Sticky notes and sticky dots can be powerful tools for youth leaders

Office supplies can help youth lead meetings, generate ideas and make decisions in groups.

In the 4-H Youth Development program of Michigan State University Extension, youth are encouraged and supported to take on leadership roles in clubs, community activities and events, and educational programs. In this capacity, youth often have the opportunity to lead groups through decision making and planning processes which can be an extremely valuable experience for youth as they develop a variety of life skills including leadership, cooperation, communication, conflict resolution, planning, organizing, problem solving and critical thinking among others. 

While youth gain these life skills through their leadership experiences, youth are also focused on being successful in getting work done while working in groups with their peers and adults. They are also aware that having the tools and skills for effective group facilitation can go a long way in ensuring successful, effective and fun group work.

Two especially useful and powerful “tools” that youth can use when leading a group might not be the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about meetings: sticky notes and sticky dots!  The always handy sticky note, or Post-It Note, and sticky dots (which are simple, colored circular stickers) can be extremely helpful for youth who lead a group and needs to generate ideas or choose a course of action.

Sticky notes are especially useful for generating ideas with a group.  When used as part of a brainstorming process, sticky notes can be used to solicit ideas from all group members, and to organize ideas in a way that is useful for the group to have a discussion.  4-H youth who are club officers might want to use this tool when trying to come up with ideas for a club fundraiser, a club field trip or a community service activity. 

The youth leader simply passes out sticky notes to the members of the group and asks them to write down ideas for whatever topic the group is discussing or planning.  It’s best if each group member does this step individually, as this allows each group member some time to think about the topic and come up with ideas that are meaningful to him or her.  After the group members have had some time to come up with ideas, the youth leader can ask for the members to share their ideas and place their sticky notes on a wall for everyone to see.  After everyone has had a chance to share their ideas, the group members may want to try grouping the ideas on the wall according to similarities or topics. The group can then discuss the different ideas generated, and get a feel for what the group is interested in doing.

For youth-led groups that are trying to make a decision within a specific area, sticky dots can be a fun, active way to come to a decision that does not isolate individual group members. It also allows everyone to have an equal say in decision making within a short amount of time.  Sticky dots could be used to vote on the most preferred idea that was generated from a sticky note brainstorming session.  In a simple application of using sticky dots for voting, each group member would be given the same number of stickers (generally between one and three). They are then instructed to place their sticky dot next to their choice among the alternatives which have been written down on a large sheet of paper, or on sticky notes.  If given multiple sticky dots, group members could choose to spread their “votes” between different alternatives or they could use all their votes for one option that they feel strongly about. After everyone has voted with his or her sticky dots, the youth leader can count the sticky dots for each alternative and announce the results to the group. An advantage of using sticky dots for voting in this way is that everyone gets to provide input. Therefore, the outcome represents the views of the group as a whole, rather than only those most comfortable speaking during a group discussion. 

For just a few dollars spent on these widely available office supplies, youth are provided with a useful tool when leading meetings. Michigan 4-H offers training programs for youth officers and leaders that provide instruction on these and other group leadership tools.  To learn more about local training opportunities, 4-H members and leaders should contact their local 4-H Program Coordinator.

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