University of ArizonaNorton School of Family and Consumer Sciences

Kirk A. Astroth, Ed.D.

Professor & Extension Specialist, Family and Consumer Sciences
Family and Consumer Sciences Cooperative Extension
650 N Park Ave
Tucson, Arizona 85721-0078
(520) 621-6473

I became interested in non-formal youth work after teaching at a private college prep school here in Tucson for four years and then working in out-of-school programs like Model Cities/Neighborhood Youth Corps and YMCA. Positive youth development does not happen by chance, but is the result of intentional efforts to provide the supports, opportunities and relationships to help young people move successfully from adolescence to adulthood.

My research and creative work has been focused on effective non-formal youth groups, specifically looking at leadership styles and applying family research theory to 4-H clubs and groups. I am most proud of my work around the eleven essential elements of vibrant youth groups. This research has been applied by several states in their 4-H club work—most recently in Iowa, which has used my research as a basis for a new statewide initiative for strengthening 4-H clubs.

I believe in the power of youth to make change and take on meaningful roles—now and in the future. For many youth, 4-H serves as their “first class" from The University of Arizona as the institution’s largest youth outreach program. There are amazing youth involved in the Arizona 4-H program, and they continue to demonstrate that 4-H is more than you ever imagined. 4-H helps youth become college-prepared and career-ready. A key effort to assist with expanding 4-H in the state is our AmeriCorps project which is directed out of the Norton School.  The UACE Wildcat Corps co-locates AmeriCorps volunteers with county Extension agents to start 4-H clubs, work in after-school programs and summer programs. Currently, we have 45 AmeriCorps volunteers working across the state, and they have brought an energy and focus to our work that is inspiring.

I have been fortunate to have the opportunities I have enjoyed in my lifetime. I have a passion for global connections, perhaps because I spent my junior year in college at the University of Copenhagen. In 1994 and 1995, I had the opportunity to engage in technical assistance work in Latvia and Lithuania to help re-establish 4-H programs in those countries after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In August and September 2014, I was asked to help develop 4-H in Nepal so traveled there for 3 weeks and I am proud to say that 4-H Nepal was launched 3 months after my return.  And now I am getting ready to serve another volunteer assignment in Nicaragua, building up 4-H programs there.  I  served as the  chair of the States’ 4-H International Exchange Program, which involves about 1,000 youth each summer in cultural exchange trips to 5 countries.

My wife and I are parents to an adopted girl from China. She is now 20 years old, and attending the Barrett Honors College at ASU in Phoenix with an emphasis in Nursing and Global Studies.  Our daughter brings joy to our lives everyday and proves daily that youth are the present, the future and the hope of our world.

Areas of expertise: 


  • Positive youth development
  • Leadership in non-formal youth groups
  • Youth/adult partnerships
  • Professional development for youth workers
  • Connecting youth with nature
  • International positive youth development
  • STEM education
  • 4-H curriculum development
  • Afterschool programs
Research Focus: 

My major research focus is on elements of effective youth groups and strengthening adult leadership styles to help improve youth outcomes in non-formal groups. As the director of the Arizona 4-H youth development program, I am constantly seeking ways to improve the program for today’s young people in order to keep it relevant and interesting to them. One example of this is Rockets to the Rescue, the winning design in the competition for the 2014 National 4-H Youth Science Day Experiment sponsored by National 4-H Council and other partners.  This multi-stage project is an innovative program teaching science, food security, engineering and math to young people.

Recently, I have also become focused also on re-connecting youth to the outdoors. After reading Richard Louv’s book, Last Child in the Woods, I became passionate about ensuring that 4-H creates some new initiatives to re-connect youth and their families with nature. A planning grant  enabled us to convene a national group of experts at a retreat at Biosphere 2, and since then we have received more funds to hire a program coordinator to bring some of these ideas to life. This work will ultimately help this generation and future generations maintain a necessary and beneficial connection with nature and will foster an appreciation for natural areas and open spaces.

I have also been tapped to help with spreading the elements of positive youth development in developing nations.  In addition to doing international consulting work in Latvia and Lithuanian, I recently completed a Winrock volunteer assignment to Nepal to start 4-H programs there.  I also spent a month in Nicaragua at the behest of Partners of the Americas starting 4-H clubs in rural areas.  I am also working actively with the Center for Global Initiatives here at the UofA to establish a national Extension and 4-H system in Mexico.

Finally, I often contract to help with research and evaluation for other organizations.  I am currently conducting a research effort for YMCA-USA on their signature STEM initiative called "Thingmajig."  This project is analyzing the experiences from 17 pilot sites who have implemented this initiative to see what works, what needs to be changed, and how to better impact youth outcomes around STEM.

In a similar vein, I am currently serving on the advisory board for Teen Science Cafe which is trying to increase youth interest in STEM careers by partnering them with scientists and sharing STEM related information in informal science cafe environments.  I have provided youth development training for program leaders and directors.

Current Projects: 
  • YMCA STEM Education Curriculum Development--contracted to develop STEM education units for YMCA programs to implement with 4-7th graders around the nation.
  • YMCA research project to assess the development of Thingamajig Invention Convention program pilot-tested by 17 sites in the nation.
  • 4-H curriculum development--developing new and cutting edge curricula for use in 4-H programs around the nation.
  • International Positive Youth Development--consulting on various programs funded by US AID to develop 4-H programs and models in developing countries.
  • Afterschool Programming--I currently serve as president of the board of directors for the Arizona Center for Afterschool Excellence and serve on the board of directors of the National Afterschool Association.  I have a passion for supporting afterschool programs and have contributed to the development of our Arizona state afterschool quality standards and the assessment tool.
  • Teen Science Cafe board of advisors


Subjects Taught: 

Understanding Youth Development--An Applied Approach (FCSC 496A).

