Tag Archives: 4-H exploration days

St. Clair County 4-H highlighted on local news station

On June 25, St. Clair County news station EBW TV interviewed Michigan State University (MSU) Extension 4-H program coordinator Lori Warchuck about 4-H. Lori did a great job telling the story about the work that we do in Extension, especially the variety of our programs. She also shared about 4-H Exploration Days on MSU’s campus and advertised for the 4-H fair in the county.

This is a great example of how we can engage with local media to get the word out about MSU Extension. You can watch Lori’s interview on the EBW TV website.

I love it when our staff members are featured for the great work that they’re doing, and each one of you has an important story to tell.

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Filed under 4-H, Children and Youth

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

Thousands enjoy 4-H Exploration Days on campus

From June 22 to 24, Michigan State University Extension hosted 4-H Exploration Days, a pre-college program annually attended by about 2,500 young people ages 11 to 19 along with chaperones from across Michigan.

The program helps youth increase responsibility, confidence, independence and accountability as well as practice problem-solving, decision-making and time-management skills. 4-H Exploration Days attendees have the opportunity to meet new people and exercise communication, teamwork and leadership. The event also inspires them to explore college options and to develop social and academic skills they need for a successful transition to college.

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This year, campers came from all over Michigan, representing all 83 counties. Youth participated in over 200 sessions ranging from animal science to sports and from business and entrepreneurship to arts and crafts. Outside of sessions, they enjoyed many on-campus activities such as swimming at the IM Sports West outdoor pool, bowling at the Union, ice skating at the Munn Ice Arena, visiting the Abrams Planetarium and lots more. They also attended an entertainment event on Wednesday night, which featured motivational speaker Brandon Lee White.

I’d like to thank the hundreds of MSU Extension staff members and 4-H volunteers who made this opportunity possible for our youth.

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Filed under 4-H, Children and Youth, Youth development

Vote to win funding for MSUE 4-H

We’re asking all 4-H members, volunteers, alumni, Michigan State University Extension staff, and more to raise their hands to help Michigan 4-H Youth Development win a $10,000 science sponsorship from HughesNet to support science activities for 4-H Exploration Days (June 18 to 20). This year, the event’s theme is “Unleash Your Inner Scientist.” This pre-college program will be filled with numerous opportunities to explore science and gain exposure to career possibilities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) fields. Voting is simple and quick, and ends on May 1 at 11:59 p.m. EST. Click here to help kids explore STEM at 4-H Exploration Days:

http://www.4-h.org/about/partners/featured/hughesnet/?loc=CAROUSEL. Please help spread the word!

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Designer’s work reflects 4-H magic

In a recent Spotlight, I featured 4-H Exploration Days and the fact that it’s been going on for 44 years. Every year, Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development staff, led by senior program leader Judy Ratkos, put their heads together and think of a theme for the event. And every year since 1984, Marian Reiter, graphic artist in Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications, comes up with a design to go with that theme. Her design is used on the 4-H Exploration Days website, on the activity guide and on the T-shirts that participants, staff and volunteers wear to the event.

MSU ANR Communications graphic artist Marian Reiter in one of her 4-H Exploration Days T-shirt designs, poses in front of some of the many T-shirts she designed for the annual event.

Michigan State University Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications graphic artist Marian Reiter wearing one of her 4-H Exploration Days T-shirt designs, poses in front of some of the many T-shirts she designed for the annual event. Photo taken July 1, 2013, by Caitlin Weathers, MSU ANR Communications.

Marian said, “Every year, the T-shirt design goes through intense scrutiny by a review group of 4-H members, volunteers and staff and there are usually several versions before it’s approved. Of all the projects I work on, this one probably has the toughest design critique!”

The first 4-H Exploration Days T-shirt she created featured the theme “Prepare for Tomorrow.” This year’s theme was “Share the magic of 4-H!” Marian came up with a design that reflects that theme. The design appears on the cover of the 2013 4-H Exploration Days Activity Guide (click on the link to see the design) and on a black T-shirt that was quite popular with the attendees.

So next year, when you see more than 2,000 youth and adults on campus wearing 4-H Exploration Days T-shirts, think of Marian and her creative design expertise.


