Dogs take center stage…youth, hands-on learning and dog care.

Submitted by Dana Palmer, Sr. Extension Associate College of Agriculture & Life Sciences, Cornell University

If you go beyond the tag line and sound bite (or twitter text) and listen you will hear the growth and development that takes place when young people are engaged in 4-H.  This is just one of many potential news stories that captures adult and youth perspectives. Public events simply give youth opportunities to demonstrate their skills.

On a historical timeline, this extension program is quite young. 4-H Dog Care and Training program activities began in 4-H in New York between 1952 and 1965. It was not until 1963 when Dr. Harold A. Willman (Cornell University Animal Science Department Professor) published the second edition of “A 4-H Handbook and Lesson Guide” which included a plan for developing a 4-H Dog Obedience Training Course.   Weekly lesson plans (using evidence based principles and practices) are still valuable today!

From what I have been able to glean from historical files, it was not until the 1970’s that a NYS 4-H Dog Show was held at the NYS Fair under the direction of Dr. Dennis A. Hartman (Animal Science Department Professor).  Dr. Hartman was also commissioned by the National 4-H Council to revise several publications he prepared in NY in 1977 with the help of several 4-H volunteers in our state. Those publications were revised in 1983. For all NEW 4-H Dog instructors, the University of Wisconsin revised the basic obedience lessons again in 2004.

Although knowledge content can be shared “on-line”, nothing replaces actual hands-on skills practice when learning how to manage time and resources, cook, drive, dive, fly, play music or care for other living things.

Campus to Farm Guide

The Cornell Small Farms Program recently published a “Campus to Farm” guide that highlights everything from fruit to forestry projects led by Cornell faculty and educators around the state. The guide reveals the breadth of Cornell connected  research happening in New York State, and the deep connections between research and extension. It is a great example of outreach and a handy tool for navigating the sometimes bewildering corridors, byways and trails of research. If you are a small farmer, or interested in the current state of small farms research happening here at Cornell take a look!

An online version of the guide is available here:

Or you can download a pdf of the guide here:


Acting with Intent : Citizen U. and Civic Ensemble at the NY State Fair

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOne element of the Extension Reconsidered project here in New York State is focused on re-claiming theater as a tool for extension. There is a history of theater in extension work that has faded from recent memory. We are hoping that our collaboration with Civic Ensemble will reveal the value of theater as a method for presenting issues in a way that fosters dialog and deliberation. One of the major elements of our collaboration will be the creation of a new theater piece exploring the major themes and issues that have surfaced as the result of our Extension Reconsidered activities. This currently unnamed piece will premier at our capstone event on October 8, 2014.

Being creative and collaborative traveling companions, Civic Ensemble members have participated in a number of brainstorming sessions with us during the past few months. During one of theses sessions a vague and tentative plan was developed to ‘do something’ with 4-H at the New York State Fair. The initial ‘something’ was a vision of extreme beauty and perfection, but -like many visions – reality sets in and you move from blue sky aspirations to practical application.

Rubber, meet road.

In this case, what evolved was a one and a half day workshop with 4 youth from the Citizen U. project of Broome county culminating in a performance in the Youth building at the fair. Working with the youth were Godfrey Simmons, artistic director of Civic Ensemble and Ryan Travis, actor and instructor at Syracuse University. The youth – Embroidery, Nosa, Macalah and Desiree – were taken through the process of creating and staging a performance that built on the 4-H theme for the State Fair of “The power of Youth”.  The day and a half of workshop included the full gamut of theater arts including script writing, acting, directing and performing.

IMG_0160Using “The Power of Youth” as a thematic frame, Embroidery, Nosa, Macalah and Desiree worked with Godfrey and Ryan to develop a piece that was rooted in the lived experience of the youth, and also spoken in the voice of the youth. The subject, language and staging of the piece was facilitated by Godfrey and Ryan but was wholly determined by the interests and desires of the youth.  The resulting piece, titled “The Power of You” was premiered on the main stage of the Youth building on Wednesday August 27. (You can view video of performance below or at Youtube)

Agree, disagree or…

During the workshop process the youth engaged in an exercise called ‘agree,disagree,not sure’ (variations of this activity include Spectrogram and Four Corners). This activity uses a statement, or series of statements, and (not surprisingly) three signs labeled “Agree”. “Disagree” and “Not Sure”. The statement is read aloud and then participants move to the location denoted by the sign that best indicates their feeling about the statement. Then a discussion ensues with participants explaining why they feel as they do. This process can lead to some sorting of participants if, during the ensuing discussion, points are made that cause them to re-consider their position.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter the performance on Wednesday the youth/actors engaged with the audience using the “Agree, disagree” activity. And, while the environment was not ideal (noisy, a lot of traffic passing by) a fairly animated discussion took place. The youth moderated, evoked responses and actively listened, while audience members engaged in dialog.

