STEM programming for 4-H Clubs or the home – Part 2

Learn how to incorporate 4-H activities that intentionally explore science while working with youth in out of school settings.

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. Michigan State University 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.

In this article series, we will explore how 4-H volunteers can easily incorporate science concepts into their work with youth. It is important to understand that memorization is not an effective method of learning science. This is why 4-H is so beneficial in helping youth build their capacity in STEM. Youth in the 4-H program are encouraged to use science activities to discover knowledge themselves, which may propel young people to become more engaged and motivated to learn science content. 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.

It is really quite easy to explore science with 4-H members regardless of their club or afterschool program focus. Leaders can help youth think about ways they can dig deeper into their project and reach a higher level of understanding.

The following are a few fun and simple activities to help leaders see how easy it is to incorporate science content into work with 4-H youth:

  • Cooking project members can develope a snack product as if they were food scientists developing a new food. They can even use technology by utilizing a website that they can use to design a commercial to market their new creation.
  • Youth involved in a shooting sports group can experiment with distance and trajectories in arrow flight and report on the results.
  • Research the use of beneficial pests in gardens and on farms to help members involved in a 4-H gardening club learns about entomology or the study of bugs.
  • 4-H members enrolled in a horse and pony project may enjoy learning about various horse feeds and compare the differences in ingredients and how they affect the equine digestive system.
  • Conducting an experiment that tests how different fabrics absorb dye is an option for members who are learning about clothing and textiles.
  • For those involved in an environmental project setting up a water quality monitoring program for a local stream is a great way to learn about science.

The possibilities are endless; it is not about creating entirely new activities for your club or program, but simply continuing the work you already do and intentionally exploring the science behind the project.

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

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