Design local cultural adventures for youth

Cultural education can take place without ever leaving your own community – follow these tips for a successful event.

Cultural education can take place without ever leaving your local community. Youth ages 13 and up involved as 4-H Ambassadors in the Washtenaw County 4-H program take a day out of their summer each year to better understand their community.

Each year, the destination varies based on the group, their interests and the areas they reside. If possible, the advisor coordinates a trip to a community within the county lines in which the group is less familiar. Regardless of the destination, the experience is always eye opening for the participants. The intent is to assure that youth who represent the entire Washtenaw County Michigan 4-H program have a broader understanding of and appreciation for their entire community.

In order to make the most out of a cultural experience in your community, try the following tips:

Schedule visits with community agencies

Local non-profit and service organizations may serve a particular community need, work with an underserved population or provide unique services that add value to your community. Many times the individuals who volunteer or work for these organizations can share insights the average community resident may have never considered.

Tour a local historical museum or site

Even if youth have lived in that community their entire lives, a visit to a local historical museum may shed new light on their community. Even hearing the same stories at a different time in their life will lead to new discoveries.

When visiting local service agencies, plan beyond a visit or tour and see if there are ways you can volunteer. Maybe the food pantry or donation bin needs sorting or a mailing needs preparing. Even if youth are only able to spare 30 minutes, their services may be greatly appreciated by a small agency. Collecting pantry or food items for a local agency is only part of the learning process; making sure youth have an opportunity to visit the community agency and learn the difference their donation is making is critical.

When traveling around a community, walk rather than drive if it’s possible. Walking through a community allows youth to slow down and observe their surroundings; it also makes things like texting their friends more difficult, forcing them to look around. Point out unique or historical sites, homes or buildings. Provide participants with maps of the area so they understand the size and scope of the community, and the relationship to their homes and neighborhoods.

Enjoy local or ethnic cuisine
Even if the food doesn’t directly relate to the community’s cultural heritage, new experiences are always a good idea. Encourage youth to at least sample something new during lunch, even if they don’t order it as their entrée.

The experiential learning process (page C-1) encourages youth to do an activity, reflect on their experience and apply what’s important. Ask them what they learned and how their experiences might change the way they do something in the future, then provide ways to follow-through.

For example, if a youth says she wants to volunteer at a community agency in the future, provide the information she needs to make the connections, however, resist making the phone call for her.

For more information on global and cultural education for youth, please visit Michigan 4-H Youth Development’s website on Global and Cultural Education.

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