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Practice Briefs

Our Practice Briefs provide insight into key findings of current high-quality research on youth development topics. Writing in practical, straightforward language, contributors help distill the essential elements of these articles into immediately useable action steps. Let our research and writing strengthen your own practice without having to find and distill the information yourself! The information you find here will ensure your youth development strategies are up-to-date and based on effective practice and will help you “make your case” for the rationale behind your practice to organizational leaders and funders.

 

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How Much Is Too Much? Internet and Video Game Addiction

Playing video games and going online are part of living in an increasingly connected society. This comes with its fair share of parent-child power struggles over the amount of time young people spend online or with their devices. When do we call it addictive behavior? What are the signs of this type of addiction?  Author Erin Walsh explains what the research is saying so far and tells us what can be done.

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Raising Teenagers with a Strong Moral Compass: Cultivating Kindness and Empathy

"Three things in human life are important. The first is to be kind. The second is to be kind. And the third is to be kind." -Henry James. But, how do we adults nurture empathy and kindness.  Author Sandy Longfellow takes a look at the latest research and gives excellent examples and resources for anyone working with young people.  

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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The Latest Resources on Positive School Climate

Research indicates that building and maintaining positive school climate can have a powerful impact on academic success for both individual students as well as entire schools. Students experiencing positive climate don’t skip classes, do better academically, and are more likely to stay in school and graduate. Research also supports reduction in school problems such as bullying and violence. But, how do you build a positive school climate?  Read more...

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Real Youth Voice: What Works?

Author Deborah Fisher discusses the importance of developmental relationships.   This type of relationship is characterized by enduring emotional attachment, age-appropriate reciprocity between adults and young people, providing progressively more complex patterns of joint activity, and gradually shifting a balance of power from the developed person (i.e., the adult) to the developing person (i.e., the child and youth).  This Practice Brief goes on to help us understand how this give youth a voice.  

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
  • Youth Outreach
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Supporting Young People to Become Financially Informed and Competent: What Works

More and more schools are integrating financial literacy into their curricula. In 2016, 22 states required that high schools offer personal finance classes and 17 states went as far as to require that students take actually them. Research finds a strong relationship between financial knowledge and the likelihood of engaging in a number of financial practices: paying bills on time, tracking expenses, budgeting, paying credit card bills in full each month, saving out of each paycheck, maintaining an emergency fund, and setting financial goals. Author Sandy Longfellow explores positive financial literacy and provides tips for parents and staff to help our youth with this important lifetime skill.  

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
  • Youth Outreach
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Supporting Teen Employees: How Schools and Businesses Can Work Together

By the time all young adults in the U.S. reach age 22, 97 percent of them have held a job. Many teens find different pathways other than college into work.  Whatever path students take into the world of work, schools and employers can both help teen employees learn the skills they need to be successful.  Read more... 

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Youth Outreach
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Enduring Bonds: Grandparents and Grandchildren Near and Far

Let me show you how to draw a hand…” Sixteen-year-old Luke, who is taking a high school drawing class is sharing his knowledge with his grandmother who is also studying drawing. Conversations like this build relationships and connection across generations. Research shows that grandparents who are involved in the daily lives of their grandchildren can contribute to teens’ well-being and reap benefits for themselves. The question for families and professionals who work with youth is how to foster these enduring, positive bonds and how to maintain connections across geography and over time. Read more...

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
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Beyond Killing Brain Cells: Alcohol and the Adolescent Brain

For years, young people were discouraged from drinking and doing drugs because it would “kill brain cells.” Young people were warned against drinking because it was thought to eat away at their finite supply. It turns out that the latest evidence from brain science doesn’t back up this age-old advice. The human brain is far more plastic than originally thought and is capable of regenerating cells throughout the lifespan. Perhaps even more important, the number of brain cells you have isn’t as nearly important as how you use the ones you have. So does this mean that alcohol doesn’t impact the teen brain? Not so fast. Read more...

Topics Covered:

  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Nurturing Young People’s Creative Inquiry & Expression: The Role of the Arts and Beyond

Creativity has many facets. Its hallmarks include originality, purposefulness, and communication. Creativity involves effort “to make something work, to make something better, more meaningful, or more beautiful.” Research links creative youth development programs, including those focusing on arts, humanities, and science with positive outcomes for youth.  Arts programs, both in- and out-of-school, provide important avenues for young people to find their voice and discover and hone their capacity for creative problem-solving, self-expression, and innovation. Read more....