There is, of course, a lot more that happened during the day and a half of work. And there will be some follow up performances of the piece: the first at the Broome county Extension Reconsidered event on September 12 and then again at our capstone events here on campus on October 8. We’ll be sure to document those performances here as well. And if you would like information about attending either of these upcoming events please let us know! (Post a comment here and we’ll get back to you with details.

 The Power of You premier at the NY State Fair


A few images from the workshop



Ithaca Journal interview with Chris Watkins – Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension

In February of 2014 Chris Watkins, Professor Postharvest Physiology, Department of Horticulture, Cornell University and Associate Director of Cornell Cooperative Extension from 2006-2014, became Director of CCE. Recently the Ithaca Journal sat down with Chris to talk about the future of Cooperative Extension here in New York State.  In response to one question Watkins says “… out there in the real world, there’s a lot of different views of the role of government in this type of activity. A very good question is ‘Well, in the age of Google, why do you need extension?’ .
Visit this link to read the full interview and find his answer to the question “in the age of Google, why do you need extension?“.

Extension Reconsidered – The Poster

ER PosterAre you planning an Extension Reconsidered event in your county or community and are in need of a poster to help raise awareness? We’ve just developed a basic Extension Reconsidered poster suitable for printing in a variety of sizes and we’d be happy to share it with you. Please contact us and we’ll send you an electronic copy of the customizable ER poster.

Ways of doing extension work and imaginary futures

As part of the Extension Reconsidered project we are involved in a number of deliberative forums that present 3 ways of undertaking the work of extension as a basis for dialog. While these three views are not necessarily mutually exclusive they do represent different methodologies and, if taken to their logical endpoints, different future outcomes. And I am using the term outcomes in a full and robust sense – not just for our system but for society and culture writ large.

At an early age we are told to put away the crayons and deal with the real world. And so we ‘grow up’, take jobs, create families; but we never really abandon the imaginary, the hoped for. We each carry within ourselves a vision (however obscured) of how we think the world should be.  The three views we are using as a basis for deliberation in this project present arcs of work that move towards a culminating vision of how the world should be, of how things should work. It takes some imagination to move from here (the three views of work) to there (a future endpoint) but…we all undertake this work, the work of extension, because we want to change the world. We want to change the world because we know it is broken and in need of our care and attention. And we want the future to be better, we want the future to be at least one step further down the path to what we imagined life could be.

We also want to be taken seriously in our work and so the crayons –generally – remain safely in the box. And we are busy people, moving from task to task to program to meeting. But I think it’s time to open the box of crayons, sit down with some newsprint and go to town. Let’s unlock the visions and imaginations we had in youth and temper that with what we have learned so far in life. Let’s let our imaginations run rampant across the fields of our hard won experience to reconnect with and re-imagine the futures we used to dream of.

Let’s tell more stories that shine with the light of what we hope for
Let’s paint murals that enliven the villages, towns and cities of our future(s).
Let’s perform the plays, dance the dances, and sing the songs that exist in our secret dreams of a better world.
Let’s reclaim the mundane and transform it, in order to fuel visions and dreams.
Let’s remember why we do the work we do and then speak that remembrance.

Paul Treadwell

Mona Caron - Noe Valley Mural

Mona Caron – Noe Valley Mural

Image from a mural by Mona Caron -
Mona Caron is a San Francisco-based professional artist, focusing on site-specific and community-reflecting murals in public space.

October 8, 2014 – Voices & Values: Extension, engagement and the future

Save the date! During the afternoon of October 8, 2014 plan on coming and participating in the capstone event of the Extension reconsidered project in New York State. We’ll be gathering in Barnes Hall here at Cornell University for an afternoon of stories, theater and discussion as we wrap up the project. Minimal PowerPoint and maximum dialog is our clarion call for this event. Staying true to our theme of “Join the conversation” there will be plenty of opportunities to interact and engage with friends and colleagues who are passionate about the future of Cooperative Extension.

