4-H youth survey indicates 4-H science programs are making a difference - part 1

Recent report looks at the impact 4-H science programs are making on young people.

4-H Youth Development is the largest after-school youth organization in the country. In Michigan alone, over 100,000 youth engage in science based projects and activities each year. With so many young people involved in 4-H science programs, it is important to review our programs, survey our young people and make sure that 4-H programs are still cultivating interests, aspirations and knowledge in science. Michigan State University Extensions suggests asking the question, “are we making a difference?” The Youth Engagement, Attitudes and Knowledge (YEAK) study does just that. While YEAK findings reflect a small sample of 4-H youth, the data also speak to general implications of science education in out-of-school time settings at the national level.

Results from the study depicted in part 1 of this series relate to characteristics and benefits of 4-H science program, participation in community service activities and the overall enthusiasm yourh have for science. The study included a total of 418 youth from 38 clubs ranging from 9 to 18 years of age.

Science program environment and benefits:

  • 95 percent reported that youth from different backgrounds were welcome in their program
  • 89 percent reported that they feel safe and respected in their programs
  • 79 percent reported that they feel like they can make a difference

Favorite characteristics of this science program:

  • 66 percent said getting to do hands-on science activities and projects
  • 57 percent said getting to spend time with friends
  • 32 percent said the adults are caring and kind

Participation in community science activities:

  • 69 percent helped with a community service project that relates to science
  • 51 percent taught others about science
  • 27 percent used science tools to help the community

Enthusiasm for science:

  • 85 percent of respondents like to see how things are made
  • 84 percent like to participate in science projects
  • 77 percent get excited learning about new discoveries or inventions

Results from this study indicate that youth engaged in 4-H science programs believe that the environments are safe, inclusive and that they can make a difference. Youth also indicate they enjoy doing hands-on activities, which is a hallmark of our 100-year-old organization. They perform service for their communities and they are enthusiastic about science. While more research is needed, data is encouraging and validates that 4-H Youth Development remains an integral component in developing the whole child. In addition 4-H science programs are working to prepare the next generation of great thinkers and leaders aspiring to make a difference in their communities.

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