Tag Archives: 4-H discovery camp

4-H Discovery Camp inspires interest in science careers

In the United States, a small percentage of U.S. college graduates earn science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees. However, an increased demand exists for professionals in these fields. Michigan 4-H Youth Development strives to encourage interest in STEM.

4-H Discovery Camp is just one of the ways they’ve succeeded. The camp, which took place June 24‒28, gives young people an opportunity to become acquainted with the natural resources and agriculture industry in Michigan as both relate to current issues and technologies affecting energy and the environment.

The five-day exploration experience’s home base is Michigan State University where attendees stayed in dorms and experienced campus life.

The MSU campus offered a wealth of experiences for the kids who ranged in age from 13 to 19.

Attendees toured campus labs to see the cutting-edge research revolving around energy for the future. They explored the MSU Recycling facilities to learn about the impact recycling has on energy and the environment.

Participants also took part in their own “Bio Blast” bioenergy experiments at MSU’s Shaw Hall.

Attendees of 4-H Discovery Camp took part in a Bio Blast experiment on June 24, 2013, at Michigan State University’s Shaw Hall in East Lansing, Mich.

Attendees of 4-H Discovery Camp took part in a Bio Blast experiment on June 24, 2013, at Michigan State University’s Shaw Hall in East Lansing, Mich. The experiment required participants to mix warm tap water, sugar and yeast in a water bottle. In this photo, two boys place a balloon over the top of the water bottle. Photo Credit: Mariah Montenegro, ANR Communications

At MSU’s Farrall Agriculture Engineering Hall, they had the opportunity to make biodiesel from agriculture products, and compare and calculate energy density. They even took a sample of it home at the close of camp. Campers visited MSU’s woody biomass plantation where Paul Bloese, an MSU forestry research assistant, taught them how wood products are used for energy. They visited the Anaerobic Digestion Research and Education Center to learn about anaerobic digestion research and impacts on energy. Then back at Farrall Hall, they visited with Dr. Christopher Saffron, assistant professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, who spoke about his ongoing research in bioenergy.

However, attendees didn’t restrict their scientific exploration to East Lansing. They had the opportunity to visit the W. K. Kellogg Biological Station where they collected data at research plots. At the Carbon Green BioEnergy ethanol plant, they toured the facilities, met the staff and discussed energy use and impacts. Other visits included the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, the Dow/Cobblestone Builders Net Zero House, the Midland Center for the Arts and the Gratiot County Wind Farm.

Attendees of 4-H Discovery Camp took part in a Bio Blast experiment on June 24, 2013, at Michigan State University’s Shaw Hall in East Lansing, Mich.

Attendees of 4-H Discovery Camp took part in a Bio Blast experiment on June 24, 2013, at Michigan State University’s Shaw Hall in East Lansing, Mich. The experiment required participants to mix warm tap water, sugar and yeast in a water bottle. In this photo, the girls complete the final step of the experiment: to measure the circumference of the balloon by wrapping a string around it and reading the length on the measuring tape. Photo Credit: Mariah Montenegro, ANR Communications

Throughout the week, campers took part in a solar car engineering challenge in which they designed, built and raced their own solar cars.

This is the fourth year 4-H has offered the camp. Though it was canceled the second year, due to low enrollment, word has gotten out. This year, more than 75 youth applied for the camp that has the capacity to admit 45 campers.

In a survey of last year’s attendees, more than 90 percent of respondents said that they are more likely to pursue a degree or career in a bioenergy-related field following the completion of 4-H Discovery Camp. It looks like the camp puts kids on the path to a science-related future.

Read more here.

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News segments raise awareness of Extension and the work we do

As I mentioned in several articles in this Spotlight, the MSU Extension website continues to be an effective medium to get the word out to folks about our great programs. Another avenue excels at communicating about our organization and the fantastic work we do. ANR Communications is producing two-minute news segments focusing on our programs, research and major initiatives. Marketed under a series titled “Did You Know?” the segments began airing last month, directly before Tim Skubick’s public affairs program “Off the Record” on WKAR Channel 23.

The video segments were developed to raise the public’s awareness of Extension and all it does. In addition to appearing along with “Off the Record,” they are also posted online, providing us with additional exposure and opportunities for sharing.

ANR Communications multimedia production team leader Steve Evans said, “We’ve strategically placed these videos ahead of ‘Off the Record’ because we believe key decision makers and those in major agencies in multiple areas of government watch the show.”