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Bullying Prevention: The Latest Research on What Works

Bullying remains an intractable problem in schools. Affecting more than a quarter of middle and high school students every year, bullying is considered one of the most prevalent and potentially damaging forms of school violence. Researchers agree there is no single solution to preventing bullying, however in recent years, studies suggest a combination of evidence-based approaches can help reduce bullying.  Author, Debora Fisher examines one approach,  social and emotional learning and how it can be used in the fight against bullying.  

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Getting to Calm: Trauma Sensitive De-escalation Strategies for Adolescents

Many children who have experienced toxic stress (stress that is “too much, too long, and with too little help”) develop a hyper-vigilant stress response system that is fine tuned to perceived threats in their environment. For these young people, school and youth programming can feel like a battlefield, scattered with triggers that initiate a stress response. Read more about author Erin Walsh's exploration into the research on a trauma sensitive approach to de-escalation.  

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
  • Youth Outreach
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Depressed or Delighted? Adolescent Mental Health and Social Media

How social media is impacting our youth? is a big question being asked.  Author Erin Walsh explores the research that is available on social media and mental health.  Studies are just starting to provide some answers.   

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
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New Trends in Reforming School Discipline

Author Deborah Fisher follows the newest trends and thinking on school discipline.  She looks at the Council of State Governments’ study, called Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement and discusses how it's findings are changing the way we think about the school-to-prison pipeline disparities. 

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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R U Getting Lost in Books Anymore? Youth Literacy in the Digital Age

News headlines over the last ten years have consistently lamented the decline of literary reading among youth and young adults in the United States. The National Endowment for the Arts sounded one of the first warnings of this trend in 2004 with a report entitled Reading at Risk: A Survey of Literary Reading in America.1 Reports since then have reinforced this stark picture, pointing to steep drops in literary reading and reading for pleasure among 15-24 year olds.2 In addition to a decline over time, recent data shows that reading for fun drops precipitously from childhood to the teenage years. Read more...  

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Family Engagement: Refining our Approach

It seems intuitive that the more families are involved in the educational lives of their children, the better those children will do in school. Some compelling research supports this view. However, not all researchers are convinced the strategies being promoted are the right ones. Author Deborah Fisher looks at what family engagement in schools means and discusses the many ways to achieve meaningful parent engagement.  Read more...

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
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Giving Voice to Youth in Foster Care

(Opening excerpt) Living on the street for many months, Lamar Campbell had ample experience with services provided to homeless youth. “I noticed a recurring theme, the lack of youth input in how services operate,” wrote Campbell in a blog for The Mockingbird Society (TMB), a Seattle-based organization that aims to reform foster care and end youth homelessness. Even when services providers asked youth for opinions in feedback sessions, Campbell noted it was typical to be told to “man up” and deal with what was offered or go find another program. “This is not an uncommon response to serious youth feedback,” concluded Campbell......

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
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The Case of Mindfulness in Our Schools

Children and teenagers today are dealing with extraordinarily high levels of stress. Add to that all the distractions kids face today -- social media and smartphones, for example -- and it makes paying attention in school a lot harder. Author Sarah Rudell Beach explains how mindfulness is showing to be a powerful tool for helping students to be more engaged in school and to stay in the present while at school.  

 

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Today's Parks and Recreation: More than fun and games

Since the late 1800's when parks and recreation departments began to focus on providing a safe place for youth they have evolved to being more than just a place kids can go to.  Author Deborah Fisher looks at what the research is telling us about the important impact and role they play in positive youth development and our youth.   

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
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Promoting Resilience for Adolescents in Military Families: Recent Research

Adolescence is a time of developmental changes, challenges, and opportunities for youth in military and non-military families alike. Overall, many adolescents in military families seem to be healthy and enjoy positive outcomes. Author Sandy Longfellow looks at some of the latest research regarding the critical factors that shape a young person’s capacity to adapt to military life. 

 

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
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Summer Camps and Positive Youth Development

It has been believed by parents, camp staff and youth themselves that camp experiences have profound effects on the development of youth.  Until now there have not been robust studies to support that idea.  Author Erin Walsh looks at the recent research; read on to see what she found.  

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
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LIKE! Using Social Media to Promote Positive Behaviors

Social media has been linked to many negative behaviors involving young people.  But can it have a positive effect?  Author Kiyah Duffey explores some of the research on this topic and provides hope and ideas on how it can be a positive influence.  

Topics Covered:

  • Informal Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Creating a Reliable World: The Critical Role of Trusting Relationships in the Development of Self-Discipline

It has been nearly fifty years since the original marshmallow experiment, launching a series of studies that have shed significant light on the important role that self-discipline plays in children's success. Author Erin Walsh looks at the newest research using marshmallows and how this informs us about trust and reliability. 

