Students participating in 4-H report higher educational achievement and academic confidence, are nearly two times more likely to attend college, and more likely to pursue future courses or a career in science, engineering or computer technology.
PHOTO: Livestock producer Mike Johnson helps 4-Her Cody Koch locate livestock concentrations on a regional map for a GIS project.
4-H Equips Youth with Science, Technology Skills
Tomorrow's leaders are learning science, engineering, and technology through a variety of 4-H Youth Development activities.
For example, applying lessons learned in 4-H allowed Kansas youth to assist local emergency and homeland security officials, said Beth Hecht, a member of the state 4-H Youth Development team who has been charged with integrating global positioning and geographic information (GPS and GIS) technologies into Kansas 4-H educational experiences.
Hecht has used geocaching, which is similar to a scavenger hunt, to introduce youth to the technologies. She follows up by working with youth and adults to apply the technologies to serve their communities, while exploring emerging career opportunities.
She invited Leavenworth County officials to attend a 4-H demonstration on geospatial literacy. Chuck Magaha, county director of emergency management, saw the potential for collaboration and invited the 4-H tech team to map herds of 100 or more cattle, sheep, and other cloven-hoofed animals.
The teens' project, titled a "Foreign Animal Disease Biosecurity Map," supplements county resources and is intended to aid emergency management and homeland security. It also earned the 4-H tech team second place in the K-12 division in an international map-making contest.
"This project was different from others that our group had done in the past because we had to interact with people to gather our data," said Katie Eberth, Leavenworth County 4-H member. "Up until now, our projects have mainly consisted of just gathering points. This one took a little bit more. We had to be instructed by the county and survey farmers in the county."
Other projects have included tracking rail lines, pinpointing environmental hazards, and developing a smartphone map app for the Kansas State Fair.
Using the new technologies highlights opportunities for personal and professional growth and civic responsibility in line with 4-H core values.
Giving back to community is a 4-H staple. A recent "Study of Positive Youth Development" by Tufts University found 4-H'ers are 2.5 times more likely to contribute to their communities, said Gary Gerhard, Kansas 4-H science liaison.
Embedding science and technology in 4-H Youth Development integrates math, science, and technology into everyday life, said Gerhard. He offered a basic example in the 4-H food and nutrition project: Math (measuring) and science (choosing complementary ingredients and combining them successfully) are necessary to produce successful -- and edible -- products.
The 4-H SpaceTech project has introduced students to astrophysics, rocketry, and robotics; the geology project encourages a down-to-earth study of the state’s landscape; while photography stimulates exploring the world with digital images.
Educational 4-H programs are offered in a variety of settings, ranging from the club concept with volunteer adult and youth mentors, project, special interest, school enrichment, after-school clubs, and service learning in school and community groups.
Kansas 4-H encourages youth to explore personal growth, learn sustainable living practices, and nurture a positive self-concept, Gerhard noted that 4-H is working to equip youth to succeed in a changing -- and competitive world -- while also practicing leadership, citizenship, and service within their community.