Moscow--In science and engineering, 4-H’ers are Idaho’s ‘can-do’ kids WITH STUDIES FINDING that only a third of U.S. fourth- and eighth-graders are proficient in science and technology, the nation’s 4-H educators have vowed to involve one million new members in 4-H’s science, engineering, and technology (SET) activities by 2013.
“4-H has more than a 100-year history of engaging children in direct, hands-on, minds-on science activities,” says Tim Ewers, University of Idaho Extension 4-H/youth development specialist in Moscow. “We’ve developed a pipeline of programs that keep kids involved from kindergarten to high school graduation and put them on a trajectory right to college. We want them to build the perception that they really can do science and engineering.”
Idaho’s newest SET programs emphasize club, camp, and school-based robotics, rocketry, and such geospatial technologies as global positioning and geographical information systems. They also serve federally funded 4-H Afterschool programs: two in Burley and Worley draw predominantly Hispanic and Native American youngsters.
But whether kids are knee-deep in vegetable gardening, elbow-deep in meal planning, or sky high with rockets, 4-H has long been steeped in science. Promoting interest in science careers. Chad Cheyney, UI Extension educator in Butte County, was impressed with impacts of the 2008 4-H National Science Experiment, in which kids nationwide investigated the properties and promise of superabsorbent hydrogels: of Arco’s 20 fourth-grade participants, 18 said the project had whetted their interest in a scientific career.
During 2008, 4-H’ers in Idaho also examined insect homes in Junior Master Gardener classes; applied electronic animal identification and ultrasound technologies in livestock programs; discovered the basics of computer, wood, and veterinary science; and flocked to camps in rocketry, geocaching, geology, electricity, nutrition, and natural resources.
Of those who participated in Idaho Robotics Opportunities for K-12 Students (Idaho ROKS)—a collaborative program with UI Extension 4-H/Youth Development, the University of Idaho College of Engineering, and the Idaho Space Grant Consortium—one in three was female and one in six was minority.
With its statewide presence, Ewers says 4-H can reach urban, rural, and underserved audiences alike: youthful SET participants in Idaho tallied 26,056 in 2007-08. And with its century-long commitment to learning by doing, 4-H “gives children the time to engage in real scientific inquiry.”
CONTACT TIM EWERS at firstname.lastname@example.org