To address increased demand for science and technology professionals, 4-H is working nationwide to reach a bold goal of engaging one million new young people in science programs by 2013. Currently, 4-H science programs reach more than 5 million youth across the country with hands-on learning experiences to ensure global competitiveness and prepare the next generation of science, engineering and technology leaders.
To help meet that goal, Michigan State University Extension Kent County 4-H Youth Development educator Glenda Kilpatrick encourages 4-H clubs to participate in activities that emphasize science. With that in mind, a group of 50 4-H’ers, aged 6 to 19, accompanied by 14 adult volunteers and family members attended a hands-on learning event for Kent County 4‑H’ers at Family Friends Veterinary Hospital in Grand Rapids in March.
Veterinarians and vet technicians, two of whom are 4-H leaders, hosted the event that began at the pharmacy where participants learned about the importance of routine health care through a game format. They engaged participants in a number of creative learning opportunities that provided exposure to microscopic inspection of parasites, dental care, birth, surgery, x-ray images, grooming and behavioral observation. At the end of the tour, the 4-H visitors were able to chat with veterinary technicians on veterinary careers.
After the event, both youth and adults took a survey about their experience. Of the young people who answered the survey, 77 percent reported that they would like to do some outside reading in science, and 63 percent of the youth agreed that they had a real desire to learn science because of 4-H experiences like this one at the veterinary hospital. Will they all become scientists? Perhaps they will, but even if they don’t, they’ve benefited from an enhanced understanding of the role that science plays in managing animal health.