Tag Archives: science literacy

4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp recognized as one of top 4-H science programs, report on study released

We knew all along that Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp is a great pre-college program for kids to learn through outdoor hands-on experiences and have fun in the process. Others have noticed as well. In 2008, the annual seven-day camp held on the shores of Lake Huron in Presque Isle, Michigan, was named as a 4-H Program of Distinction. In 2009, it won the National 4-H and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Natural Resources Conservation Education Award.

 In 2011, it was selected out of 70 nominations of promising science programs through a structured process of nominations and vetting as one of eight top science programs in a National 4-H science program in-depth case study. The study was part of the 4-H Youth Development Program’s National Science Initiative evaluation funded by the Noyce Foundation through a grant to National 4-H Council.

A new report was recently released on the case study. “Priming the Pipeline: Lessons from Promising 4-H Science Programs,” written by Derek Riley and Alisha Butler from Policy Studies Associates, features the camp and the seven other selected science programs. It covers practices in the following areas: youth outreach and recruitment, staff and science volunteers, professional development, science curricula and pedagogy, youth development and attitudes toward science, partner organizations and resource support, program evaluation, and program sustainability and scale-up.

Senior program leader Judy Ratkos serves as camp administrator and co-directs the camp with 4-H volunteer Bob Patterson.

Judy said, “It is truly an honor for the staff and volunteers involved in 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp to have it recognized as one of the top 4-H science programs in the nation. To have it held up as a model for other youth science programs – both within and outside of 4-H – creates awareness that MSU Extension can help lead the way in increasing science literacy among Michigan young people and increase the number of youth pursuing postsecondary education and careers in science.

“The lessons shared in this newly released report should be helpful to other 4-H science programs striving to be ‘SET Ready.’ A SET Ready 4-H experience is a program that is framed in science, engineering and technology concepts based on SET standards and intentionally targets the development of SET abilities and the outcomes articulated by the 4-H SET Logic Model,” Judy said.

Congratulations to Judy and her team! They inspire the rest of us to make the best even better.

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Allegan County 4-H promotes science literacy, 4-H at Science Blast

Improving science literacy is one of the goals of the Michigan State University Extension “I Know MI Numbers” initiative. 4-H Science Blasts, held throughout the state, are part of the effort designed to help improve science scores in a state where science literacy for school-aged youth is below the national average. The blasts also help 4-H to reach the goal of engaging one million new young people in science programs by 2013.

 MSU Extension’s Allegan County 4-H Youth Development was a part of one of this summer’s Maranda’s Park Parties held July 28, 2011, at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. The 4-H area included a 4-H Science Blast with four stations of learning and fun for the 4,900 individuals attending the event.

 MSU Extension educator Jan Brinn incorporated the 4-H Science Blast into the park party to meet the goals of the I Know MI Numbers initiative and National 4-H by educating youth in science. The 4-H area reached more than 900 youth who not only learned about science and 4‑H but had fun too.

 The Science Blast included four stations that covered the areas of animal science, plant science, engineering and technology, and environmental science. Youth met a cow up close and personal, took part in 4-H beef science activities, made butterflies using the 4-H “Project Butterfly Wings” curriculum, pollinated flowers using corn meal and made red bean necklaces. They enjoyed watching the TEAM ROCK Robotics 4-H robot pick up balloons made by Giggles the Clown. They even learned about worm farming from a young 4-H’er. Attendees also were able to proudly wear Science Blast tattoos.

 Jan is excited about the success of the event. “With the large number in attendance, TV cameras and wonderful 4-H volunteers helping in the 4-H area it was very successful. 4-H was promoted, youth educated in science and everyone had fun as well,” she said.

 

4-H leader Robyn Wixom

4-H leader Robyn Wixom (center) introduces attendees to Peggy the Cow at the 4-H Science Blast July 28, 2011, at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. Peggy was a great conversation starter that got kids interested and asking questions about animal science. Photo by Janis Brin.

 
 
4-H leader Roxanne Henley

4-H leader Roxanne Henley teaches two attendees how to make bean necklaces and butterflies at the 4-H Science Blast July 28, 2011, at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. Photo by Janis Brin.

 
Team Rock robot

Team ROCK 4-H member demonstrates the Robot 2000 to attentive participants at the 4-H Science Blast July 28, 2011, at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. Photo by Janis Brin.

 
Attendees show off Science Blast tattoos

Attendees proudly show their “Science Blast” tattoos at the 4-H Science Blast July 28, 2011, at the Allegan County Fairgrounds. Photo by Janis Brin.

 
 

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I Know MI Numbers featured at Ag Expo

As you know, Michigan State University Extension is implementing the I Know MI Numbers initiative, focusing on five targeted programs among many identified as critical to the state’s future on Gov. Rick Snyder’s dashboard. MSU Extension staff members educated the public about each issue in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources tent and the MSU Extension Bookstore tent at Ag ExpoJuly 19–21. In temperatures in the 90s with humidity that led to heat indexes in the 100s, our dedicated staff soldiered on to encourage attendees to improve their quality of life.

