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Thursday, September 25, 2014

The impact of taking kids outside with D2D

Scouts-2010 048gerri fitzloff (1).jpgI want to take the opportunity in this final D2D eZine to praise all of the hard work done by our adult leaders. It is hard work leading one of these groups - there is group dynamics to navigate, science to teach, and encounters with questions you may not know the answers to. It's a challenge you've all risen to! This program not only cultivates a love and aspiration for science, but it fosters a love and appreciation for nature as well. As adult leaders you are both the facilitators and front seat spectators to all of that.

There is a LOT of competition with nature these days: technology (computers, video games, TV); more buildings, cars and roads; fear of strangers; parental attitude; fear of pests. The list could go on forever. For kids, boundaries are smaller, and the freedom to roam is diminished.

People have always had a fear of the unknown, and throughout history nature has often been included in that. The difference now is that collectively as a society, we know more about what's out in nature, but when we get down to the individual level the understanding isn't always there.

During my time as a naturalist and informal educator I observed fear of pests (among other things) first hand. I will never forget the mother who asked me if her children "could catch ticks" from being in the long grass where we were building our fort (having fun!). When I told her it was possible, but not likely as ticks were long past their peak, she immediately wanted to take her kids home and away from the fun they were having. I did not mention to her that it was also possible to "catch ticks" in her backyard...

I do not discount the fears and worries of parents - our world is a dangerous place! Or, at least it can be. One of the great things about D2D is that it gives youth some knowledge and the tools they need to navigate through a number of those fears and dangers in a way that empowers them, instead of doing all the work for them. In my opinion, spending time in nature is a huge part of the way humans learn. It is a way for children to gain confidence, build coordination skills, test the physical capabilities of their own boundaries, and learn what is acceptable socially.

It has been so wonderful watching all of this happening through your stories with the youth from D2D. One of my greatest pleasures in working with this project is seeing the impact it has had on all of our youth participants. The investigations youth do may be directed by them (with guidance, of course), but their passion was sparked by all of our wonderful adult leaders. And I know that many of these youth will grow up with a much larger appreciation for more than just birds or monarchs.

All of their experiences are in no small way thanks to all of you. They will remember what they did with you, their leaders, for the rest of their lives. I have no doubt that when they are older if they are ever asked "How did you know you wanted to do ____?" the answer will lead back to the season(s) they spent with you learning to identify birds and caterpillar instars, the investigations they developed, and the connections they made with their fellow youth, to science, and to nature.

So I and the rest of the D2D team would like to say THANK YOU to all of the adult leaders, past and present, for helping to create these experiences for children.

Katie-Lyn Bunney
Monarchs in the Classroom coordinator

Reminder: Insect Fair deadline Oct. 10

If your group plans to participate in the 2014 Insect Fair this December, the deadline to register is Oct. 10! The D2D team hopes to see all of you there! If you have questions about the Insect Fair or the registration process, please email Katie-Lyn (

The 18th Annual Insect Fair will be on Saturday, Dec. 6, 2014, at Coffman Memorial Union on the East Bank Campus of the University of Minnesota. Check-in will start at 9 a.m. and the event kicks off at 10 a.m.

What to expect on the eve before the Insect Fair

We will once again be hosting an event for D2D the evening before at the Continuing Education and Conference Center on the University of Minnesota St. Paul Campus. The event will be similar to last year: dinner, activities for the youth, and focus groups for the adults.

Katie-Lyn will be in touch with you all in the coming weeks with more details and to start making travel and lodging arrangements for those groups coming from out of state.

Research team updates

We will end this final D2D eZine with a video from Katie Humason's group highlighting their experience this summer. I hope all of our teams had as much fun as Katie's group did!

Thank you everyone for a great summer!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Reflecting on the experience...more tools and tricks you can use!

July's eZine included an article highlighting the importance of reflection to build the learning experience of young people in our research groups. This month we'll highlight additional tools to assist you in this vital task! Creating opportunities for young people to reflect on their experiences is a critical component to strengthening program quality, yet this is often the most challenging to implement.

