Tag Archives: science

Building for the Future

Most of you are already familiar with STEM, the acronym referring to “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.” Many of our 4-H leaders have been busy trying to engage young people across Michigan in exciting programs that encourage STEM learning. Elaine McKee, 4-H program coordinator in Berrien County, is one of them.

This summer, with the help of a $1,500 grant from the Molly Schuler Foundation and a $2,500 Heart of Cook award, McKee is working to bring LEGO Robotics to her county in a way that young people will enjoy. LEGO Robotics is a popular set of LEGO kits that enable individuals to learn the basics of engineering and computer programming by building small-scale robots. McKee ran a pilot program using LEGO Robotics at Summer My Way camp at Ballard Elementary School, and the young people who were involved had a wonderful time.

Using LEGO Robotics and the same program McKee taught at the summer camp, the grade-level students in Berrien County 4-H will have an opportunity to design robots that can perform simple tasks. This type of project prepares the young people for robotics clubs in high school and teaches them the foundation of skills to go into a STEM field as a career when they are finished with school.

Great job, Elaine!

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4-H’ers given challenge to innovate

A growing population puts an increasing demand on agriculture to feed the world. Who better to look for new ways to solve the problem than our young people? The National 4-H Council and Monsanto recognize the creative minds and natural inclination of youth to help others. The two organizations together created a new initiative to get today’s kids interested and involved in agriculture. The 4-H Ag Innovators Experience will not only spark enthusiasm but also help youth develop skills that would help them succeed in future agriculture-related careers as well as careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). And these future farmers and scientists may be on their way to solving the world’s hunger problem.

The 4-H Ag Innovators Experience is being piloted in eight states and Michigan is one of them. Michigan 4-H Youth Development received a $15,000 grant to fund the program. Michigan State University Extension educator Betty Jo Nash coordinates the program for our state.

 Three teen 4-H members attended training this spring at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C. The teens will in turn train other teens as well as local 4-H clubs. In the end, a thousand youth will have participated in Michigan and as many as 8,000 are expected to participate in the eight states taking part in the initiative.

 The pilot program involves the “Fish Farm Challenge.” Participants will engineer a simulated fish-food distribution system using limited resources. Ultimately, they should recognize the value of aquaculture while stimulating innovative approaches to a real-world problem – ensuring farm-raised fish have equal access to food. After completing the challenge, participants can create a video to show their ideas to their local communities. Four winners of $2,500 each will be chosen. Look for further details about the video contest on the National 4-H Council website after June 1.

 Read more in this Agriculture and Natural Resources Communications article: http://anrcom.msu.edu/anrcom/news/item/michigan_youth_to_participate_in_the_4_h_ag_innovators_experience

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Take me out to the ball game and serve me some science on the side

When you think of a day at the ballpark, you don’t usually think of science. Michigan 4-H Youth Development will change that way of thinking when you attend 4-H Science Day at the Cooley Law School Stadium in downtown Lansing. Attendees will learn about the science behind America’s favorite pastime when the Lansing Lugnuts team up with Michigan State University Extension 4-H to host the April 26 event.

Attendees will learn the science behind throwing a curveball, keeping the ballpark lawn play-ready and preparing ballpark food. They’ll get to visit 10 science stations set up around the stadium that cover many areas of science from robotics to natural resources.

You don’t have to be in 4-H to attend although 4-H’ers will be on hand to lead the national anthem. It sounds like a good opportunity to get out and enjoy the spring weather after a long hard winter with the added bonus of exploring science in a fun setting. It’s a great example of experiential learning (or learning by doing) that’s so fundamental to the 4-H experience.

Tickets are available until April 18 for $10 each. Children age 2 and under are free.

Read more about the event and find out how to get tickets by reading this Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Communications news release: http://anrcom.msu.edu/anrcom/news/item/lansing_lugnuts_and_michigan_4_h_team_up_to_host_4_h_science_day_at_the_bal

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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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Wayne County 4-H receives STEM grant

Some Wayne County middle schoolers will be having fun this summer and acquiring important STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills at the same time thanks to a grant from Cognizant’s Making the Future After-school and Summer Program. The program seeks to inspire young learners to pursue STEM disciplines by creating fun and hands-on learning experiences. Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development will use the $6,000 grant in the summer of 2014 to expand the TechXcite program, an after-school engineering curriculum developed by National 4-H and Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering.

Through the program, approximately 100 young people will participate in learning modules that focus on transportation, bio-medical technology, green building and solar energy. They’ll create exciting projects such as a bionic arm, a solar oven, a solar-powered car and rain barrels.

Extension educator Laurie Rivetto leads the Wayne County program and Extension 4-H program coordinator Kristy Oosterhouse is the go-to person for the overall 4-H TEchXcite program.

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4-H rockets into The Economist

This week, I received an email from my counterpart at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, Chuck Hibberd, dean and director of UNL Extension. His note gives some interesting background to a story on 4-H that appeared in the British weekly magazine, The Economist. 4-H is not a topic that you might expect to find in The Economist, so it was fun to read about a British reporter’s encounter with 4-H at the Nebraska State Fair. Here is Dr. Hibberd’s story, along with a link to the article:

I’m pleased to share an excellent article from this week’s issue of The Economist magazine entitled, Farming as Rocket Science. The story features Nebraska 4-H and 4-H’s influential role in STEM education and workforce development throughout the United States. Click here to read the full article.

