On Establishing Positive Social Norms

Practitioner Tip Tuesday

On Establishing Positive Social Norms

Whenever I work with a group of 4-H youth I am reminded again what a wonderful job 4-H does at helping youth learn positive, respectful, and team-oriented behaviors. On the occasion that I work with youth who have not been in 4-H, I typically have to start with establishing clear expectations for the time we will spend together. In these cases I engage the youth in establishing a “community covenant,” which is the groups’ promise to each other about the things we decide are important for helping the group be successful. For Continue reading

Monday Musings: On Identity and Purpose

Like many 4-H members who grew up participating in animal projects, my first idea for a career was to be a veterinarian. As I started my first year of college, however, two things got in my way: organic chemistry and a wee problem with getting lightheaded at the sight of blood. I had never given alternative career possibilities much thought, a classic example of identity foreclosure by the way, which we really don’t want to promote as youth development professionals! (Wanna learn more? Watch this!) As my freshman year in college came to a close I was at a loss of what to do when it became clearer that veterinary medicine was no longer an option. So with nothing better to fill my schedule that spring, I signed up for a course called “Introduction to the Behavioral Continue reading

On Becoming a Growth Mindset Master at Camp

Thriving Thursday: On Becoming a Growth Mindset Master at Camp

By Guest Blogger Virginia (Mom Bear) Bourdeau, State 4-H Camping Specialist

You can teach an old Mom Bear new tricks!  But only if she has a Growth Mindset!

When Mary Arnold introduced us to the Thriving Model one of the lessons was on Growth Mindsets.  People who have a growth mindset believe they can get better at things by working hard and putting in effort.  This theory excited me because it validated antidotal experiences I had as a 4-H parent, volunteer leader, and educator.  If you didn’t participate in Mary’s training series, or need a refresher, see Carol Dweck in this YouTube video.

Project-based 4-H experiences encourage youth to do their best when they exhibit their work at fair.  Some times their efforts don’t quite meet the standard 4-H has set for excellence, and they receive a red ribbon.  A red ribbon means “not yet.”  They can try again for a blue ribbon in the future, and this encourages a Growth Mindset.  Unlike school where youth receive a grade and move on to the next lesson, 4-H challenges youth to become better. In fact, it is in our 4-H Motto: To Make the Best Better! Continue reading

Practitioner Tip Tuesday: The Puzzle of Developmental Relationships

Last month I traveled to Billings, Montana where the National Extension Conference on Volunteerism was taking place. I was invited to facilitate a pre-conference workshop on the 4-H Thriving Model with 4-H Volunteer Specialists from around the country. After a whirlwind morning where I left home at 3:30am to catch a first-of-the-morning flight to Salt Lake City, and then on to Billings, I arrived at lunch time and was ready to go by 1pm. I was excited to get to spend the afternoon with the group of people who will lead the way in preparing 4-H volunteers to help youth thrive.

Since many of the people who would be there had never heard of the 4-H Thriving Model, I knew I wanted to spend a good portion of the time we had together making sure everyone understood the model and how it describes how 4-H works its magic with youth. Doing so would take a good portion of the afternoon, but it also meant that everyone would be on the same page and ready to move forward together.

While I always enjoy sharing the 4-H Thriving Model with others, I was most looking forward to the second half of the session, because, let’s face it, I had a captive audience of creative and experienced professionals who could develop wonderful learning activities to teach the 4-H Thriving Model to 4-H volunteers! So later in the day the group split into smaller teams and tackled how they would teach some of the 4-H Thriving Model concepts to volunteers. I walked away with a whole stack of creative, quick, and fun ideas for teaching volunteers! And, with the gracious A-OKAY from the volunteer specialists, I get to share them here on Practitioner Tip Tuesdays!

So, let’s start with this idea on how to introduce Developmental Relationships:

Don’t Be Puzzled by Developmental Relationships

This activity is useful for teaching in groups of 10 or more, but can be adapted for smaller groups.


  • Create a large jigsaw puzzle of card stock or other heavy paper that has five pieces.
  • Write one of the five components that make up Developmental Relationships on each piece: Expressing Care, Challenging Growth, Providing Support, Sharing Power, and Expanding Possibilities


  • Break into five groups
  • Give each group one of the puzzle pieces and ask them to share a personal experience of the concept. For example “when was a time that you felt supported by an adult when you were young” or “did you ever have an adult in your life who challenged you to grow?”
  • After the groups have had time for discussion give each group a copy of the Fostering Developmental Relationships Handout and ask the group to read the handout, focusing on the component their group discussed.
  • Ask groups to discuss how they could foster their component when working with youth.
  • Put the jigsaw together by asking each group in turn to share one of their personal experiences and their ideas for how they can use the idea when working with 4-H youth.
  • Finish by pointing out that all five components are important to make the “whole” of a developmental relationship with youth.

Thanks to the following 4-H professionals for this wonderful activity:

Chris Mullens, Kansas; Shane Potter, Kansas; Pat McGlaughlin, Illinois; and Cathy Johnston, Nebraska

Thriving On,

Mary Arnold