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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The Impact of Mentoring: What Youth Have to Say

Currently, more than 5,000 mentoring programs serve an estimated three million young people in the United States. A deep dive into program evaluations finds that mentoring helps improve both promotion and prevention outcomes for youth across behavioral, social, emotional, and academic domains. But what are the youth saying about mentoring programs? Author Deborah Fisher looks at the recent research on the effectiveness of mentoring and what youth are saying. 

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Food and Holiday Traditions as a Means of Engagement

What role do schools and youth-serving organizations play in supporting children’s mental and emotional health around the holiday season? Author Kiyah Duffey provides us the latest insight into family engagement, traditions and the connection to food. 
 

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
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Families Serving Together: Passing Down Traditions of Giving and Volunteering

Holidays are a time of gratitude and giving, and many Americans have a tradition of helping others, both formally and informally.  Author Sandy Longfellow looks at the latest research on family volunteering and how this time spent with family and helping others promotes thriving in young people.

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Role Models
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Movement Matters: Exercise Builds Strong Brains and Positive Outcomes for Youth

There is growing evidence that physical activity has a significant positive impact on the brain. In this Practice Brief author Erin Walsh provides insight into the latest research on the topic and provides specific recommendations for filling the “opportunity gap”  for students.

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Bring Youth to the Table: Fostering Connections through Meals

School lunches are getting a make over but improvements in what kids are served in the school lunch line still leaves room for improvement in how they eat while at school. Author Kiyah Duffey discusses the vital role teachers and school staff can play.

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Teens Bonding With Grandparents: A Path to Positive Outcomes

The health of our society can be gauged by the strength of its inter-generational bonds and one of the strongest and most enduring bonds is the grandparent-grandchild relationship.  Author Sandy Longfellow explores the latest research on the grandparent-grandchild bond and what can be done to help make them the best they can be.

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Youth Outreach
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Engaging Youth, Empowering Healthy Food Choices

The ways in which we interact with children can have profound effects on their self-regulation: the ability of a child to govern him/herself in very specific ways. Research has also shown that children who have the opportunity to practice self-regulation, as they do when making their own food decisions, fair better later in life: they have higher self-esteem, better test scores and are more resilient. Author Kiyah Duffey explains what we can do to help children of all ages to becoming better at self-regulation. 

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
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The Promise of Natural Mentoring for Older Youth in Foster Care: New Research Findings

Researchers note that youth in foster care, who have experienced adversity and disrupted relationships and are not able to turn to their families for assistance, are at increased risk as they attempt to make a successful transition to adulthood. Author Sandy Longfellow explores natural mentoring as a promising approach to help youth in foster care make this transition. 

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Youth Outreach
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Setting the Stage for Youth Engagement in Programs: The Role of Youth-Adult Relationships

Author Sandy Longfellow discusses the latest research in what needs to be in place for successful youth engagement in programming. 

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
  • Youth Outreach
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Delivering on a Promise: New Directions in Mentoring

Author Deborah Fisher, explains the success of Maine colleges and the their mentoring programs.  The result, hundreds of college students mentoring hundreds of children with outstanding impact. 

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Youth Outreach
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Bullying in the Digital Age: Tips for Building a Culture of Respect On and Offline

With the increased attention to bullying and cyberbullying across the country, schools are scrambling to address both age-old and emerging challenges. Author, Erin Walsh gives us the recent research to help us better understand the scope of the problem and craft more effective solutions.

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Increasing Self-Esteem and Self-Efficacy through School Gardens

Author, Kiyah Duffey reviews the research to find a possible connection to self-esteem and gardening programs.  Read how the two are connected. 

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Informal Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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Bullying: The Role of the Helpful Bystander

In this Practice Brief, Bolster Collaborative contributor, Deborah Fisher, discusses how children who witness buillying are negatively effected and how a test project explored the concept of turning passive bystanders into helpful peacemakers.

Topics Covered:

  • Engagement
  • Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Staff Development
  • Student-Teacher Relations
  • Youth Outreach
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Every Kid Needs Adults Who Care: What the Research Says

In this Practice Brief Bolster Collaborative contributor, Sandy Longfellow, discusses recent research that clearly confirms the important role non-parent adults play in the development of youth with a strong sense of social connectedness in adolescence and well being in adulthood.

Topics Covered:

  • Mentoring
  • Role Models
  • Student-Teacher Relations
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