MANHATTAN, Kan. — Over the weekend, 239 youth delegates ranging in ages from 13 to 18 convened a live, two-day, hands-on civics lesson at the state capitol.
Citizenship in Action, hosted by Kansas 4-H Youth Development, a statewide K-State Research and Extension program, is taking place in Topeka on Sunday and Monday with teens from 50 Kansas counties learning how the lawmaking process works.
This year’s 12th annual event features a new twist to creating legislation. Before learning the process of crafting, debating, and passing bills into law, youth delegates will learn skills in deliberative dialogue and finding common ground around issues.
The process will be led by nearly two dozen youth facilitators who received special training from the Institute for Civic Discourse and Democracy at Kansas State University. Those young leaders will model the deliberative dialogue concepts and lead their peers through the process.
The mock legislative process took place on Sunday, with tours of the Kansas Statehouse on Monday. Delegates will meet local legislators and practice communication skills while advocating for how youth can have greater engagement in their communities.
The civics educational and facilitation event is a coordinated youth-adult partnership between State 4-H Council Youth, Kansas 4-H Youth Development and the ICDD.
“This project is an invigorating and innovating practices in collective decision-making by employing a well-tested model for deliberation – the National Issues Forums protocol – in a legislative enactment,” said Donna Schenck-Hamlin, program manager for the ICDD and the Center for Engagement and Community Development.
By using the NIF model, Schenck-Hamlin said Kansas 4-H Youth will probe for values that underlie alternative perspectives on an issue, then find common ground for constructing proposals – “bills” – to address the issue.
“They are taking responsibility for not only developing consensus, but for monitoring their own reflections on the process of listening, comparing and deciding what might work for the greater good,” she said. “ICDD is proud to collaborate in this pilot run of legislation through deliberation by Kansas 4-H youth. We look forward to learning how the experience influences how decision-making at the local community and 4-H club are made.”
Citizenship in Action is a culmination of a series of new 4-H programming initiatives called Conversation Bootcamps, Youth Facilitation Training, and Community Conversation Forums.
Topics selected by youth for deliberative dialogue will center on three significant issues to discuss, debate and craft legislation:
- Mental Illness in America.
- How Do We Prevent Mass Shootings in our Communities?
- Land Use Conflict.
“Kansas 4-H continually refines our learning experiences to better equip young people with the skills they need to be successful,” said Wade Weber, state program leader for 4-H Youth Development at K-State. “I am so proud of how youth are bettering themselves through 4-H to be positive contributors to the discussions and decision-making that is happening daily in Kansas communities.”
4-H Youth Development is the youth development program for K-State Research and Extension and is available in all 105 Kansas Counties. 4-H provides experiences where young people learn by doing. Kids complete hands-on projects in areas like health, science, agriculture, and citizenship, in a positive environment where they receive guidance from adult mentors and are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles. To find out more visit kansas4h.org.
— Wade Weber, K-State Research and Extension
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