UConn Extension’s Bug Week is buzzing from July 21 to July 31 with programs for the entire family.
All ages are welcome to attend and explore the activities and events dedicated to insects and their relatives. Bug Week programs include the following:
Join UConn Extension faculty, Spring Valley Student Farm staff and students for an interactive ‘”Insect Wonders at the Farm” event on Wednesday, July 31 from 10 a.m. until noon at 1327 Stafford Rd., Mansfield, CT. Learn about our amazing and important insect friends by collecting and observing them. Activities for the whole family will include insect collecting, insect-inspired crafts, Bug-Bingo and a scavenger hunt.
Be our guest on Thursday, July 25 from noon until 4 p.m. at the UConn Biology/Physics building and the EEB greenhouses on the Storrs campus to tour the Biodiversity Research Collections and greenhouses. Learn how to identify insects, view a short film, visit the Army Ant Guest exhibit and the live ant colony. This event has something for everyone with fun giveaways and very special Dairy Bar ice cream.
Learn about insects and where to look for them by participating in Bug Walks at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Saturday, July 27 from 10 a.m. until 1 p.m. The program will three bug hunts in the butterfly/pollinator garden and the vegetable garden as well as live insect displays and part of the insect collection from the UConn Natural History Museum.
The Connecticut Science Center will be buzzing with programs to celebrate Bug Week from Monday, July 22 through Saturday, July 27. Spend time in the tropical Butterfly Encounter, participate in bug-themed Live Science programming, hear a bug themed story during Story Time, and be sure to explore what is flying around the Rooftop Garden.
UConn Extension offices are located across the state and offer an array of services dedicated to educating and informing the public on innovative technology and scientific improvements. Bug Week is one example of UConn Extension’s mission in tying research to real life, by addressing insects and some of their relatives.
April 6-11 I was fortunate enough to be selected as part of the Connecticut delegation sent to Washington D.C. for the 2019 National 4-H Conference. I was a part of the Entrepreneurship round table and we were tasked with answering a set of questions for the United States department of labor. The challenge question tasked to us was as follows, “It is estimated that fifty percent (50%) of the U.S. workforce will be freelance workers by 2027. What is the Gig economy and what are the characteristics that make it so alluring to youth? What are the kinds of skills entrepreneurs need to be successful and in what ways is entrepreneurial, skills training taught? How important could an innovation-based entrepreneurial economy be to a rural area?” These questions were tough to answer at first but with the help of my round table, which consisted of 15 4-Hers, 14 from the United States and one boy from Saskatchewan Canada, we were able to begin answering the questions quickly and efficiently. We prepared a 30 minute presentation for select members of the United States department of labor and the presentation went very well. Many of these members have been receiving the presentations done by 4-Hers for many years now and as a group the members said our presentation was among the best they’ve ever seen. I learned a lot at this conference about leadership and it tested my public speaking skills as I met other 4-Hers from around the country and as I talked with high ranking officials., Leadership skills came into play in the planning stages of the round table discussions as we needed to put together a very large, multi-parted presentation with people we had never met before. I learned a lot from this conference as well about the industry that I want to go into.
I want to be an entrepreneur and own my own horseback riding facility when I’m older so through the topic of entrepreneurship at conference I learned a lot about what I will need to do in order to be successful in my field.
Why donors should fund these trips?
My experiences in 4-H surpass anything else I’ve done in high school or my other clubs because of the important life skills I’ve gained from these 4-H trips. I have been a part of various different clubs and sports throughout my youth, but the only thing I truly stuck with was 4-H because even at a young age I understood that in 4-H I was being taught important life skills that I would gain no where else. 4-H has taught me a lot about the importance of public speaking and being able to communicate effectively with others. From my first public speaking competition in 2015 where I was barely able to finish my presentation to placing 5th at the Eastern National 4-H Horse Contests in the Individual Presentation contest at the end of 2016, I have shown immense amounts of growth in being able to speak well. From there as I continued to work on my speaking skills I’ve made it to the Connecticut state public speaking finals four times.
