Tag Archives: michelle neff

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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MSU Extension educators receive MAE4-HYS Distinguished Service Award

Michelle Neff, Michigan State University Extension Clare County educator, and Karen Fifield, MSU Extension Montmorency County educator, both received the Michigan Association of Extension 4-H Youth Staff (MAE4-HYS) Distinguished Service Award at the 4-H Spring Conference held May 9–12 at Kettunen Center in Tustin.

 The Distinguished Service Award is the highest state honor that 4-H staff can obtain through the MAE4-HYS. The award is given to current MAE4-HYS members who have at least 6 years of employment in Extension 4-H Youth Development, including some statewide involvement in coordinating events, programming or both, and who have proven evidence of positive change resulting from their work.

 MAE4-HYS recognized Michelle Neff for her management of the 4-H Club Read Program and her implementation of the CHARACTER COUNTS! curriculum. The association also recognized her service as a Farm Bureau board member, her work with 4-H volunteers on the establishment of a permanent Clare County 4-H Youth Program Endowment fund with the Michigan 4-H Foundation, and her involvement in the formation of the Teen Livestock Committee.

 MAE4-HYS also recognized Michelle’s involvement in statewide efforts with the Citizenship, Leadership and Service (CLS) Team’s Teen Leader Project. Currently, her role includes serving as the co-facilitator for the Statewide Academic Success Work Group under the Life Skills Work Team.

 Formerly an Extension program associate, Karen Fifield became an Extension educator in the Health and Nutrition Institute on June 1. Since 1998, Karen has served MSU Extension Montmorency County. MAE4-HYS recognized Karen for her work with 4-H including the Sunrise Side 4-H Camp, Achievement Days, 4-H Days at the Mill, 4-H Leadermeet, Open Skate Fun Day and the Montmorency County Fair. MAE4-HYS also recognized Karen’s involvement at the regional level with the animal science committee and in the planning of two livestock judge’s clinics offered in 2010 and 2011.

 Karen has been instrumental in promoting healthy food at the 5-county Sunrise Side 4-H Camp, planning and shopping for healthy meals as well as preparing and serving them. At 4-H camp she’s taught kitchen skills, CPR and basic first-aid training. With little or no support staff, she has taken on additional duties in the MSU Extension office with a positive and optimistic attitude.

 Congratulations, Michelle and Karen!

Karen Fifield and Michelle Neff receive MAE4-HYS Distinguished Service Awards

Pictured (l to r) Karen Fifield, then MSU Extension Montmorency County program associate currently MSU Extension educator, and Michelle Neff, MSU Clare County Extension educator, both receive the MAE4-HYS Distinguished Service Award at 4-H Spring Conference held May 9–12, 2012, at Kettunen Center in Tustin, Mich.

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History worth saving

With all the moves and changes in recent months, several county staff members have played an active part in saving Michigan State University Extension content information, and in doing so, filling in the blanks of our history from its beginning to the present. It’s important to chronicle and honor the traditions of our organization. With every period of change, there’s often wisdom to be found in the experiences of our predecessors. Whether we find those kernels of wisdom or not, we have a responsibility to preserve what records exist so that others can benefit from past experiences. Here are three examples of folks working hard to determine what to save and how to save it.

 In August, MSU Extension Allegan County downsized their office space. Betty Blase, District 7 coordinator, and Lynn Vecziedins, administrative assistant, contacted Cindy Straus, electronic information manager, to find out what they should do with the vast amount of information they faced with the downsize. A trip to their office revealed a well-organized and extensive array of bulletins, notebooks, programming materials and historical newspaper articles. These materials document how MSU Extension started in early 1917 when Allegan County’s first agricultural agent was hired. Included in their materials is a report from a summer intern who worked on food safety for support of the war work – that’s World War I. The materials included an extensive run of annual reports, many from the ’20s to the ’40s with photos of events. Allegan County staff members sorted the vast collection of files. Some files were sent to MSU Archives, and some will be scanned to be added to the MSU Extension historical bulletin collection.

 Soon after, MSU Extension Clare County also contacted Cindy about the same kind of downsizing, but they were facing loss of staff as well as space. Materials needed to be sorted so that what was kept provided support for the remaining staff. Michelle Neff, Extension educator, helped to sort and evaluate the materials, which included documents related to the tuberculosis work done in the early ’20s and ’30s and forestry work and research being done in conjunction with the district specialists in the ’50s and ’60s. It also included information on the PBB disaster in the ’70s in which cattle feed was contaminated with a fire retardant.

 Finally, Extension educator Mark Longstroth contacted Cindy with an extensive listing of historical fruit materials that supported research work started in southwestern Michigan. These files are now being sorted and scanned with many going to the MSU Archives, and some to the MSU Main Library collection, the MSUE historical bulletin collection or the Knowledge Repository.

 Bulletins uncovered in the three historical records projects include research reports written on the development of brome grass (1940s), energy management for dairy farms (1950s), small business development (1930s–60s), community zoning and management (1930s–80s), youth patterns for moving out of a county (1950s) and the list goes on.

 It is never too late to pass on files of newsletter series, program curriculum (written for and by MSU staff), audio, video, slide sets (all with complete materials), photos (dated and documented), and program support materials of any kind written by and for MSU staff and clientele. To see a list of MSUE bulletins that are already on file, go to http://web2.msue.msu.edu/Bulletins/Bulletin/PDF/Historical/finished_pubs/index.html.

 For more information on what you should be saving or sending to campus, contact Cindy Straus at strausc@msu.edu.

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