Eight promising practices of good youth science programs

Learn how to make the best better through a 4-H case study that examines lessons learned in implementing successful 4-H science programs.

Recently, a national study was conducted by the National 4-H Council to assess some of the most successful 4-H science programs in the country. “Priming the Pipeline: A Promising Practices Case Study” took an in-depth look at how the programs operated, how they delivered science education and essentially, what made them so effective?

A total of eight outstanding 4-H science programs were chosen to be studied for this report. One of the selected programs was Michigan’s 4-H Great Lakes Natural Resources Camp. The eight programs reflect a variety of program delivery models, content areas, geographic regions, and youth served. From this in-depth study, eight areas of promising practices were identified:

Youth outreach and recruitment

  • Participants were invited to contribute to the recruiting process.
  • Specific strategies were designed to recruit underrepresented youth.

Staff and science volunteers

  • Programs maximized the expertise of youth development staff/volunteers and clarified their roles alongside scientists.
  • A wide net was cast by the volunteer when recruiting science experts. Specific expertise was tapped, if needed.

Professional development

  • Guidance on lesson planning, delivery, and youth development was provided to science experts.
  • Guidance on science curricula and technology was provided to educators and youth development experts.

Science curricula and pedagogy

  • Experiential learning and real-world applications of science were used to develop student skills and knowledge.
  • Activities incorporated the practice of inquiry.

Youth development and attitudes toward science

  • Youth were enabled to make meaningful choices about what they learn and how they learn it.
  • Youth were provided with opportunities to serve in leadership roles.

Partner organizations and resource support

  • Organizational partnerships were used to draw human resources and science expertise.
  • Programs offered organizations low-cost ways to partner with them and make substantive contributions.

Program evaluation

  • Evaluations for the programs were designed to provide data that was useful for securing additional funds, partners, visibility and guiding continuous improvement.

Program sustainability and scale–up

  • Key program features, such as procedures, content, training, and partner relationships, were modified and institutionalized to improve sustainability and replication possibilities.
  • Program sustainability and replication was planned for, as evidenced by the program and evaluation design.

While this is not an inclusive list, it does serve as a helpful guide on fundamental practices that have proven successful. Are their ways you can incorporate some of these principles in your classes, after-school programs, 4-H clubs, or at home? For more information about this study, visit the national 4-H website. To learn more about 4-H opportunities near you through Michigan State University Extension, visit http://4h.msue.msu.edu/.

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