Once my public speaking skills were improved through 4-H, I turned my focus to becoming a better leader which 4-H teaches so well. I worked my way up the ranks of my club to become club president for three years. From there I felt I had improved my leadership skills enough to become a superintendent of the Horse Exposition at my local 4-H fair, which is a fair entirely run by 4-Hers. I was able to implement an entirely new event at this fair from my skills learned about leading a group from my local 4-H club. I am now a ranking officer at my fair.
4-H is also a great place for kids to learn interpersonal skills and how to make friends. When you first join 4-H or go on your first national trip, it is likely you will know no one. This encourages kids to make new friends and connections and step outside of their comfort zone, possibly even for the first time. My experiences in 4-H are matched my nothing, and I truly thank the wonderful leaders and extension agents I’ve come to know for that.
Lauren Marshall (’18 ENGR, ’19 ENGR MS) and Hannah Kalichman (’15 CLAS and ’20 LAW) are poised to graduate from UConn and have an impact on our community when they enter the workforce in their respective fields. Both are alumni of the UConn 4-H program, and we recently sat down with them to learn how 4-H shaped who they are today.
Lauren joined the Cock-A-Doodle-Moo 4-H Club in Tolland County at age seven. Over the years of her involvement, she showed goats, sheep, horses, and rabbits before joining the Hebron 4-H Horse club to focus on her equine project.
Hannah moved to Connecticut with her family the summer before fourth grade, and soon found herself as a member of the Cock-A-Doodle-Moo 4-H Club, where she met Lauren, and they became close friends. Hannah started with a miniature horse, progressed to goats, and also showed dairy cattle for several years. “I got involved with each species,” Hannah says, “and then met more people and my involvement grew. I couldn’t have done it without the 4-H club.”
Both participated in 4-H Horse Camp, competed in public speaking, and in the horse judging, hippology, and horse bowl academic contests. “All of the learning it took to be an involved 4-H member was challenging,” Lauren says. “It was learning how to study and overcoming a fear of public speaking at 8 or 9 years old.” Both note that there are lifelong rewards for overcoming challenges and facing fears.
“Taking the time to learn about horse health care, diseases, symptoms, and training was important,” Lauren says. “I rescued a Haflinger mare, and bring- ing her back to health and ride-ability needed to be a slow process. When she was healthy again, and had a new lease on life, I finally got to ride her, and that was really rewarding.
“The record keeping was the hardest challenge for me,” Hannah says. “It taught me not to procrastinate, and now I never put anything off. Collectively, all of the behind the scenes efforts at the 4-H fairs and horse shows is one of my favorite memories. A lot of time, hard work, and effort goes into getting an animal into the show ring, and I always loved that part of 4-H.”
The experiences in 4-H have helped shape the successful UConn careers of both Lauren and Hannah. Hannah graduates from the UConn Law School in 2020, and wants to clerk for a judge before focusing on one area of the law. She enjoys litigation and being in court, so may pursue that path.
Lauren graduates with her masters in May 2019, and will return to the Naval Undersea Warfare Center in Newport, Rhode Island where she interned in the summer of 2018, to begin her full-time position. Lauren also begins her PhD program in mechanical engineering on a part-time basis in the fall of 2019.
“All of my 4-H experiences impacted my course work at UConn,” Lauren says. “Public speaking, studying, working
in groups – all of these are required in college, and I learned them in 4-H. I was a teaching assistant and member of the Engineering Ambassadors club, and public speaking was essential for both, it was a natural progression for me from public speaking in 4-H to public speaking in my roles at UConn.”
“100% of my work ethic is from 4-H, it totally translates into what we’re doing now,” Hannah says. “My January 2019 argument in the Appellate Court in Hartford felt just like giving a set of oral reasons in a judging contest. We competed in 4-H public speaking for so long, and got very comfortable with it.”
UConn Extension has a long history of delivering high-quality educational experiences to the citizens of Connecticut. These programs enhance the wellbeing of families, communities, and businesses across the state. Extension faculty and staff plan and implement programs, and feel a deep sense of pride and commitment to extending knowledge, and very often, changing lives in the process.
Many Extension employees and retirees feel strongly about the need to give back to the organization that gave them their livelihood. Two of UConn Extension’s generous donors, one a current employee and the other retired, explain why they give back, and what it means to see their contributions enhance the lives of others.