So why is it so hard to do in our programs?
  • We fall into the trap of thinking of reflection as something that can only be done at the end of a program session, and we often run short of time to finish an activity, let alone reflection.
  • Most of us are not taught to be reflective learners nor are young people offered much opportunity to pause and reflect as part of their typical day or out-of-school program schedule.
Let's rethink reflection... see it not as that 'thing' that comes at the end of the activity, but the intentional 'thing' we can do throughout our program time which builds critical thinking skills and creates meaning, value, and wonder in learning. A great resource to help in facilitating this process is the field guide: Questions for guiding experiential learning.

Try a New Tool!

Use tools that reflect multiple intelligences and various learning styles. These resources offer a variety of short, easy-to-use reflection activities:

Four questions to ask yourself

Here are four indicators of youth having opportunity for reflection, based on youth program quality research (Smith, et al., 2013). How would you respond?

  1. Do I use two or more strategies to encourage youth to share what they have done and reflect on their experiences, challenges, accomplishments (e.g., drawing, debriefing activities, use of props or models, using technology)?
  2. Do I create strategies that have youth work together and talk in teams of two, small groups, and large group settings?
  3. Do I circulate and ask youth to talk about their activity or progress as they are working on a project? Do I encourage youth to explain their thinking? Do I ask mostly open-ended questions?
  4. How do I give opportunities for youth to demonstrate how they solved a problem?

Perhaps these questions or one of the tools will spark in you a new way to help young people "make meaning" of their experiences in the outdoors!


Cain, Cummings, Stanchfield (2008). A Teachable Moment - A Facilitator's Guide to Activities for Processing, Debriefing, Reviewing and Reflection. Kendall-Hunt.

Kolb, D.A. (1984). Experiential learning: experience as the source of learning and development. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

Smith, et al., (2013). Program Quality Assessment Handbook-youth version. David P. Weikart Center for Youth Program Quality, Forum for Youth Investment. Ypsilanti, MI.

Anne Stevenson, Extension educator & professor
Extension Center for Youth Development

Important dates and reminders

  • Next D2D conference call

    Our next D2D Adult Leader conference call will be on Thurs., Sept. 11 at 6 p.m. This will be your chance to ask any questions of us on how to wrap up your groups if you haven't already, what's coming next for D2D, what to expect at the Insect Fair this year, and let us know how your summers went! The number is 424-203-8075; Passcode: 795878#.

  • Mark your calendar for the Insect Fair

    Save the date: The 18th Annual Insect Fair will take place at Coffman Union on Dec. 6. More information will be coming soon in an email invitation, and D2D specific details will be talked about on the call in September.

  • Send in forms

    Please send in your consent forms, demographic information, attendance sheets and group rosters. They can be mailed to Katie-Lyn at 2003 Upper Buford Circle, 135 Skok Hall, St. Paul, MN 55122, or scanned and emailed to Katie-Lyn ( or Kim (

Research team updates: Team Curious Chickadees

1.jpgTeam Curious Chickadees finished their two week summer intensive summer camp in July and what a whirlwind it was!

Camp kicked off with an ice cream social where the kids drew pictures of their ideal scientists. Those ideal researchers were equipped for anything that nature might throw at them but most importantly they had many tools for observation, recording, analysis and communication so that their results could be validated and shared. After that the students felt well prepared to pack their own tools for the two-week D2D adventure.

Even the parents got into the fun (notice the birds all over Mrs Kimbrough's dress).

2.jpgTwo scientists visited to share their research process. Allyson Kennedy, a developmental biologist, wondered how vitamin A affects the development of a frog's embryos mouth, so the group helped her come up with some hypotheses and more testable questions to explore. Ecologist, Dr Daniel McGarvey, led an exploration of the creek where the group found macro-invertebrates and wondered how different leaf-litter levels might impact their abundance. Everyone learned a lot about aquatic insects but even more about how interconnected all species are in a habitat and how many variables can impact research.

Over the weekend the students were invited to watch bird-banding at the local MAPS station and one of them (now an apprentice-bander) was tasked with keeping the meticulous records of the station that day. They explained that this decade long collection of carefully recorded information could be analyzed to provide a clear picture of bird migration and habitat change at this site.


All of this information and wondering gave the group lots of questions that were refined to create testable research topics during a back-porch roundtable.


The group ended the week by hosting a supply drive for the local wildlife rehabilitators who modeled good presentation skills as they explained the impacts that humans have on birds.


This gave the group confidence to present preliminary results to their teammates and reflect on what they learned.

They will present their research at the Virginia Master Naturalist Convention this fall.
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