Select Publications: 

Please contact Kirk A. Astroth if you are unable to locate one of the publications listed below.

Astroth, Kirk A. I'm Okay, You're At Risk: Beyond Ephebiphobia and Toward Research. New Designs for Youth Development. (Spring 1993). Vol 10: 15-18.

Astroth, Kirk A. Are Youth at Risk? Re-evaluating the Deficit Model of Youth Development. Journal of Extension. (Fall 1993). Vol. 31: 22-25.

Astroth, Kirk A. Beyond Ephebiphobia: Problem Adults or Problem Youths? Phi Delta Kappan. (January 1994). Vol. 75(5): 411-413.

Astroth, K.A. (1994). "Beyond Ephebiphobia: Problem Adults or Problem Youth." In Developing Public Library Resources for Young Adults. Tallahassee, FL: Florida Department of State, Division of Library and Information Services.

Astroth, K.A. (1995). "I'm Okay, You're at Risk: Beyond Ephebiphobia and Toward Research." In Monograph on Youth in the 1990's: Alternatives to Incarceration--Prevention and Treatment, Issue #4. Halifax, Nova Scotia: Dalhousie University, Youth Research Unit, 1995. pp. 29-38.

Astroth, Kirk A. "Rediscovering Today's Youth." (1996). New Designs for Youth Development, 12: 12-16.
Astroth, Kirk A. “The Vibrant Youth Group: Changing the Focus from Youth “at Risk” to Youth “at Their Best.” (1997). Resiliency in Action, 2; 13-17.

Astroth, Kirk A. “Eleven Essential Elements of Vibrant Youth Groups.” (1996). American Humanics, 6: 8-10.

Astroth, Kirk A. 4-H After-School: Education and Learning Where the Bell Never Rings. Classroom Leadership, 4(7):p. 4-5. (April 2001).

Astroth, K.A. (1999).  “Teens Are Not at Risk.” In Teens at Risk: Opposing Viewpoints. eds. Laura K. Egendorf and Jennifer A. Hurley. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, Inc. pp. 24-28.

Astroth, Kirk A., Timm, Dick, and Poore, John. (2002). Avenues to adulthood or avenues to civic anemia? Community Youth Development Anthology.

Astroth, Kirk A. & Haynes, George W. (2002).  More than Cows & Cooking: Newest Research Shows the Impact of 4-H. Journal of Extension, 40 (4). Online journal at:

Astroth, K.A. and Linkenbach, J.W. (2004). Risky Business: A Research Review of Risk-Inherent Recreational Activities, Potential Prevention Strategies, and Possible Applications to Reducing ATV Injuries and Fatalities. Chevy Chase, MD: National 4-H Council.

Astroth, K.A. (2004). 4-H Youth Development, Scholarship, and Land Grant Universities. Journal of Higher Education Outreach and Engagement Volume 9, Number 1: pp.87-102.

 Garza, P., Borden, L.. M., and Astroth, K. A. (eds.) (2004). Professional Development for Youth Workers. New Directions for Youth Development. Winter. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Vogel, Mike P. and Astroth, Kirk A. (2005). Meth in Montana: The Extension partnership response. Montana Policy Review (Spring). Available on-line at:

Astroth, K.A. (2007). Understanding the 4-H Workforce: Staffing, Structures and Salaries. Bozeman, MT: Montana State University, 4-H Center for Youth Development.

Astroth, K.A. (2007).  Making the best better: 4-H staffing structures and trends. Journal of Youth Development, 2: 2.

Arnold, M., Astroth, K.A., Bourdeau, V., Garza, P., Horton, B., and Rennekamp, R. (2008). Ready…SET…Go!—Merging Afterschool and Science, Engineering and Technology. The Afterschool Review, 2 (Spring). pp. 18-20.

Astroth, K.A. and Vogel, M. (2008). Methamphetamine prevention education: An Extension response. Journal of Extension, 46 (5) October. Online at:

Astroth, K.A. and Lindstrom, J.L. (2008). Investing in professional development: Building and sustaining a viable 4-H youth development workforce for the future. Journal of Youth Development. 3 (2)-Fall. Online at:

            Astroth, K.A.  (2009).  The Desert You Never Knew.  [DVD].  Tucson, AZ: University of Arizona.  Executive producer.

Astroth, K.A.  (2010).  No Child Left Inside: Connecting Today’s Youth with the Outdoors.  Backyards & Beyond, Vol. 4 (1).  Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona.  pp. 7-9.

            Astroth, K.A., Goodwin, J. and Hodnett, F.  (2011).  Servant leadership: Guiding extension programs in the 21st century. Journal of Extension.  Vol. 49(3).  Online journal at:

            Rothenburger, L., Walahoski, J., Astroth, K.A., and Freichs, S.D.  (2011).  4-H Science Smart:  Competency Training Guide.  Chevy Chase, MD: National 4-H Council.

            Astroth, Kirk A.  (2012).  Arizona Rock Art.  Backyards & Beyond, Vol. 6 (1).  Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona.  pp. 4-8.

            Astroth, K.A., Larsen, E., Peters, C., and Whiteside, J. (2014).  Rockets to the Rescue.   Selected winning entry for the National 4-H Youth Science Day Experiment.  Chevy Chase, MD: National 4-H Council.

            Astroth, K.A.  (2014).  Interdependence: The Ninth and Newest Critical Element for Positive Youth Development.  Journal of Youth Development, Vol. 9(3).  Fall.  Available online at:

            Astroth, K.A.  (2014).  Interdependence: Ninth Critical Element for Positive Youth Development.  Commentary.  Journal of Extension, December, Vol 52(6).  Available online at:

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