 The Economist’s Lexington columnist was curious about 4-H after seeing the 4-H emblem prominently showcased during his travels throughout thousands of communities across the United States. As a result, he reached out to National 4-H Council to learn more about 4-H. He then spent several days seeing 4-H in action in Nebraska – meeting prominent 4-H alumni, University and Extension leadership, collegiate 4-Hers and several 4-H clubs and interacting with the members, volunteers and parents. He also visited the Nebraska State Fair and spent time with young people presenting their projects there.

 The article is a great testament to all of our excellent work. Let’s celebrate together in the success of what we do and share in the great attention that this high-profile story will bring to 4-H programs across our nation. – Chuck Hibberd

Thanks to Chuck and his colleagues for taking the time to show the reporter around. By the way, Dr. Hibberd will be joining us for Fall Extension Conference, speaking on “The 21st Century Extension Professional.” Maybe he can show us how to shoot off a rocket, too!

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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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4-H robotic club competes at nationals

The Allegan County 4-H robotic club Team ROCK – Reaching Out to Community Kids – took part in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) Championship April 24–27 in St. Louis, Mo.

The team was part of the FIRST Robotics Competition (FRC). FRC combines sports with science and technology. Teams must solve a problem in a six-week timeframe. Given a standard kit of parts, the members build robots and program them to perform tasks against competitors in the Ultimate Ascent competition. In the competition, the teams’ robots compete to score as many discs as they can into their goals.

Team ROCK was the first Michigan 4-H club to qualify for this worldwide robotics championship. This Allegan County News article pictures the team and talks about the members heading for the state finals. In the article, 4-H leader Jerry Williams mentions that the team had a “slim chance” for advancing to nationals. With dedication and teamwork, that chance did happen, and the 4-H’ers took part in the competition in St. Louis. The club members can be proud of the hard work and determination it took to get there. At the championship, the team had 5 wins and 3 losses.

Michigan State University Extension 4-H program coordinator Dian Liepe said, “I am so proud of these youth! They represented Allegan County 4-H and Michigan by exhibiting great sportsmanship and teamwork.”

Read more here.

This FIRST YouTube video gives you an idea of the excitement and fun that contestants had at the event.

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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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MSU Extension works closely with award-winning teacher contributing to environmental education

One of the outstanding things about our organization is the way that our partnerships build capacity in community leaders.

 Bob Thomson, a Sanborn Elementary School teacher in Ossineke, Mich., who works closely with Michigan State University Extension, won a Chevrolet GREEN Educator Award. Through the award, Earth Force and the General Motors Foundation team up to reward educators who integrate quality environmental education into their schools. Bob works with Michigan Sea Grant, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, 4‑H Youth Development and Huron Pines AmeriCorps program to guide his students in learning about the Thunder Bay watershed beyond the classroom.

 MSU Extension is connected with Bob Thomson’s work in three ways: 

  • The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NE MI GLSI) initially supported Bob’s work. This is a regional collaborative network, part of a statewide place-based education programming network supported by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust. Michigan Sea Grant, partnering with 4-H, facilitated the early planning discussions dating back to 2006 in establishing this regional northeastern Michigan network. Today, Sea Grant and 4-H continue to serve as leadership partners in facilitating the NE MI GLSI work in our region. 
  • The Toyota-supported 4-H2O Project, a water science and education initiative, supports Bob and his work. The Toyota 4-H2O Project is funded by a grant from Toyota to National 4-H Council and the Michigan 4-H Foundation. Sea Grant and 4-H partners locally, co-coordinating 4-H2O efforts with the help of Extension educators Sienna Suszek and Melanie Chiodini, Extension program associate Tammy Barrett and Extension program instructor Les Thomas. 
  • Sea Grant is a direct partner to Bob’s project, supporting Great Lakes fisheries and aquatic invasive species studies conducted with his class. Brandon Schroeder, Northeast Michigan District Sea Grant Extension educator, serves as a resource expert to his class and participates in several of their exploration field trips.

 Brandon shares about Sanborn’s place-based water science education partnership, “What’s most exciting is that MSUE has been able to directly support Bob’s class through different yet complementary angles, strategically bringing to the school partnership ‘table’ both 4-H Youth Development (focused on enhancing youth learning) teaming up with Michigan Sea Grant (fostering Great Lakes science education and engagement). This reflects another great example of collaboration between two MSU Extension programs and expertise, and Bob’s class has benefited greatly as a result!”

View this video featuring Bob’s class as one of several school projects of the NE MI GLSI:

 See the October 2011 edition of “Upwellings,” a quarterly Sea Grant publication, to read more about Bob and his relationship with Sea Grant. The newsletter featured his work as an exemplary model of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education programming. (See page 5.)

 Read this fact sheet for details about fifth and sixth grade students from Sanborn Elementary studying the Thunder Bay watershed through the help of these collaborations.

 These partnerships are great examples of how our work branches out, enabling others in the community to improve lives.

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