Tag Archives: 4-H

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

Rich connections in District 14 affect students throughout the state

We asked Brandon Schroeder, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension Sea Grant educator, to share with us about a strategic connection he has made that has strengthened his impact. Brandon’s current programming efforts involve fisheries science, biodiversity conservation, sustainable coastal tourism and Great Lakes education: working with coastal communities in northeastern Michigan to apply science-based knowledge to address Great Lakes issues locally.

“I value my Extension role in making connections and building relationships, and believe it’s an important role we play in our communities,” Brandon said.

Our questions and Brandon’s answers follow:

Will you tell us about a strategic connection you’ve made?

One successful educational partnership I’d like to highlight is with the statewide Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (GLSI) and our leadership for the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NEMIGLSI) network. These relationships reflect rich connections made between schools and educators across northeastern Michigan – and the entire state – as well as fostering greater school-community partnerships. This place-based stewardship education initiative seeks to engage youth, through their learning, in environmental stewardship projects that make a difference in the community – and so youth also are connected as community partners.

How did you go about making the connection and building relationships?

  • Seeking organizational partners, building personal relationships: Early on, we identified an opportunity (with funding) to partner with the Great Lakes Fishery Trust and an emerging statewide GLSI network. With this in mind, we sought out and met regularly to recruit potential school and community partners who had mutual interests in connecting Great Lakes and natural resource stewardship with school learning opportunities.
  • Networking in regional meetings to foster relationships: In 2006, collaborating with 4-H colleagues, we hosted and facilitated the first of many regional networking meetings inviting school and community partners who had much to contribute and to gain in this Great Lakes and natural resource education conversation. This was an educational workshop also designed to serve a networking function by facilitating relationship-building and resource sharing among schools and partners. Conversations sparked during our first regional networking meeting, now an annual tradition, became the foundation for the NEMIGLSI partnership.
  • Facilitating an engaged leadership team: A regional leadership team for the NEMIGLSI was established and helped launched the initiative. This regional team still meets regularly to coordinate our educational efforts, provide shared leadership in implementing activities and collaborate around new opportunities (and securing new resources) for our growing NEMIGLSI network. Our leadership team is more than an advisory group; they are active contributors and beneficiaries in this joint programming.
  • Sharing investment, sharing successes: Leadership team partner organizations – community, school and teacher advisors – contribute significant time, expertise and resources toward NEMIGLSI network goals. In trade, we work to ensure that network programming and successes align with their own goals and educational initiatives.

What has been the outcome of this connection and how has it influenced your work and your district?

Our NEMIGLSI network and partnership is successfully fostering a growing place-based education culture in northeastern Michigan. Since 2009, more than 19,000 students (around 20 percent of student population annually) have engaged as Great Lakes stewards and valued community leaders through NEMIGLSI. This initiative has supported more than 35 schools (290 educators) from eight counties in professional development, community partners connections and stewardship project support. Numerous NEMIGLSI student projects have directly benefited Sea Grant and partner priorities helping to conserve Lake Huron’s biodiversity, map threatened and endangered species habitat, restore native fisheries, monitor water quality and vernal pool wetlands, manage invasive species, enhance aquatic habitat, investigate marine debris and more. A published program evaluation found that students value their learning experiences as hands-on and engaging, community connected, career oriented and fun. Perhaps most exciting is that students are serving as valued community and conservation partners today – and perhaps even more in their future!

Schroeder stands in the pond with three boys and is explaining the monitoring device in the water.

Schroeder engages students in wetland ecology: invasive phragmites monitoring.

Schroeder and a boy and a girl hold up a large net to do fisheries sampling.

Schroeder fisheries sampling with students during 4-H Great Lakes and Natural Resources Camp

What have you learned (personally or professionally) from this connection?

  • Embrace the power in partnerships! We can all cover more ground more efficiently and effectively, and achieve deeper, richer impacts as a result of collaborative programming. Relationships and connections (or partnerships) are both organizational AND personal. They demand significant time, energy and a bit of patience to foster, and require ongoing attention, commitment and care.
  • Relationships and partner connections are equally important to our science or technical content expertise, and the educational processes and methods we use to deliver this content in communities.
  • In Extension, I have found the most vibrant and exciting projects to be at the intersections of stakeholders and opportunities that wouldn’t normally (or as regularly) cross paths. For example, connecting schools, educators and youth with Great Lakes scientists or community development partners. Many times I find that community expertise, ideas and resources abound once we have simply helped open a door for networking and relationship-building.

