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Aaron Doering: "Because of 4-H, I developed a passion and drive for learning."

Aaron Doering, the youngest child of Sharon and Royce Doering, was raised on a farm outside Good Thunder, Minnesota. He was a member of the Lyra Merry Workers 4-H Club in Blue Earth County along with his sister Sheryl and brother Al. Throughout the 1980’s he participated in several 4-H projects including woodworking, sheep, rabbits and cattle. Aaron’s fondest 4-H memories revolve around fair time in the summer.

“There was always so much excitement in our family leading up to the county fair. We spent all our extra time preparing ourselves and our animals for competition. It was such a wonderful way for our family to connect with each other and it really helped to nurture our sense of self.”

Spending time on the fairgrounds with fellow 4-H’ers caring for their animals developed in Aaron a strong sense of responsibility, duty and community.

“My parents would rent a camper so we could all stay together at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. I remember loving herdsmenship because all of us from the county really bonded. We had to depend on each other to make sure our animals were well cared for. I’m grateful for that experience.”

Aaron completed his B.A. in social studies education from Minnesota State University at Moorhead, an M.S. in geography from Minnesota State University at Mankato, and his PhD from the University of Minnesota. He began teaching at the University of Minnesota in 1999 and earned his full professorship in 2015. He is the co-founder and director of the Learning Technologies Media Lab and is well respected for his pioneering work in adventure learning.

“I’m obsessed with innovation and am always looking for ways that technology can transform the education experience. Bringing authentic, real world experiences into our classrooms is essential for our students to best engage in discovery. I love helping teachers use technology to develop passionate students who make and share discoveries with others.”

Although his career is not directly connected to agriculture, Aaron feels strongly that being raised on a farm and participating in 4-H agriculture projects prepared him well for his professional life.

“I developed a passion and drive for learning because of 4-H. The daily experience of being outside working with animals taught me responsibility and helped me understand how interconnected our world is. As part of my adventure learning programs, when I visit with farmers in Nepal or learn about fog harvesting in Peru, I dig deep into my experiences as a youth so I can ask good questions and truly seek to understand.”

When asked what advice he has for current 4-H youth, he was adamant. Creativity and courage are essential traits that are definitely worth cultivating right now. There isn’t a moment to lose.

“Try as many new things as you can and don’t be afraid to fail. Seriously. I fail all the time because I’m always exploring new ideas. That’s okay! Just fail as quickly as you can and then do better the next time you try. This is how you change the world in both big and small ways.”

Aaron and his wife Amy Matthews live in Afton, MN and have a son named Eli. Aaron’s next adventure begins April 16 when he and three colleagues make an expedition to the Canadian Arctic. You can follow this adventure learning expedition, which draws attention to how people are adapting to a changing environment, at his personal web site,, or at the project web site,

If you or somebody you know has a great 4-H alumni story, we'd love to hear it! Share your story here.

Erin Kelly-Collins
Minnesota 4-H Foundation
University of Minnesota Extension

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