That wasn’t the plan!

Making the most of changes in plans by turning them into even more successful learning lessons.

You spent the whole previous afternoon testing out the activity, loading your car early in the morning, and double-checking for all your supplies. Now you have an enthusiastic group of 25 youth slowly losing interest as their polymer slime is staying as runny as the Elmer’s glue base you started with. Everyone has faced this; sometimes it even seems the more you plan, the more likely it is that things will go wrong. Before you panic, fill the time playing hangman, or just cut your losses and pack up, consider these tips from Michigan State University Extension to turn a misstep into an even more effective learning experience:

  • Take a breath- When providing a program or an activity, it can feel like you are putting on a show that cannot have any interruptions. Instead, give yourself a minute to come up with a new approach by letting a co-leader take over or even have one of the youth lead their favorite group game.
  • Be prepared- Knowing that everything that can go wrong might help. Having other versions of the activity available or supplies to fix the problem at hand is important. Just because a change in plans can be learned from isn’t a reason to be underprepared. In other words, be prepared for the fact that your plans may not go the way you expected.
  • Be honest - Your participants will know that things aren’t going right. Be straightforward with them and even engage them in the problem solving process by explaining what went wrong and using some reflective thinking questions to come up with solutions.
  • Go with the flow - As youth become engaged in finding solutions the activity might take a completely new direction. Since you are prepared for different options, go with the new approach and youth will feel even more invested in what happens.
  • Celebrate success - Once there is success, either with the original task or what the activity has transformed into, be sure to acknowledge the accomplishment and discuss what additional skills it took to reach a solution.

Use these tips to make each experience a learning experience. It’s ok to be wrong! Making the most of these situations employs problem solving and other life skills that MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development find critical to a young person’s growth and development.