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Filed under Accomplishments

4-H Exploration Days: The opportunities abound

4-H Exploration Days took place on the Michigan State University campus for the 44th time, June 19‒21. This successful pre-college program is MSU’s largest. More than 2,500 people attended. A little more than 2,000 of those attendees were youth aged 11 to 19 from 77 counties. The event even boasted youth and adult guests from as far away as Poland.

When we talk about a pre-college program, we might be thinking of students sitting in desks in the summertime – not something the average kid dreams of as a way to spend a few precious days of summer. But that could hardly describe 4-H Exploration Days. Attendees this year chose from more than 200 sessions.

Some sessions focused on animal and veterinary science. Besides taking part in hands-on activities such as exploring the inside of goats and caring for horses’ hooves, attendees took field trips to the various MSU teaching and research centers for horses, dairy cattle and sheep as well as the MSU Veterinary Medical Clinic.

Participants also choose from a wealth of other possibilities. They launched rockets, explored emergency service careers at the MSU Fire Station, explored Michigan government and history at the State Capitol and Michigan Historical Museum, and learned about the juvenile justice system. They got creative with sewing and other crafts, writing, singing, dancing, songwriting and performing in theatre. Kids learned to better communicate through sign language, news reporting and public speaking. They delved into entomology, fishing, history, cooking and nutrition. They explored new languages and culture, learned to manage money and studied technology. They got physical with basketball, field hockey, ice skating, running, bowling, archery and volleyball. You get the picture. But just don’t take my word for it. Check out the list of activities here.

As you might imagine, it takes a tremendous amount of time, effort and people to put on an event of this magnitude. Nearly 300 served as session instructors or helpers including adult volunteers, teen volunteers, MSU Extension staff (both on- and off-campus) and outside resource people. Many of the adult volunteers and staff doubled as chaperones in addition to the 167 adults who volunteered to attend as chaperones. The event racked up more than 20,000 volunteer hours this year.

Judy Ratkos, MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development senior program leader and coordinator of 4-H Exploration Days said, “4-H Exploration Days gives youth an authentic collegiate experience, develops important life skills like decision-making and critical thinking, and often sparks college major or career interests. Our participants stay in MSU residence halls and attend classes in their interest. Many are inspired to come to college at MSU because they feel confident here and are excited about all the opportunities MSU offers.”

A special feature this year was the launch of the Samsung Summer Science Program to engage more young people in science and related fields to support future career exploration through inquiry-based science activities. Judy and Extension program leader Jake DeDecker promise to provide more information to counties about this new initiative in the coming month.

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MSU Extension staff member receives CANR Staffer of the Month award

Congratulations to Gail Hebert, Michigan State University Extension Children and Youth Institute office assistant. Gail is the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) Staff Advisory Committee November 2012 Staffer of the Month.

The award goes to a member of the CANR support staff who has done something special or noteworthy within their unit or college.

Extension senior program leader Judy Ratkos nominated Gail for her efficient, thorough assistance with the coordination of the 4-H pre-college programs 4-H Exploration Days and 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp. Gail also takes on the tedious task of formatting participant data for all the 4-H pre-college programs and 4-H seniors and submitting them to MSU Admissions and the National Student Clearinghouse. Her important work accurately tracks college attendance rates of 4-H youth.

Thanks to Gail for doing terrific work and to Judy for nominating Gail for this recognition.

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Volunteers and staff make 4-H Exploration Days possible

It was no surprise that participants at this year’s 4-H Exploration Days June 20 to 22 had a blast and they learned while doing it. During this annual event, kids – and they don’t have to be in 4-H – experience college life, staying in Michigan State University dorms and eating in a dorm cafeteria. They learn by doing (the 4-H way) by attending sessions on various topics from aerospace to visual arts and crafts. Free time allows swimming, skating, souvenir shopping, exploring, bowling, basketball and dancing. It’s a tremendous opportunity for fun and learning jam-packed into three days. It also gives young people a chance to develop social and academic skills needed for a successful transition to college and careers.


But it takes a tremendous amount of work and organization behind the scenes to make MSU’s largest pre-college program a success. Registration for the 43rd annual 4-H Exploration Days closed with 2,404 people from all but one of Michigan’s counties. More than 80 percent of those attending were young people 11 to 19 years old. Adults attending included chaperones, field staff and resource people.