The afternoon will be (loosely) divided into three chapters. During the first we’ll present a snapshot of some of the key moments from the project. Chapter two will consist of a performance by Civic Ensemble (plus a few special guests) woven from voices that have contributed the conversation around Extension Reconsidered here in New York State these past few months. And chapter three is an open invitation to dialog.

We’re anticipating a dynamic, thought provoking afternoon and we’d like you to join us!

October 8, 2014 1:30-4:00 PM

Barnes Hall (Click here for map)

Cornell University

Ithaca, NY 14853

Extension Reconsidered Deliberative Forum held on Cornell Campus 6/25/14

On June 25th we held our first deliberative forum, here on campus. This first forum was a ‘beta test’ in many ways, allowing us to test our issues guide and the forum process. The continually surprising result (and this happens whenever we gather people together under the extension reconsidered umbrella) is that people are passionate, creative and concerned about the cooperative extension system.

A few key highlights from the discussion:

  • Need to be clear on what CCE’s competitive advantage is
  • CCE has a responsibility to push the cutting edge
  • CCE might be more intentional about handing off initiatives (start new programs with the intent of spinning them off)
  • CCE’s role is to focus on emerging and new issues (once no longer an emerging issue abandon or hand off)
  • Need to mix and blend ongoing and new programs
  • CCE is involved in all 3 views but might be more intentional in exploring trade-offs
  • Other entities have outreach; we can offer high quality educational programs for the public; emerging issues backed by sound science
  • Maintain two way exchange with communities; dialog with communities
  • Extension educators have a unique role; sometimes a mediating role (historically the role has not changed that much); trusted intermediaries; ability to synthesize info
  • Indications that regional ag programming has been successful; educators more highly trained; easier for faculty to build relationships with the specialists
  • We need a mix of regional specialists and educators working at the community level.
  • Can CCE shift from being competitive to collaborative?
  • Site and context matters – local interpretation important
  • CCE – providing clean science communication environments
  • CCE needs educators who can deal with polarization and who can navigate complex and controversial issues
  • Time to offer Public Issues Education again
  • There can be risks to reaching out to new audiences; community engagement can put you at risk; expectations can be high
  • Community development knowledge needed
  • We want educators who enjoy their positions; have to recognize their stress and help them set limits
  • Having an impact is important; content with some community development skills can lead to impact and success
  • CCE can support education, democracy and a civil society

CCE and University-Community Engagement

Click here to download a pdf version of CCE and University-Community Engagement

Cornell Cooperative Extension is the university engaged and embedded in New York State communities. Currently, there is renewed interest within Cornell University around the concept of “university-community engagement.” The Cooperative Extension System can use this interest as an opportunity to more fully articulate extension work as engagement.

Public engagement is a broadly inclusive term to encompass the variety of ways that Cornell works to effect positive change in the world. “Conceiving of the university’s outreach mission as ‘public engagement’ is an important shift because it recasts that mission in broader and more inclusive terms.”  CCE is a key player in assisting the university in public engagement in NYS. CCE supports the language of public engagement that has recently been developed that includes community-engaged research, community-engaged teaching and learning, outreach and dissemination, the scholarship of engagement.

In order to fully understand and gauge our relationships with communities it is important to look at the range of engagement, reflect on where Cooperative Extension System (CES) has traditionally been positioned, and consider what a truly engaged university might look like. One of the goals of CCE’s new 5 years plan entitled, “People, Purpose, Impact: A Strategy for Engagement in the 21st Century,” is to implement action steps to enhance CCE’s role in university-community engagement and to more fully brand our work that supports meaningful engagement.

Fundamental to the success of CCE’s unique approach are skilled educators. We believe that educators need to be aware of the technical, political, economic, environmental, and social complexities of New York’s communities and regions. We expect all educators to 1) have a basic understanding of community development principles and practices, 2) be adept at building relationships, developing partnerships and fostering collaborations, and 3) be able to help communities synthesize different kinds of knowledge which includes making accessible research findings. The relationship aspect needs to be underscored as essential for truly effective educators working with a wide range of partners: other educators, faculty and campus based associates, community members and increasingly students. Ideally extension educators position themselves as co-learners and co-researchers with their project partners.

University-Community Engagement is embedded in CCE’s new mission and vision statements.


Cornell Cooperative Extension puts knowledge to work in pursuit of economic vitality, ecological sustainability and social well-being. We bring local experience and research based solutions together, helping New York State families and communities thrive in our rapidly changing world.