MSU Extension Bookstore tent

MSU Extension Bookstore tent

At the MSU Extension Bookstore tent, Ag Expo attendees could purchase soil test kits. The kits make it easy for gardeners to get quick results and information when they send in their soil samples through Extension to the MSU Soil and Plant Nutrient Lab. Mary Wilson, MSU Extension consumer horticulture educator and state coordinator of the MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program, was on hand in the CANR tent to explain the process. Using the soil test results, gardeners can more accurately determine the amount of fertilizers and herbicides to use – lessening the chance of overuse. This would reduce runoff, improving water quality – a goal of the I Know MI Numbers targeted program: Agriculture That Protects Michigan’s Waters. We’d like to see Michigan’s water index moving higher than 88, on a scale of 100. (If you missed getting a soil test kit, you can still get one at the MSU Extension Bookstore at bookstore.msue.msu.edu.) Staff involved with the water quality initiative staffed a display at the CANR tent as well. And during Ag Expo, many demonstrations throughout the three-day event focused on agriculture that improves water quality. We have nearly 60 programs or events throughout the state that focus on key water-quality issues.

Agriculture That Protects Michigan's Waters

Agriculture That Protects Michigan's Waters exhibit. Photo by Katie Alexander.

In the CANR tent, Extension staff members measured visitors’ height and weight to help them determine their BMI (body mass index). Staff members were ready to talk nutrition and healthy habits with attendees. Reducing adult obesity is a targeted program that aims at reaching 8,000 people across the state to make healthy changes in their behavior. In Genesee and Saginaw counties, 35 adult obesity prevention/reduction classes reach hundreds of adults with information to help them improve their BMI.

Reducing adult obesity

Reducing adult obesity exhibit. Photo by Katie Alexander.

Helping Our Cities and Towns Succeed aims at helping local officials address the fiscal crisis and reduce the cost of government. Michigan residents attending Ag Expo could determine their local fiscal health number (by checking a chart on the Michigan Department of Treasury’s website, created by MSUE) and compare it to other communities. They then placed a colored tack on a map that represented one of three categories: neutral, watch or stress. The goal of this targeted program is to have all communities fall in the neutral category, a number between zero and four. Extension is partnering with the governor and the Michigan Department of Treasury to educate Michigan residents about fiscal health.

Helping Our Cities and Towns Succeed

Helping Our Cities and Towns Succeed exhibit. Photo by Katie Alexander.

Increasing early childhood literacy focuses on Michigan children entering kindergarten with the skills they need in order to be reading at grade level by the third grade. In the CANR tent, a children’s story hour took place every hour. After listening to the story, a child could choose a free book to take home. MSU Extension has held five events since June in which children and parents focused on developing pre-reading skills. And we’ll be distributing up to 500,000 books donated by First Book to youth living in low-income situations.

Increasing Early Childhood Literacy

Increasing Early Childhood Literacy exhibit. Photo by Katie Alexander

MSU Extension is helping to improve science literacy by supporting teachers with resources, experiments and lesson plans that align with Michigan Science Education standards and coordinating 4-H Science Blast and 4-H National Youth Science Day. Kids who attended Ag Expo participated in two water-quality science experiments and the Fashion-a-Fish project activity to improve their own science literacy.

Improving Science Literacy

Improving Science Literacy exhibit. Photo by Katie Alexander.

Thanks to all who participated in making it possible to get the word out about the I Know MI Numbers initiative at Ag Expo.

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4-H’ers learn STEM through hands-on ROV experience

Improving science literacy is one of Michigan State University Extension’s targeted programs, part of the “I Know MI Numbers” initiative. It’s also a goal of National 4-H. To address increased demand for science and technology professionals, 4-H is working nationwide to reach a bold goal of engaging one million new young people in science programs by 2013.

 To help meet that goal, forty-two 4-H Exploration Days participants from Delta and Schoolcraft counties took part in the building and testing of remote operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum in Muskegon prior to arriving on the MSU campus. A committee of youth planned the Exploration Days side trip and selected the ROV as an activity that they felt had educational value and would interest their peers and help them gain knowledge.

 Youth explored and learned about the physics of buoyancy and balance while working in groups of four to design and build their own ROVs. Once they had their vehicles constructed, the groups tested their ROVs in large water tanks and maneuvered them via remote control to move forward and back, make left and right turns, and dive and surface just like real submarines.

4-H members test ROV

A group of 4-H members tests the ROV they designed and created in a large water tank at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum in Muskegon. Photo by David Radloff

 Delta County Extension educator Dave Radloff explained that the goal was to encourage youth to explore STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics and gain a better understanding through hands-on experiences.

 In addition to the ROV class, participants also spent the night in the USS Silversides, a World War II submarine, where they slept in the same berths as the brave men who once served our country.

 Delta County 4-H Exploration Days participants also explored marketing and communication, and the use of technology by selling, writing and recording radio commercials to raise funds for the trip. The 27 Delta County 4-H members attending Exploration Days this year created 109 radio commercials. A local radio station, Mix106, graciously donated the airtime to make this 4‑H project possible.

