Category Archives: Children and Youth

Grandparents University: Why it’s important and how you can get involved

Have you heard about Grandparents University? It is the largest intergenerational program in the nation, Michigan State University (MSU) alumni are invited to bring their grandchildren to campus for a three-day summer camp where they choose from almost 200 sessions. Each year, Grandparents University serves over 1,300 guests. This year, 632 adults and 678 youth participated in the program, which took place June 27–29.

Grandparents University is an important collaboration and MSU Extension has been involved since the beginning. Grandparents University started 12 years ago when Kathryn Reed, MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources alumni relations director, and Mike Steger, former MSU College of Natural Science faculty member, learned about the program from Oklahoma State University.

“It began because it was a great way to showcase majors and bring alumni back to campus,” Kathryn said. “Extension helped bring in meaningful programming since the beginning.”

This year, we had five colleagues from MSU Extension host sessions, and here are their experiences:

2017 was the sixth year the MSU Beef Cattle Teaching & Research Center participated in Grandparents University. Daniel Buskirk, MSU associate professor and beef Extension specialist, led the session on beef cattle.

“We begin with an ‘entrance exam’ and then explore the MSU Beef Center in search of answers,” Daniel said. “The kids love learning about what cows eat, what a bull weighs and seeing young calves. The grandparents like learning about the science involved in beef production, animal care and the origin of beef cuts.”

Georgia Peterson, MSU Extension specialist, took students to MSU’s Sanford Natural Area, located along the Red Cedar River for her Exploring Our Forests session.

“We discussed the most common tree species found there, along with other plants and animals that call it home,” Georgia said. “As we walked the trails of this forest, the kids were especially interested in finding plants (including trees) that have special features, like the sassafras with its ‘mitten’ leaves and fragrant stems.”

Laurie Rivetto, MSU Extension educator, led two sessions of Spartan Dollars and Cents where 28 youth and 24 grandparents engaged in several activities such as Needs vs. Wants, the Allowance Game and M&M Budgeting. At the end of each 90-minute session, youth created a Spend/Save/Share/Invest bank.

“It was a great group, and youth and adults commented on how interactive and fun the sessions were and how much they learned,” Laurie said. “The program really encouraged conversation between the grandparents and youth. The participants were involved in engaging in a needs and wants continuum where they stand on a line based on how much they feel an item is a need or a want. Having two different generations participate leads to some different perspectives on what needs and wants are.”

Visit the Grandparents University website to see the recap video from 2017 that features Laurie’s Needs vs. Wants activity toward the end of the video.

Michelle Neff, MSU Extension educator, has been involved with Grandparents University for the past three years. This year, she led a new yoga and mindfulness session for youth and grandparents.

“I really enjoy teaching this audience because the grandparents and students are very eager to learn. It is also cool to see youth and adults come from all over the country and state to attend this event,” said Michelle.

Dixie Sandborn, MSU Extension specialist, shared that during her Chocolate Culture and Creativity session, grandparents and grandchildren sample chocolates from around the world and make their own chocolate treats.

“Participants loved how hands-on and interactive it was. They also learn interesting facts and the science behind chocolate,” Dixie said. “For example, 200 cacao beans could once buy a turkey. During World War II, the Germans created an exploding, chocolate-covered, thin steel bomb, designed to blow up 7 seconds after a piece was broken off. People who eat chocolate one to three times per month live longer. The flowers of the cacao tree are only pollinated by tiny gnats.”

Amy Carnahan, director of Grandparents University as well as of the President’s Graduate Receptions, spoke to us about the importance of having Extension staff members host sessions.

“We love having new classes every year and we usually hope for 20 percent of classes that are new and different,” Amy said. “I’ve found that Extension has been amazing for us.”

Are you interested in hosting a few sessions at Grandparents University next year? The 2018 event is scheduled for June 26–28. The MSU Alumni Association will cover travel expenses for your participation and will also provide $10 per participant for supplies for your session. If you have any questions or want to learn more about hosting sessions, contact Amy at carnah10@msu.edu.

Don’t need any more information and are ready to sign up? Visit the Grandparents University Instructor Registration page.

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Filed under Children and Youth, Partnerships

Pumpkin everything

Giant wooden bins filled with pumpkins, trees in the background.