Cornell Cooperative Extension is a national leader in creating positive change on behalf of families and communities through rigorously-tested extension programs. We create measurable change in the following priority areas by aligning local needs with the resources and priorities of the land grant system and its state and federal partners.

The land grant mission is a covenant between higher education and the people. Our scholarship directly responds to needs in the local and global community and strives to improve the quality of life in our society. A unique aspect of a land grant university is that the flow of information, wisdom, and discourse is bidirectional between the university and the people. Across the world the intent of this model is being replicated, and today the land grant mission at Cornell is a mission for the world. Helene Dillard, former director of Cornell Cooperative Extension and professor of plant pathology and plant-microbe biology

Historically two tendencies have been at play within cooperative extension work. The technology transfer model positions the university as distributing innovation to “the people”. This model emphasizes a one way flow of knowledge and information being delivered from the university. Technology transfer tends to position communities as passive receptors of needed knowledge and innovation. The second model arises from a more participatory approach and validates community knowledge as an equal partner to university research and innovation. These tendencies can be seen as two poles on a spectrum of “university-community engagement”. Held within these poles are a range of possible activities and outreach approaches.

The work of the CES is the work of engagement. However, recently there are those working in the CCE system that believe we have taken a somewhat constricted view of engagement.This belief grows out of a perceived  narrowing of focus within the system that is, in many ways, tied to economics and budgetary uncertainty. The challenge for Cornell Cooperative Extension is in negotiating the tension between our necessary adherence to federal funding priorities and a full bodied engagement in communities. A robust engagement would, of necessity, open a dialogue about what we stand for in relation to such issues as healthy families, the promotion of economic opportunities, environmental health, informed citizens and sound decision making. A deep engagement means that we are involved with individuals, families, businesses, local officials and communities. Increasingly we see our work done in relationship with others. Through trusted relationships and partnerships we have to be clear on what we are supporting through education and outreach. Our engagement as a trusted partner positions us in a way such that may suggest that some of the language we have used in the past might be revisited, e.g. ”neutral.”


In looking at instructional styles, past CCE Director Merrill Ewert’s developed a process/content matrix. We feel that this matrix provides a map for evaluating the categories of community engagement ( In a similar way all extension activities could be mapped into one (or more) of the 4 quadrants of this matrix. We may have as a goal for CCE’s work related to university-community engagement that it be both high process and high content leading to transformational practices.

McDowell, G. R. (2001). Land-grant universities and extension into the 21st century: Renegotiating or abandoning a social contract. Ames: Iowa State University Press.



"CCE and University-Community Engagement" was developed in 2013 as a result of CCE's new strategic plan. It was meant to foster discussion about community engagement. We are posting it here with the same intent. Please add your comments below or contact us if you would like to post a lengthier response.

The Extension Reconsidered ‘calling card’

calling-cardsDuring our presentation at the June Executive Leadership Conference for CCE Executive Directors and Board Presidents we unveiled the new Extension Reconsidered ‘calling card’. Our hope is that this business card sized handout will help spark the conversation about this project. We’ve included 3 starter questions and a link to this blog.

We hope you’ll start seeing some of these pop up in your community. If you would like some to distribute to your communities and networks, please drop us a note. We distributed about 2500 of them last week…but we have more!

Extension Reconsidered – The brochure

In 2011 Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE) celebrated its Centennial. In 2013 CCE developed a new Strategic Plan. Now CCE is moving forward to put that Plan into action, and is asking for your help. Please join the conversation and add your voice!

We have developed a 4 page booklet that lays out the goals and outcomes of the Extension Reconsidered project here at CCE. You can click the link to download Extension Reconsidered-Invitation to Join the conversation (pdf). 

You can also download a pdf version of “Dialogue and Deliberation for Furthering CCE’s University-Community Engagement” which discusses our rationale for encouraging deliberative processes as part of the Extension Reconsidered project. Click this link: Dialogue and Deliberation for Furthering (pdf) to download. (Also available online here:

Higher Ed’s Role in Supporting a Rural Renaissance

Girl, lightbulb

A special section in this months Choice’s magazine looks at the role of higher education in revitalizing rural areas. Of particular note is an article by Scott Peters aptly titled “Extension Reconsidered“. Scott’s  article lays out the rationale for the Extension Reconsidered project and provides some useful historical background for our current work.

Choices (The Magazine of Food, Farm, and Resource Issues) online:

Higher Education’s Role in Supporting a Rural Renaissance

Extension Reconsidered – Scott Peters –