Thanks again to Brandon for taking time to share with us about his strategic connections. One of our great strengths in Extension is our ability to bring people, organizations and resources together to make a profound impact on our state. Each month, I’ve shared a story from each district highlighting strategic connections our colleagues have made in hopes that it will inspire all of us to reach out.

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Filed under 4-H, Conservation, Impacts, Invasive species, Partnerships, Sea Grant Extension, strategic connections

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

Michigan 4-H receives awards at the States’ 4-H International Conference

From left to right: Yoko Kawaguchi, Martha Shapton, Heather Gray, Gwen Apger, Jan Brinn, D’Ann Rohrer and Cathy Sutphin. Photo courtesy of D'ann Rohrer; all posing with the award plaque on stage.

From left to right: Yoko Kawaguchi, Martha Shapton, Heather Gray, Gwen Apger, Jan Brinn, D’Ann Rohrer and Cathy Sutphin. Photo courtesy of D’ann Rohrer.

Michigan 4-H received three awards at the States’ 4-H International Exchange Conference in Seattle, Washington, Nov. 11. Michigan 4-H Youth Development received the Valued Partnership with States’ 4-H International Exchange Since 1974 Award and the Diversity in Hosting Award. Additionally, Michigan 4-H International Exchange Programs received the Extraordinary Quality Programs Award. Heather Gray, 4-H international exchange coordinator; children and youth educators Janis Brinn and D’Ann Rohrer; and Martha Shapton and Gwen Apger, both local program coordinators in the Upper Peninsula, traveled to Seattle to attend the conference and accept the awards presented by Cathy Sutphin, States’ 4-H board chair, and Yoko Kawaguchi, president of State’s 4-H International Exchange Programs.

“The success of States’ 4-H International’s global citizenship programs would not be possible without the efforts and dedication from 4-H staff and volunteers in your state, especially the state coordinator, D’Ann Rohrer,” Yoko said.

Among many accomplishments this year, Michigan generously stepped in to host several more delegates than the original hosting number. In addition, Michigan hosts the largest number of yearlong students among all participating states, one of whom attended the annual conference as a special guest speaker and youth ambassador. Yoko also acknowledged Michigan’s 43 years of uninterrupted partnership and its hosting of more than 2,800 delegates during that span.

Through our 4-H International Exchange Program, we hope to build relationships with other countries and to help our young people develop an international perspective. I would like to thank our 4-H International Exchange Program team, as well as the volunteers and host families who are making a difference internationally in youth’s lives in a way that sets us apart.

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Filed under 4-H, Awards

4-H’ers receive scholarships, Extension engages the public at the Michigan State Fair

The Michigan State Fair (MSF) was a complete success. Thanks to over 60 4-H volunteers and staff members, we had an outstanding opportunity to engage with visitors throughout the Labor Day weekend. Over 112,000 people attended the fair, and it was a great opportunity to get the word out about all Michigan State University (MSU) Extension has to offer them.

MSU Extension staff members hosted a booth to present programs and activities to the public, and our 4-H’ers and volunteers led activities for youth such as hoverball, archery, arts and crafts, and other hands-on activities.

We also received the big news that our outstanding Oakland County 4-H youth received a total of over $10,000 in urban farming and rural scholarships from the MSF. On September 22, they even got a chance to visit the State Capitol where they were welcomed by Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall and Rep. Kathy Crawford to celebrate their achievements.

Oakland County 4-H youth and leaders pose for a photograph at the State Capitol with Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall and Rep. Kathy Crawford to celebrate their achievements. Photo courtesy of Oakland County 4-H.

Oakland County 4-H visited the Capitol visit the State Capitol where they were welcomed by Senate Majority Floor Leader Mike Kowall and Rep. Kathy Crawford. Photo courtesy of Oakland County 4-H.

The 4-H relationship with the Fifth Third Bank, MSF and Suburban Collection Showplace began several years ago at the Novi Equestrian Expo 4-H Youth Activities area. Because of our reputation, MSU Extension was invited to be a participant at the 2015 MSF and given a free booth to showcase its many awesome programs. This year, the MSF gave the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources (CANR) , AgBioResearch and MSU Extension a 40-foot by 70-foot booth to present programs and activities. For participating, MSU Extension gets a seat on the State Fair steering committee, free entry for all MSU Extension staff and volunteers serving at the booth, and reduced parking fees. In addition, top representatives of the CANR, AgBioResearch and MSU Extension are invited to attend the MSF VIP event for networking.

Photo of the Oakland County 4-H, MSU Extension, AgBioResearch and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources booth. Several people standing and sitting and chatting.