Nancy Bull, Extension Professor
“Why give? Giving was part of my growing up as I watched my parents involved with my dad’s students and my mom’s social organizations. When I started in Extension, I saw how much 4-H volunteers gave of their time and talents, and how unselfish they were. While we did not always agree on how to do something, or why we should do so, had it not been for the volunteers involved in the 4-H and county fair programs, there would have not been the opportunity for so many youth to learn and grow.
It is the give and take between and among our engaged volunteers that is humbling for me. Giving of time is not always possible, and so at times I have chosen to give money. I have seen what our Connecticut volunteers can do with donated funds given by others, and what a difference those funds can make.
Over the decades of being involved with 4-H I have watched volunteers who had very little in material goods, give
of their time over and over again, even when their opinions were not always in line with mine. As we watch youth grow and evolve, I can see the next generation of volunteers emerging. Hopefully a few dollars here or there will make their roles and responsibilities a little easier, and the load a little lighter.”
Carole Eller, Retired Extension Educator
“I began working for Cooperative Extension with the 4-H Youth Development Program when I was in college. For two summers I was the water- front Director at Nassau County 4-H Camp. It was there I learned that women didn’t need to be Home Economists to be educators. My first job was in Niagara County, NY. Here, I was able to do wonderful things for low-income girls. I got people to donate money that allowed girls in the summer program to be taken to dinner at an up-scale restaurant, a first experience, and high school students to attend a concert and summer stock performance. I could see the importance of private donations to the lives of 4-Hers.
I was non-traditional in many ways. 4-H was not all cows and cooking. I worked in New Jersey, and then came to Connecticut in the mid 1970’s. First, working in Windham County and then Tolland. At about this time, Elsie Trabue, a former secretary in the state office died and left a trust fund with the university for 4-H. This money had few, if any strings attached, and it provided funds for rich experiences for kids. She set an example for me. I want all children to have the experiences of a 4-H program, not necessarily in a specific project area, but citizenship, leadership, science and technology. I hope that my contributions help future Extension Educators have the resources to keep reaching out and expanding kids horizons, making the world exciting in positive ways.”
As we look to the future of Extension and the ability to provide innovative programming that impacts families and communities across the state, support is needed more than ever.
UConn 4-H was one of 10 states selected for a pilot program, in the form of the Common Measures 2.0 Cohort Challenge Grant, to implement Common Measures program evaluation. The evaluation instruments Common Measures 1.0 and Common Measures 2.0 were created by National 4-H to help 4-H staff with planning and assessing local, state, and regional programs.
Many 4-H Extension educators find it challenging to evaluate the impacts of their programs across different subject matters, and to share resources, learned skills and knowledge with other youth educators who share their vision. As a part of
the Common Measures pilot program, a team of UConn 4-H professionals, Jennifer Cushman, Ryan Faulkner, Maryann Fusco-Rollins, Miriah Russo Kelly, and Nancy Wilhelm, joined forces to try this innovative approach to program evaluation.
Common Measures 2.0
Common measures are designed to measure the impacts of 4-H programs in science, healthy living, citizenship, college/career readiness, and positive youth development. The goal of Common Measures is to establish a common core of youth outcomes and indicators consistent with the National Institute of Food and Agriculture Plan of Work system. This includes using information from a national database for evaluating, improving, and reporting on programs and their impacts.
The UConn 4-H team developed a user-friendly survey platform using online Qualtrics software for the National 4-H Common Measures 2.0 instrument. While developing this platform the team also focused on building capacity and excitement in the 4-H program around data collection, analysis, and communication. Data communication uses tools such as Stats iQ and social media.
The 4-H team designed an annual survey that can be used by UConn 4-H youth to capture data relevant to each individual’s program participation. The team customized features in Qualtrics to match surveys to participants’ UConn 4-H program experience, ensuring they received relevant surveys.
Once completed, surveys were emailed to 4-H youth members’ parents/guardians, for consent. After parental consent was received, the 4-H youth could participate in survey. The surveys were designed to be short and engaging. In this pilot year we collected surveys from 127 4-H members enrolled in science projects, 109 in healthy living projects, 151 in civic engagement projects, 168 in college/career readiness programs, and 131 in mindset and social skills, referred to as the universal measures. The team developed this evaluation platform with an eye on the future, and is now poised to conduct a 5-year longitudinal study of program impacts.
