Title: Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide: Youth as a Catalyst for Change



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Title: Bridging the Urban-Rural Divide: Youth as a Catalyst for Change

Summary


Oregon is a state of great socioeconomic and geographic diversity. While this diversity brings strength, it also challenges Oregonians to meet the needs of all communities. This divide is mostly deeply felt around natural resource management issues. Oregon cities are now so culturally isolated from the country that clashes between urban and rural Oregon occur frequently when it comes to grazing, logging, wilderness and wildlife. That was the world Portland urban youth walked into when they took a stand in defense of wolves in 2005 at a public Fish and Wildlife hearing. Ranchers howled in protest. Yet, just as it seemed Oregon’s urban-rural divide had grown into an unbridgeable chasm this conflict ended when 4-H stepped in. Along with a handful of ranchers from rural Grant County 4-H staff from urban and rural Oregon did the unexpected. They invited kids from urban Portland middle school to live and work along side them and see a rancher or farmers side of life.

Today Oregon’s urban middle school youth work alongside ranchers and farmers from rural eastern Oregon to learn the joys and challenges that comes with real rural life. Rural middle school youth in turn visit Portland and learn about the challenges of urban life. Rural youth live and work alongside urban families and explore issues relevant to Portland such as transportation, dwindling greenspaces, urban agriculture and water issues.

The 4-H Urban-Rural Exchange uses youth as a catalyst for change. The program provides a venue for rural and urban families to share their stories, their lifestyles, their beliefs and their practices for managing the land for the next generation. It also provides youth who are too often exposed to viewpoints on one side of an issues, a first hand experience on the land. It is their experience of being on the land and walking in the shoes of their host family that youth can being to understand more deeply how and why Oregonians manage the land the way they do.

Program Impacts

Outcome evaluations indicated significant changes in attitude, knowledge and understanding of socioeconomic and environmental issues from both sides of the divide. A four-year evaluation found changes in knowledge and attitudes among both urban and rural participants. 119 urban participants and 43 rural host family members participated in the study.

Urban participants reported significant changes in attitudes in:


  • Knowing about the lifestyles, beliefs and ways of living of rural Oregonians

  • Understanding the beliefs and practices for managing the land by rural Oregonians

  • How the actions of urban Oregonians impact rural Oregon natural resource management

  • Their awareness of rural Oregon stereotypes

  • Knowing the commonalities urban and rural Oregonians have in managing their land

  • Their belief that ranchers have a respect and understanding of how to best manage their land

While the changes in knowledge and understanding among rural participants was not as high as the changes among urban participants, rural participants nevertheless reported significant changes in:




  • Knowing about the lifestyles, beliefs and ways of urban youth

  • Their belief that most urban Oregonians are open to hearing all sides of natural resource issues

  • Their awareness of urban Oregonian stereotypes

  • Their belief that urban Oregonians have a respect and understanding of how to best manage urban natural resources.



Contact Information

Maureen Hosty

OSU Extension Faculty

4-H Youth Development

College of Public Health and Human Sciences

Oregon State University

Portland Metro Area Snap Ed and 4-H 

5444-B SE International Way

Portland, OR  97222

PH 503-657-7385  |  cell 503-360-6060  |  fax 503-657-7384 

 maureen.hosty@oregonstate.edu

www.4hwildlifestewards.org



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