Headed by Judy Ratkos, MSU Extension senior program leader, the event takes months of planning and preparation. More than 300 adult and teen volunteers, outside resource people, and MSU Extension county-based and campus-based staff members served as session instructors or helpers for the 204 sessions offered this summer. Nearly 300 adult volunteers registered as chaperones. It’s estimated that volunteers contributed more than 20,000 hours to this year’s 4-H Exploration Days.

This year, the hot weather did not spoil the fun. According to Judy, staff members and volunteers prepare for the possibility of high heat and humidity, providing water coolers and cups in each dorm lobby and water jugs for outdoor sessions and activities to prevent dehydration.

Besides sessions and activities, inspirational speaker and “Evolution of Dance” performer Judson Laipply spoke and performed his “Evolution of Dance” at the Wharton Center for Performing Arts. The performer also spent time with participants at three 4-H Exploration Days sessions.

A time capsule created at the 4-H Exploration Days in 1987 (some of you may remember that) was opened during the Wharton Center show. That year was the 150th anniversary of Michigan’s becoming a state. The capsule contains an item from almost every Michigan county. Visit the 4-H Exploration Days Facebook page to view photos of what was in the capsule.

The 2012 4-H Exploration Days theme was “Join the Revolution of Responsibility.” The Revolution of Responsibility is a movement for positive change in every community in the U.S. involving 4-H’ers taking on the responsibility to make a difference where they live.

We’re grateful to the many volunteers and staff members who made this event possible. It won’t be long before Judy and her team gear up for the 44th 4-H Exploration Days June 19 to 21, 2013. You can bet plenty of lucky kids will be there to learn and have fun.

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4-H Exploration Days influences future lives of attendees

In just a few months, more than 2,000 young people will experience campus life for a few days when 4-H Exploration Days takes place June 20–22. But they won’t just be having fun although you can be assured fun will be part of the experience. What they learn and do in those summer days and evenings may influence their future choices and determine the kind of adults they will become.

 4-H Exploration Days, Michigan State University’s largest pre-college program for youth ages 11 to 19, draws kids and adult volunteers from all over the state. The 2011 program even attracted a guest delegation from Poland. Youth choose from more than 200 sessions held both on and off campus. Sessions cover a vast range of topics from basketry and scrapbooking to field hockey and basic Web page design. They’ll stay in the dorms, experiencing cafeteria food. Besides attending sessions, young people can swim, skate, shop or just explore campus in their free time.

 Statistics show that the program prepares young people for a successful transition to college and life as a contributing adult. Data obtained from the National Student Clearinghouse database shows that 4-H Exploration Days participants who attended the program between 2004 and 2011 and were high school graduates from 2009 to 2011 are currently attending college at a 77 percent higher rate than their Michigan peers.

 In a survey, ninety-seven percent of the 2011 4-H Exploration Days participants reported that attending the program increased their interest in attending college, and 87 percent said that the program better prepared them for college. Beyond that, 80 percent reported the program increased their knowledge of different majors, career paths and opportunities right here at MSU.

 More than 90 percent of the 2011 participants reported the program helped them develop life skills such as making decisions, managing time, adapting to new living arrangements, accepting people different from them, socializing, communicating effectively and following tasks through to completion.

 The proof is in the numbers. 4-H Exploration Days is a powerful program having a positive effect on participants for years to come. Thanks to Judy Ratkos for her vision, leadership and diligence to gather some very challenging but important data. Holly Lacina and Gail Hebert have provided valuable assistance in data entry and tracking youth through their early adult years. This kind of analysis is critical to our ability to help Michigan and local decision makers understand the value of our programs. And for those who like output numbers, we have those, too: registration for Exploration Days 2012 opened on March 20 and to date, more than 1,600 youth have registered, representing 79 of Michigan’s 83 counties. That’s a pretty compelling story, too!

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Extension staff member is CANR Staffer of the Month

Congratulations to Holly Lacina from the Michigan State University Extension Children and Youth Institute (CYI) who is the September College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Staff Advisory Committee 2011 Staffer of the Month.

 Holly excelled as a support staff member working on events such as 4-H Exploration Days and 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp and in the general 4-H environmental and outdoor education area. Holly created and documented a system for tracking 4-H pre-college program participants’ college attendance. She currently serves as CYI fiscal officer.

 The award goes to a member of the CANR support staff who has done something special or noteworthy within their unit or college.

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