Science, technology, engineering and math programming for 4-H Club meetings or in the home – Part 1

Learn why incorporating STEM activities, while working with youth during out of school time, are easy and important for members’ development.

America is facing a national shortage of young people with skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which is resulting in a significant workforce shortage in STEM fields. MSU Extension 4-H Youth Development has a strong history of mobilizing volunteers to work with youth through hands-on learning experiences, which makes the program a natural fit for helping children generate an interest in science which then propels them to a desire to gain knowledge and skills.

Memorization is not an effective method of learning science. Youth in the 4-H program are encouraged to use science activities to discover knowledge themselves, resulting in young people becoming more engaged and motivated to learn science content. It is an opportunity for students to learn real-world applications of the knowledge they may have gained in school. Kids who participate in STEM activities outside of the classroom are more likely to be comfortable with these fields of study.

This is the first in a series of 4-H STEM articles designed to help 4-H leaders or other adults discover ways to easily incorporate science, technology, engineering and math concepts in their work with youth. It is not about redesigning or creating entirely new activities for 4-H club meetings or an afterschool program but rather simply becoming intentional about how to frame and introduce activities to 4-H members. Science happens every day in the world around us, our goal with 4-H STEM is to help youth notice and capture science in action. 4-H can help to make STEM meaningful and applicable.

The National 4-H Program encourages 4-H leaders to use inquiry-based learning methods while working with members. To do so, leaders refrain from giving answers to youth, but instead encourage them to seek answers to questions. This is the learning style that is most similar to how professionals in STEM fields conduct their work and can help youth increase their skills in critical thinking, problem solving and decision making.

For more information about Michigan 4-H Development visit the Science Literacy website.

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