 

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‘I Know MI Numbers’ to improve Michigan’s future

Since its founding, Michigan State University Extension has, in all areas of endeavor, led Michigan residents forward by improving their lives. Today, Michigan residents face crucial issues that affect their quality of life including rising levels of obesity, low achievement in science literacy, threats to water quality, children unprepared for school, and cities and townships facing bankruptcy in a tenuous economic recovery.

 MSUE’s “I Know MI Numbers” (pronounced “I know my numbers”) initiative will inspire residents to be active participants in understanding the “numbers” that translate into healthier living, productive and sustainable agriculture, a cleaner environment, educational achievement and good local government. Our final goal is a state that is thriving and successful.

 We’ll execute five programs over the next six to nine months through the “I Know MI Numbers” initiative. The programs relate to areas highlighted as priorities in Gov. Rick Snyder’s dashboard, which measures Michigan’s performance relative to other states and relative to our past in order to be able to measure improvements. This idea of keeping track by numbers is familiar to us in Extension as we continuously seek to measure the impact of our work in numbers and in stories. By focusing on five key areas in an intense effort, we intend to make a difference, demonstrating that we take the dashboard seriously, we take our mission seriously in helping Michigan to improve, and we hold ourselves accountable.

 As you all know, this is not the only work we’ll be doing over the next six months. Rather, these projects help to draw attention to the impact and relevance of our programs. We will feature other work that is underway, such as our work in community food systems, that will be showing impacts over a longer time horizon. The projects we’re featuring now are ones that help us to show our ability to respond and achieve impacts in a short time.

 The programs include:

 Agriculture that Protects Michigan’s Waters

The first bill that Gov. Snyder signed into law was the Michigan Agriculture Environmental Assurance Program legislation. In signing it, he called attention to the importance of agriculture in Michigan’s economic recovery and the innovation of Michigan agriculturalists in taking on responsibility for practices that protect and enhance Michigan’s natural resources. Water is a tremendous resource in Michigan for agriculture, manufacturing, tourism and recreation. Clean and safe water resources are crucial to our quality of life and a bright economic future. And water quality is one of the 21 metrics on the governor’s dashboard. MSU Extension staff members will work with farmers to educate them about and help them to implement practices that reduce the flow of nutrients and pesticides to the water supply. MSU Extension will implement educational programs during the growing season and measure the impacts so that by the end of the growing season, we can collect measurable outcome data that directly correspond to improved water quality.

 Reducing Adult Obesity

Obesity leads to chronic disease and affects quality of life. Educational programming can help people change their behavior and in doing so can improve their own health. Our science-based education program aims to reduce the BMI (Body Mass Index) of individuals in Genesee and Saginaw counties, where obesity levels are the highest in the state. Working with faith-based organizations, worksites and through its existing programming, MSU Extension will lead nutrition education classes with an increased emphasis on obesity reduction. Our goal is to reach 8,000 people before the end of the year, changing behaviors and improving health, and demonstrating to participants and to decision makers if significant changes have been achieved.

 Helping our Cities and Towns Succeed

MSU Extension educators, working with partners from the legal and financial sectors, are providing the educational foundation for local officials to use tools provided by the governor and Legislature to address the fiscal crisis, improving the quality of service and reducing the cost of government. Extension staff members will provide workshops and trainings on topics such as the new emergency financial manager law, legal contracts, health care management, turnaround plans, local finance, local government cooperation and consolidation, school law and finance, and municipal bankruptcy.

 Increasing Early Childhood Literacy

More than a third of children enter kindergarten without the skills needed to benefit from the instruction they receive. MSU Extension is partnering with the Molina Foundation to distribute 50,000 books across Michigan. Combined with other learning resources that will be included, parents and caregivers will have the resources they need to better prepare young children for success in school and life. Supporting literacy education is how MSU Extension will help our youngest citizens to be reading at grade level by the third grade.

 Improving Science Literacy

MSU Extension has a long history of providing science education in a nonformal setting that uses an experiential, learn-by-doing method. Since science literacy for school-aged youth in Michigan is below the national average, we plan to help rectify the situation by supporting teachers across Michigan with resources, experiments and lesson plans around three science focus areas: biology (animal and veterinary sciences), plant sciences and environmental sciences (including bioenergy). MSU Extension will provide resource packets to teachers along with training in how to incorporate the resources into their classroom lessons. The materials will align with Michigan Science Education Standards by grade. MSUE staff members will coordinate 4‑H Science Blast and National 4-H Youth Science Day events across Michigan.

 Staff members are hard at work making these programs a reality. We expect initial results to be reported as early as fall 2011.

 View the video below on the “I Know MI Numbers” campaign produced by Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications. It will play on virtually any browser and will also play on most IPhone and Android smart phones. Its narrator is not the most charismatic speaker, but I hope he gets the point across that we mean business when it comes to making a difference in Michigan.

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