look out for others. Social responsibility grows from a commitment to the welfare of others. Whether it's at the county fair, in a club meeting, or during a leadership retreat, cultivate a culture where youth are looking out for each other. Start by inviting youth to identify group agreements; a set of clear, co-created guidelines to help everyone feel comfortable in an atmosphere of safety, respect, and trust. Once developed, your group can regularly revisit the agreements to see if they are still working and make changes if issues come up.
- Model thoughtful action. Pay close attention to your actions and be ready to admit your faults and mistakes, especially those involving the youth you work with. Show youth that you care, are ready to accept your faults and work on them. The results you wish to see in youth stem from the effort you put into yourself. Practice honesty, fairness, care for others, and care for yourself.
It’s your leadership that makes a difference
I am so grateful to the many youth and adult leaders who give their time to help 4-H’ers learn and lead. I look forward to hearing how you integrate some of these global citizenship skills into your upcoming 4-H learning experiences!
Jennifer A. Skuza, PhD
Minnesota 4-H state director