AMES, Iowa - Over the past year, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development staff have been providing facilitator trainings for Ricochet: An Extreme Leadership Adventure across the state. Ricochet is a middle school leadership initiative for youth participating in 4-H, school and community programming across the state.
After revising the 12-year-old curriculum in 2020, Iowa 4-H staff saw the need to both train and retrain staff and educators across the state so they could deliver the Ricochet program with fidelity and provide an effective learning experience for the youth to fulfill the expected outcomes. Revisions to the curriculum included updated activities and photos to reflect diversity and safety for the youth, inclusion of the Iowa and national core standards for education, connection to social and emotional learning skills, and improved organization of the 330-page curriculum.
Two types of facilitator trainings have been offered across the state over the past 18 months, a one-day booster training for those who had been previously trained with the original curriculum and a two-day new training for individuals new to the Ricochet program. Currently, Iowa 4-H has trained 52 4-H staff and school educators in the new training and 17 staff and educators in the refresher training.
“As youth program specialists in northwest Iowa, we were getting requests from schools for leadership programming for middle school youth,” explained Lisa Berkland, 4-H youth program specialist and one of the original authors of Ricochet. “Not finding anything nationally at the time  that was research-based and fit this need, we were determined to fill the gap. It was well worth it looking back and knowing that over 20,000 youth have benefited from our work so far.”
Ricochet uses adventure and experience to encourage learning by doing. Trained educators in the Ricochet program can help youth build their leadership skills as they go through a series of activities and get involved in a real project that their community needs. By participating in the Ricochet program, youth can identify leadership opportunities, accept the challenges, and make an impact as they make choices and share their voice.
Lenihan Intermediate School in Marshalltown, Iowa, has been implementing Ricochet for nine years. “We initially started offering the program to build our own leaders as role models,” said Liz Jurgensen, associate principal for Lenihan Intermediate School. “Since its inception, we are amazed at the passion and compassion of our students. Not only are the students in this organization trained in leadership skills, they also are asked to apply those skills to plan service-learning projects within their school and community.”
Ricochet participants in Marshalltown have planned several successful fundraisers to contribute money toward their school and other community organizations. Service projects have included boxed food drives to replenish the school food pantry, a book drive to help families that were affected by tornado damage, Earth Day cleanup project, and donations to the Marshalltown Food Box, Animal Rescue League, and the local splash pad.
To learn more about Ricochet: An Extreme Leadership Adventure or to attend a facilitator training, please visit the website, https://www.extension.iastate.edu/4h/ricochet.
- Ricochet Training: 4-H staff and school educators from across the state received the two-day, facilitator training to implement Ricochet into their programs.
- Team Labyrinth: 4-H staff from across the state participate in a Team Labyrinth activity during a two-day Ricochet facilitator training in Independence, Iowa.