4-H Video and communication: An opportunity for Youth Voice-Youth Choice

4-H youth use video technology to inform and celebrate the work being done in Michigan 4-H clubs.

In the fall of 2011, a 4-H participation grant helped to establish a new 4-H Video and Communications Project in northern Michigan. Youth have been instrumental in creating three videos through the project, documenting the work of local Michigan 4-H clubs and community projects.

The most recent video, “Water, Agriculture, Energy,” was created using photos and video from the Cheboygan 4-H Lean Green Wolverines.

The video features a grassroots hoop house project at Wolverine Schools. Once completed, the hoop house will be used as a living learning lab to educate youth about Great Lakes water, Michigan agriculture, energy and sustainability. One immediate impact from this video was when an elementary teacher asked to use the video in her classroom, stating that it is a, “Great way to teach students more about Michigan’s economy – in a way that students can relate to and enjoy.”

Two additional videos have been created, including a Charlevoix County 4-H Health and Nutrition video, which discusses health and nutrition programming (eg. 4-H tennis, sailing, swimming, soccer and Boyne Falls Public School Farm-To-School programming). A third video – “Cheboygan Middle School – Green Act 1” – was completely filmed, photographed and produced by youth at the Cheboygan Middle School. It features 4-H Science, alternative energy and the importance of making mistakes to innovation.

With just one year into the project, more than 100 youth served as teen leaders, teaching their peers hands-on inquiry-based science activities. To create the videos, students researched important community issues: climate change, alternative energy, health, wellness, food/nutrition, water conservation and stewardship, to name some. Future video projects include plans for more in-depth student research on plant science, aquaponics, robotics, food, water and energy.

Currently the quantitative and qualitative evaluation data of this project have been positive. As students dig deeper, they gain a greater connection to the global community. Early on students reported increased understanding of the importance and value of sharing information. Nearly nine percent of students indicated an increase in their ability to meet new people and form friendships. At the same time, 17 percent indicated an increase in their respect of others who may be different from themselves.

Students indicated growth in their perceptions of their decision-making abilities (four percent increase), problem solving abilities (18 percent increase), leadership abilities (nine percent increase). They also indicated an increase in their belief that teamwork, and everyone on the team is important (four percent increase). Further, students indicated a nine percent increase in their belief that they can design a scientific procedure to answer a question.

In regards to future employment in the sciences, twice as many students indicated that they can name focuses of study in the field of environmental sciences. Similarly, twice as many students indicated that they can name at least five careers in the field of environmental sciences. There was an eight percent increase in students indicating that they can name at least five jobs in which communication skills are important.

Another important area of growth is regarding student’s confidence in their ability to share their thoughts and feelings in a public speech or talk (a 17 percent increase). Close to 40 percent of students indicated an increase in their ability to share their ideas through video; nearly 18 percent of students indicated an increase in their ability to use technology to help express ideas.

Overall, since its beginning, the 4-H Video and Communications Project has benefitted hundreds of northern Michigan youth through both science process and content. Additionally, staff and volunteers have built increased capacity.  Many more 4-H videos are planned for 2013 and will provide the opportunity for volunteers and youth to work together to document important local community issues and Revolution of Responsibility stories. The project is truly an opportunity to encourage youth voice-youth choice.

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