Tag Archives: stem

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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Something to talk about: The 100-year anniversary of MSU Extension

One hundred years ago this May, President Woodrow Wilson signed the Smith-Lever Act into law. The act established a system of cooperative extension services connected to land-grant universities. The idea was to take all the wisdom and knowledge from the land-grant institutions and make that available to people in their everyday lives – out on the farm, in their homes, in their businesses and in their communities. That was 100 years ago and here we are – we’re still at it.

From its beginning, Michigan State University Extension’s emphasis has been on agriculture. Well over half of our federal and state funds go into agricultural programming. Our network of Extension educators makes faculty expertise and university research available to communities.

We’re still involved in the same areas today but we’ve also evolved. We’ve looked for new ways to reach people where they are. We now have a presence at Detroit Eastern Market and the Grand Rapids Downtown Market where we educate the public on nutrition, gardening and food safety. We will soon have a footprint in the Flint Farmers Market. Our Michigan Fresh campaign further educates on fruits, vegetables, flowers and ornamentals as well as food safety, food storage and preservation, and gardening.

We’ve found new ways to reach out to youth. Michigan 4-H Youth Development has grown in one year from 175,000 to 200,000 youth. We are over halfway to our goal of reaching 20 percent of Michigan youth by 2020. We’re getting kids interested in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) outside the classroom. We’re also helping kids ‒ through a multitude of project areas ‒ develop life skills such as critical thinking, problem solving and decision making. These skills will help them become the leaders and successful, resilient adults of tomorrow.

Our placemaking team and community food systems team help communities discover how to attract people.

Any challenges we do have, we turn to opportunities. You may want to listen to my conversation with Kirk Heinze that took place March 21 on Greening of the Great Lakes on News/Talk 760 WJR. I talk about how our Michigan State University Extension programs are still life changing and relevant after 100 years. You can read the MLive article here: http://www.mlive.com/environment/index.ssf/2014/03/as_msu_extension_celebrates_it.html. At the end of the article, you’ll find a link to the broadcast.

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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 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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Scientific study leads students to success in Eco Challenge

A team of eighth-grade students from Harper Woods Middle School won a $15,000 prize in the Final Challenge of the Lexus Eco Challenge. The team had previously earned $10,000 in scholarships and grants in a preliminary round, which qualified them to participate in the Final Challenge that took place in January and February.

The middle school is in Harper Woods, a city in Wayne County on Detroit’s northeast border. The school serves urban youth, kids who previously have had little to no exposure to the natural world of shorelines and lake waters.

The team, the Eco H20 Preservers coached by teacher June Teisan, entered the Land and Water Challenge part of the contest. They investigated water pollution in Lake St. Clair and Lake Erie.

Michigan Sea Grant Extension, with funding from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), provided guidance and financial support for the development of Basic Observation Buoys (BOBs) and Basic Information Floats (BIFs) the students used to collect water quality data.

The Michigan Sea Grant Extension and Harper Woods connection began in 2007 when senior Extension educator Steve Stewart met June at a Great Lakes Observing System workshop hosted by Michigan Sea Grant Extension. June was interested in involving her students in Great Lakes studies and stewardship, and using Great Lakes data in the classroom was a way to begin. At the time, Steve served as Michigan coordinator for the Great Lakes Center for Ocean Science Education Excellence (COSEE Great Lakes), a multi-state project funded by the NSF and NOAA.

Steve was able to provide June with some initial COSEE funding to attend a teacher-training workshop in Connecticut and fund the materials for the first BOBs in Michigan, which she and her students deployed in 2011 on Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. She has spearheaded a number of additional projects – all focusing on Great Lakes studies and stewardship – which Steve has supported with curricula, educational materials and opportunities for her students to share their experiences.

Steve said, “My role, and the contribution of Michigan Sea Grant Extension, has been one of identifying possibilities and facilitating opportunities for June and her students as they seek to become more knowledgeable about and stewards of our Great Lakes. June and her students are a great educational success story. This experience could be an introduction for some to a career in the STEM fields.”

Through the project, students have increased interest in lakes, wetlands, water quality and environmental stewardship. The eighth graders learned hands-on, gathering data and testing equipment. These student scientists worked through the winter months to disaggregate the data and prepare for BOB deployment in the spring. They teamed up with a teacher and 7th grade class from Buffalo, New York, who deploy a BOB on their side of Lake Erie. The collaboration resulted in a more rich data stream for the students to analyze and excitement about connecting with New York peers.

The team will use some of their prize money to fund their participation in the 10th Biennial Lake Superior Youth Symposium May 16‒19 at Michigan Technological University. At the symposium, the team will present their work to students and teachers from around the Great Lakes.

Congratulations to June and the team!

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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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