The set of publications that I designed for Arizona 4-H were super fun to work on. The curriculum provides a series of activities to help people of all ages (but kids in particular) learn to enjoy the outdoors, starting right in their own neighborhood. The activities follow an experiential learning model, which people outside of the 4-H world might be surprised to learn is the basis of all 4-H curricula. Four-H projects are created by some pretty darned cool folks with some serious educational science under their belts.

Written by Suzanne Dhruv, Co-Director of  Ironwood Tree Experience, this curriculum, called “Backyards and Beyond” was spearheaded by Dr. Kirk A. Astroth, Director of Arizona 4-H Youth Development in partnership with 4-H National Headquarters, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, USA-National Phenology Network and Children & Nature Network.

My job was to help the curriculum developers present all that great content so it looks as cool as it is, while also making it as easy as possible to use. Kirk oversaw the project, but left it to Suzanne and me to come up with a style that matched the overall tone of the writing. Basically, Suzanne wanted the publications to look cool and outdoorsy, and to be inviting and inspiring. We wanted the publications to be attractive, but not to overshadow the overall goal: to get people to GO OUTSIDE.

I came up with some design ideas that were splashy enough to attract kids, but still relatively simple. After we had narrowed down from a few samples, I created a style sheet to give Suzanne and Kirk an idea of how I planned to treat the standing stylistic elements and pedagogical features throughout the books. After they approved the style sheet, I could start layout of the 200+ page curriculum without worrying that we were going to be revising half-way through. In the end, the project went smoothly because there weren’t any big surprises along the way!

What does outdoorsy look like? I guess it depends on which year’s outdoorsy catalog you’re looking in, but usually a combination of neutrals and pop colors seem to convey the outdoorsy idea for me. I really love gray (as anyone who has ever looked into my closet will tell you) especially combined with zippy accents, so I used a gray and brown backbone with bright green and tomato red as accent colors. Suzanne later had me add another pop color (I went with purple) but I stuck with the grey as a background color throughout.

The slide show below includes samples from the three publications. It gives you an idea of how I applied the style sheet to create a consistent look throughout the 4-H Backyards & Beyond Club Explorer Journal, Club Leader Curriculum, and Neighborhood Nature Club Community Organizational Guide and Toolkit. I think it’s going to be a popular curriculum and I can’t wait to hear how much kids enjoy it.

(Please note that the Backyards & Beyond logo is the work of another designer.)

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