STEM programming for 4-H Clubs or the home – Part 3

Discover easy ways to introduce technology 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 which then propels them to a desire to gain knowledge and skills.

Consider how 4-H volunteers can introduce technology in their work with youth. Simply defined, technology – as used in 4-H STEM – is the use of resources or tools to help solve problems to achieve a goal or perform a function. In today’s information age, technology is all around us. We are at a point in history when technology can be seen in every aspect of our lives. It is not at all uncommon for the members in 4-H clubs or programs to be much more comfortable and knowledgeable about technology than the adults working with them. However the advantages of increased efficiency, knowledge gain and ease of communication makes the use of technology very important for the 4-H program.

The following are a few fun and simple activities to help you see how easy it is to incorporate the use of technology in your work with 4-H youth:

  • Learn more about the Horse and Pony project utilizing the internet by visiting the Virginia 4-H Virtual Horse Farm with your club.
  • For those interested in rocketry projects, use different types of launching equipment to see how technology can provide the air/water pressure or electrical current to propel a rocket.
  • Fitness project members can use GPS units to participate in a “geocache” hunt or visit the President’s Challenge to track your physical activity online.
  • Members in Clothing and Textile projects can use fashion design software to plan and create a garment.
  • Using the United States Department of Agriculture’s nutrition icon MyPlate, help 4-H Gardening project members plan meals and source them from their garden.
  • 4-H clubs, regardless of their project focus, can utilize social media for club communication. Be certain to discuss this with the 4-H Youth Development staff to become familiar with 4-H online communication policies.

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 how to incorporate technology into your 4-H work. You’ll be surprised how using technology can expand members understanding of 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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