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

Discover easy ways to incorporate engineering while working with children during out of school time activities.

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 which then propels them to a desire to gain knowledge and skills.

Consider how 4-H volunteers can incorporate engineering in their work with youth. Simply defined, engineering is the process of solving problems using knowledge and imagination to build solutions. Engineering has been used in every aspect of our lives; everything we touch, wear, see, eat and hear has been affected by it. Regardless of the project focus of a 4-H club or activity, engineering has been involved. Whether it is creating tools, equipment, a housing layout or designing the facility that produces animal feed, engineering plays a critical role.

The following are a few fun and simple activities to help youth utilize engineering in their 4-H experiences:

  • Livestock project members can conduct a barn safety hazard hunt, determine what needs to be corrected, design a plan for doing so and share their findings with fellow club members.
  • For those interested in Archery projects members can build their own arrows using the basic components of shafts, nocks and fletching’s.
  • Researching, designing, constructing and installing birdhouses is a terrific project for those interested in a project focused on Wildlife.
  • Those involved in Robotics can make a difference in their community by designing and building an underwater Remote Operated Vehicle (ROV) to collect water samples for water quality testing.
  • A fun activity for Horse and Pony members is to design an experiment to see which saddle pad material keeps a horse the coolest and share why.

Through hands-on learning experiences, 4-H members have a variety of opportunities to involve engineering in their project experiences. As a group, talk about what problems or challenges exist for 4-H members, brainstorm what might correct the problem, plan and design the solution and determine if it was successful. These activities will also present a terrific opportunity to discuss how engineers may address the same issues as well as engineering careers that work with members’ area of interest.

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 Youth Development visit the Science Literacy website.

Related Events

Related Articles

Related Resources