The MSF’s generous donation of space for Oakland County 4-H, MSU Extension, AgBioResearch and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Photo courtesy of Fran Adelaja.

This has been an amazing opportunity for our organization and our 4-H youth. Mark your calendars for next year’s fair on Labor Day weekend!

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Filed under Children and Youth, Events, michigan state fair

Making a difference in MSU Extension District 6: Recap of the state council visit

Last week, I had the opportunity to travel north to District 6 along with our Michigan State University (MSU) Extension and AgBioResearch State Council. Shari Spoelman, district coordinator, and the crew in MSU Extension District 6 worked hard to give us a great overview of the programming, research and outreach going on in the district, and arranged for us to spend time with the people they serve.

For those of you who are new to Extension or unfamiliar with the council, we have members from all over the state who serve as a liaison between us and our county councils, field station advisory groups, and state agencies and organizations. The members come from various backgrounds: commodity group leaders, county commissioners, 4-H volunteers and farmers. We even have a meteorologist. The more they know about the work we do and the difference we make around the state, the better they can share the Extension story with our local and state decision-makers.

We began our trip with a chance to see the Kettunen Center, a conference facility owned by the Michigan 4-H Foundation. We heard about how 4-H and Extension use the center to connect with youth and volunteers. Chris Gentry, Kettunen Center director, provided us with a tour. We heard from Sara Keinath, youth development educator, and Jake Stieg, 4-H program coordinator, on the work they do with 4-H such as Mock Interview Day and 4-H Winterfest.

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Next, we traveled to B & B Farms, owned by Dan and Bonnie Blackledge, and heard about how MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center has helped them grow and market their canola seed and oil products. Jerry Lindquist, grazing and field crops educator, met us there to talk more about the relationships that MSU Extension has with specialty crop growers.

Dan and Kathy Blackledge talk about working with MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center to grow and market their canola products. Everyone stands by their house and barn.

Dan and Kathy Blackledge talk about working with MSU Extension and the MSU Product Center to grow and market their canola products.

Afterward, we visited Hidden Hills Dairy with Kathy Lee, senior dairy educator, and saw modern technology and the results of MSU Extension input at work on the farm.

State council members tour below the milking parlor where the machines send the milk.

State council members tour the milk machines below the milking parlor at Hidden Hills Dairy.

We ended the day in downtown Cadillac with Marcus Peccia, the city manager, and Carla Filkins, the mayor, to hear about their partnership with the MSU School of Planning, Design and Construction; MSU Extension and the Michigan Municipal League to create a successful placemaking plan. Marcus gave us a tour to see some of the new efforts to make downtown Cadillac a place for the community to gather as part of the Heritage Plaza PlacePlan. We saw the new amphitheater, the outdoor fireplace, the park and the future location of the Cadillac farmers market.

State Council members and administrators pose for a group photograph in downtown Cadillac.

State Council members and administrators in downtown Cadillac.

On Wednesday, Jill O’Donnell, a senior agriculture and agribusiness educator who has worked with the Michigan Christmas tree industry for over 32 years, joined us as we visited the Dutchman Tree Farm in Manton. We met with Steve VanderWeide, the owner, as he shared about farm operations and his connection with MSU Extension. We learned about the soil, tree growth process and market changes that characterize this area of the state.

Next we met up with Erin Lizotte, integrated pest management educator, at Arlene Hops to learn about hops as a re-emerging specialty crop in Michigan and MSU Extension’s efforts to provide research and support. Brian Tennis from the Michigan Hop Alliance answered questions about growing hops as well as the importance of having Extension as a valuable resource in moving forward.

State Council members stand in a hops field and listen to Erin Lizotte talk about Michigan hops.

State Council members get a chance to hear from Erin Lizotte about hop growing in Michigan.

We ended our tour at the Lake City Research Center with Jason Rowntree, Kable Thurlow and Jerry for a tour of the center and a chance to learn more about their research on forage-based livestock, potato production and bioenergy crop production. Jason is an MSU faculty member and Kable is a beef educator who conduct research and outreach at the center.

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Many council members expressed how important it was to learn more about the work we’re doing in this area of the state. It was an extremely successful trip, and I’d like to send a huge “Thank you!” out to everyone who made our visit possible.

You know, the most meaningful part for me is when we meet community members and hear how MSU Extension made a difference in their lives. Nothing beats that.

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Filed under Agriculture, Agriculture and Agribusiness, Children and Youth, Economic development, Parks, Partnerships