You can tell it’s fall when you start seeing pumpkin everything: pumpkin lattes, pie, muffins, soups, cookies, cakes, coffee creamer, ice cream and Cheerios – what? Today, I thought I’d point out some great resources that our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educators have created to help us get into the pumpkin spirit.

First, we’ll need to know how to pick the perfect pumpkin. Good thing we have the “How to Choose the Right Pumpkin” resource by MSU Extension educator Jeannie Nichols with information on finding fully mature and delicious pumpkins.

Once we’ve found the right pumpkin, we turn to MSU Extension educator Lisa Treiber who prepared a great Michigan Fresh bulletin on using, storing and preserving pumpkins with detailed instructions and recommendations.

In case you’d like to dive deeper into pumpkin preservation, MSU Extension educator Stephanie Ostrenga has some important information in her “Pumpkin Preservation Safety Tips” article.

MSU Extension educator Stephanie Marino also has great advice on “Incorporating Pumpkin Into Your Diet This Season” with recipes included.

To fully immerse ourselves in all things pumpkin, the MSU Tollgate Farm and Education Center in Novi is hosting their annual Pumpkinfest Oct.7–8, from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. that draws about 6,000 visitors. This will be a fantastic event for the whole family with a children’s straw maze, educational exhibits, music, pumpkin bowling, antique tractors, the MSU Bug House and more. On Sept. 27, we received MSU Extension educator Alan Jaros’ email encouraging us all to attend, represent our program areas at the event and bring interactive elements to engage the crowd. This is a great opportunity to show off what we do and celebrate all things pumpkin. If you have questions or if you would like to sign up, contact Aba Holmes at holme146@anr.msu.edu. Hope you can make it.

Happy pumpkin season, everyone!

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Filed under Children and Youth, Events, Food, Food safety, Health and Nutrition, Horticulture, Nutrition, Resources

Pre-college experiences and growth at 4-H Exploration Days

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Over 2,400 youth and adults registered to attend 4-H Exploration Days, which took place June 21–23 at Michigan State University (MSU). This fun MSU pre-college program for youth ages 11–19 is designed to help them develop important skills such as responsibility, independence, accountability, communication, problem-solving and more.

“4-H Exploration Days is the highlight of the summer for some youth,” MSU Extension educational events program coordinator Laura Potter-Niesen said. “They come to campus to get a taste of what college is like. They often are pushed to make their own decisions about time management, their preference for activities and choosing friends. It’s the first time some of the youth experience independence, and that is an important feeling for youth, especially at this age.”

Over three days, youth had the opportunity to take classes, navigate campus, stay overnight in dorms, eat in campus cafeterias and take part in activities of their choice.

This year, 4-H Exploration days featured some new courses. Laura told us that their new session on making root beer using science, technology, engineering and math skills was a hit.

“They were able to make their own root beer to take home and were able to learn about the chemistry behind the brewing process,” Laura said.

MSU Extension senior educator Debra Barrett wrote an article about another new, full session that gave youth the opportunity to create a resume and a portfolio for job interviews.

Before coming to 4-H Exploration days, youth attended a county orientation to prepare them for their experiences on campus. Kea Norrell-Aitch wrote an article about the new diversity and inclusion activity designed for these orientations this year.

Since the event “…attracts such a diverse audience, it was determined county orientations were the perfect platform to incorporate an activity that will provide 4-H members with an opportunity to increase life skills around diversity prior to attending such a large statewide program,” Kea wrote.

4-H Exploration Days hosts about 2,500 youth and adults annually, some who are new to the program and others who keep coming back every year. One participant from Luce County wrote in her evaluation:

“This is my seventh, and final, 4-H Exploration Days year. Seven years ago, as a new sixth grader, I signed up for a class and rode a bus where my toes didn’t touch the floor. Now, at the age of 18, I make my way back to MSU in the fall as a member of the class of 2021 – something 11-year-old me vowed never to do. Thank goodness for that human ability to change. I can’t thank 4-H enough. For hot, sticky nights in dorms. For the half a dozen overworn, faded T-shirts and for the friends I’ve made here. I believe in commitment. In seven years of dedication, I believe in 4-H Exploration Days, and – more importantly – I believe in myself and my ability to create change in the world.”

I’d like to take a moment to thank all of our staff and volunteers for all of your efforts to put together an outstanding and impactful program for Michigan youth.