The videos have focused on Firewise, which offers resources in home and community fire protection, and Stepping Stones, a program that provides urban youngsters with outdoor education experiences. Another video featured Extension educator Marilyn Thelen discussing the 2012 drought. Future videos will spotlight 4-H Discovery Camp and 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp. Another will highlight senior Extension educator Dennis Pennington discussing the feasibility of using marginal lands for energy crop production.

Steve co-produces the videos with video producer and director Kraig Ehm. If you have a story you’d like to submit for consideration, send your ideas to Steve at evansst@msu.edu or Kraig at ehm@msu.edu.

View the videos here.

Another venue that features work of MSUE colleagues is the Greening of the Great Lakes, a website and radio feature hosted by retired MSU Professor Kirk Heinze. Kirk recently hosted Rick Foster, W.K. Kellogg Chair in Food, Society and Sustainability and former director of MSUE’s Greening Michigan Institute. You can read and hear the interview with Rick on the MSU initiative to foster development of the metropolitan food system and related industries in Detroit.

Kirk’s radio productions are broadcast on Sunday nights from 7 p.m. to 8 p.m. on News/Talk 760 WJR. He often highlights innovations underway by MSUE scientists and educators.

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4-H pre-college programs annual reports reflect positive numbers

A report by the Lumina Foundation for Education shows that Michigan needs an annual 6 percent increase in the current percentage of adults with college degrees to reach Lumina’s “Big Goal” to increase higher education rates to 60 percent by the year 2025. To learn more about the current levels of education for Michigan adults ages 25 to 64 and see the percentage of Michigan adults (25 to 64) with a two- or four-year degree by county, visit http://www.luminafoundation.org/state_work/michigan/.

 Knowing that education and skills to succeed in college and the workplace are essential, yet our Michigan youth population is not sufficiently prepared, Michigan State University President Lou Anna K. Simon challenged a committee of MSU pre-college program directors in fall 2010 to develop common pre-college metrics and begin reporting against those metrics. Judy Ratkos, senior program leader in the Children and Youth Institute, represents MSUE on the committee. Committee members identified goals that MSU pre-college programs should meet, including increasing program participants’ overall interest in college, instructing participants in how to access college in some age-appropriate manner, and better preparing them for college by giving them the information and building skills necessary for success.

 All MSU pre-college programs submitted a 2010 annual report using a common format designed to convey information about their audiences, funding, overall impact and other information. Find the reports at http://spartanyouth.msu.edu/precollege/reports.aspx. Click on each MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development pre-college program (4-H Exploration Days, 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp, 4-H Capitol Experience and 4‑H Discovery Camp) to read the reports on those events.


 Additional 4-H program alumni college attendance numbers show that 4-H seniors who graduated high school in 2009 and 2010 attend college at about the same level as those who attended 4-H pre-college programs. (See graph above.) The proportion of 4-H seniors and pre-college attendees who attend college in the first or second year after graduation from high school was 20 to 35 percent greater than the average for all Michigan high school graduates. Future research will track the number of these students that also finish college. It’s interesting – and I’m not sure what the reason is – that a lower percentage of 2010 seniors enrolled than 2009 seniors for three of the four 4-H groups. Perhaps the 2010 class will show a higher percentage in 2011-2012, suggesting that some seniors take a year off before starting their college studies.

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4-H Discovery Campers explore the world of energy

At the first-ever 4-H Discovery Camp, a group of nine teens spent a week learning about alternative energy solutions July 5–9 through tours of Michigan State University on-campus labs, the MSU Power Plant, the MSU Museum, Zeeland Farm Services, MBI, Carbon Green Bioenergy and Horizon Wind Energy Farm. Participants also did hands-on research at the Kellogg Biological Station. The campers stayed in a campus dorm where they enjoyed a mix of recreational opportunities and learning experiences. They conducted their own experiments and created their own biofuel. The teens also had a chance to visit the farm of Leon Jackson in Applegate, Mich. Mr. Jackson makes his own biofuel while using solar panels and wind turbines to reduce his energy costs.

campers at Zeeland Farm Services

4-H Discovery Campers at Zeeland Farm Services with Jan Wendland (front row, left) Neil Kentner (front row, right) and Melanie Chiodini (back row, left)

The camp was part of the 4-H Science, Engineering and Technology (SET) nationwide initiative. The camp sponsor was the Corn Marketing Program of Michigan; day sponsor was the Michigan Soybean Promotion Committee. The camp fees were partially funded through a grant from Michigan State University Extension 4- H Youth Development.

campers at MSU Power Plant

4-H Discovery Campers listen to Gary Mell, performance engineer, at the MSU Power Plant

Wind energy farm turbines

4-H Discovery Campers viewed the wind turbines at Horizon Wind Energy Farms

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