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Extension > Driven to Discover Citizen Science > August 2014

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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