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Filed under 4-H, Children and Youth, Uncategorized

4-H True Leaders help with rangeland wildfire disaster relief

As a part of the National 4-H True Leaders in Service initiative in April, Michigan State University Extension Michigan 4-H youth from over 10 counties participated in various activities to provide disaster relief to farms and ranchers affected by wildfires. Back in March, regions in Colorado, Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas saw high winds and uncontrollable wildfires that devastated vast areas of rangeland causing ranchers to struggle to feed and care for their livestock. Michigan 4-H’ers sprang into action by collecting supplies and funds to send. Several groups even traveled to Kansas and Oklahoma to help rebuild farms.

To read about each county’s efforts and to hear from the 4-H True Leaders who participated, visit our website to view the article “4-H ‘True Leaders’ Across Michigan Assist in Rangeland Wildfire Disaster Relief.”

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Filed under 4-H, Children and Youth

MSU Extension Water Education in Bath

On May 11, Joyce McGarry, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension nutrition and food safety educator, was invited to visit Bath Elementary School in recognition of the school’s two new water-refilling stations donated by Delta Dental. She was asked to talk with 178 fourth- and fifth-graders on the important health benefits of water.

Joyce added visual demonstrations. With the help of student volunteers, she counted the number of teaspoons of sugar present in popular sports and flavored water drinks, and compared the results with water, which has no sugar.

Students also had the opportunity to share their knowledge of water and some of their own water practices. For example, one student said that as a treat, his grandmother allows him to drink pop at her house; otherwise, he only drinks milk and water at home. Having students reflect on their own experiences helps them to connect with what they learn.

At the end of the presentation, students were given water bottles that can be refilled throughout their school day. Joyce shared the importance of properly washing the water bottles on a regular basis to get rid of harmful bacteria buildup.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), providing drinking water to students helps to increase their overall water consumption, maintain hydration, reduce intake of sugar-sweetened beverages and may help improve cognitive function. One important way that schools can make a difference is increasing students’ access to water, and allowing them to bring bottles of water to class. Bath Elementary School took it one step further, adding in water and nutrition education by partnering with Joyce and MSU Extension.

Joyce felt that this was an excellent opportunity to engage with the students.

“What a great day to share with great kids!” Joyce said.

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Filed under Children and Youth, grants, Nutrition

The Inspiring 4-H Challenged Me program

During the 2016 Eastern Michigan State Fair, the 4-H Challenged Me program gave mild to severely disabled children from Lapeer, Macomb, Tuscola and Sanilac counties the chance to show livestock. The program had 17 members and 19 coaches who taught them how to handle, train, show and care for the animals. Two innovative 4-H alumni, Tiffany Howell and Michelle Peel, teamed up with the local intermediate school district social worker and the Michigan State University (MSU) Extension 4-H program coordinator, Kathy George, to set the program in motion. In January, the 4-H Challenged Me Club was chosen as a Program of Excellence by the American Farm Bureau Federation. Read the full story, “4-H Challenged Me helps kids make a new connection,” by Laura Scott, and see the photos on the MSU Extension website. Let it challenge us to think about ways we can reach people of all ages who have special needs or are underserved.

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Filed under 4-H, Awards, Children and Youth, diversity, Uncategorized

Joining 4-H and Alumni at the MSU Women’s Basketball Game

More than 4,500 4-H youth, their families, and Michigan State University (MSU) Extension staff members and their families attended the MSU Women’s Basketball game Jan. 22.

For the first time, Michigan 4-H alumni and the Michigan 4-H Foundation also hosted an event for 4-H alumni. More than 60 people from across the state attended the event and enjoyed food, coloring for kids, games, a Spartan Selfie Station, a visit from Sparty and general networking. We hope this is the first of many successful alumni events.

At halftime, 4-H’ers from Ingham, Macomb, Oakland and Saginaw counties made their way to the court. They were joined by Patrick Cudney, associate director of MSU Extension, and Julie Chapin, Children and Youth Institute director, as they proudly led the 4-H pledge:

I pledge my head to clearer thinking,
my heart to greater loyalty,
my hands to larger service,
and my health to better living,
for my club, my community, my country and my world.

Youth stand on the court with Julie Chapin and Patrick Cudney and lead the pledge.

Youth from Ingham, Macomb, Oakland and Saginaw counties lead the 4-H pledge with Julie Chapin and Patrick Cudney.

Thank you to everyone who came together to make the alumni event and the 4-H Day at the Breslin so successful!

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Filed under 4-H, Children and Youth