In November of 2018 the team hosted the Northeast Region 4-H Evaluation Capacity Building Training Event with participants from Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Vermont. This event had two tracts, basic and advanced, and covered three areas, data collection, data analysis, and data communication.
Before delving into each of the three topic areas, Miriah Kelly presented a comprehensive overview of key terms
and concepts. In the area of data collection, Jesse Mullendore from University of Nebraska-Lincoln presented on collecting data using Common Measures 2.0, and Ryan Faulkner covered creating a survey in Qualtrics.
In the area of data analysis, Teresa McCoy from the University of Maryland demonstrated ways to analyze data in Excel and Maryann Fusco-Rollins demonstrated analyzing data using Stats iQ. The final segments focused on data communication where Renae Osterman from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln discussed the basics of using the Common Measures reporting template and John Wilson of the University of Connecticut discussed Tableau, a more advanced tool for data visualization.
The Northeast Region 4-H Evaluation Capacity Building Training Event took place one month before the end of the UConn 4-H Common Measures 2.0 Cohort Challenge Grant. The team is now working on their next steps of analyzing and communicating the data from this first year. Knowledge gained from this research, and insights from the longitudinal study will be used to advance positive youth development and professional competencies by providing a means to ensure that programs are intentionally designed and providing meaningful engagement for all our UConn 4-H youth participants.
UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living.
Using STEM concepts, 4-H members develop, design, and practice their robotic skills through various local, regional, and national programs. In addition, the 4-H’ers maintain engineering journals of their robot design process in order to develop and strengthen their record keeping skills. Participants also demonstrate and hone their public speaking and research skills through competitions and presentations.
Members implement the values of the 4-H motto to Make the Best Better by improving their robot after practice and competition sessions.
Eight youth from the Granby 4-H Club along with their leader, Rachael Manzer, a UConn 4-H volunteer, successfully launched three experiments into space on a NASA rocket in 2018. Manzer is the STEM coach at the Winchster Public Schools, and leads youth in three robotics project areas as part of the 4-H curriculum.
Cubes in SpaceTM is a global competition designed to help students ages 11-18 develop curiosity, and logical and methodical thought. Selected participants launch experiments into space annually at no cost to the participants. The program is managed by idoodledu inc., and collaborates with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility, NASA Langley Research Center, and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium.
It took the Granby 4-Hers approximately four months to write their experimental proposals based on their interest, long hours of research, and thinking. These proposals were then submitted to Cubes in SpaceTM where experts reviewed all applications. After making it through the first round, 4-Hers answered questions, revised their proposals, and resubmitted them for a second review.
4-H members note that they have benefited from participating in the 4-H Robotics Program by gaining and enhancing their skills; for example, in the area of spatial geometry or in programming using the C language. Also, these experiences have provided opportunities for them to demonstrate and strengthen their teamwork and cooperation skills in preparation for their future education and careers.
Final decisions were made after months of waiting. All three Granby 4-H proposals were selected as part of the 80 experiments chosen from the 450 total proposals submitted by youth from the U.S. and international locations.
The three experiments from the Granby 4-H Club included “Bees in Space” where honeycombs were launched, “Rubber Bands in Space,” and “Gallium in Space,” all of which were proposed by the 4-Hers themselves.
Bees in Space
The “Bees in Space” experiment studied if honeycomb changes shape during flight. Club members took pieces of honeycomb from the club bee hive to design the experiment. The research question was: Will
the honeycomb change its shape during a flight to space?
When colonizing a planet, a constant food source is necessary. Bees are necessary for pollinating plants which creates food and oxygen. When bees were first sent to space in 2009, the bee eggs did not hatch and the bees died. The bees likely used all their energy on the hive. To help the bees
preserve their energy, the team sent up a honeycomb to eliminate the need to build one. This experiment looks at if the honey- comb shape is strong enough to withstand a flight on a rocket.
Rubber Bands in Space
The “Rubber Bands in Space” group evaluated how rubber bands are affected by a microgravity environment by creat- ing a rubber band ball. Rubber bands are used by astronauts as part of their exercise equipment. This team hypothesized that if the rubber band ball is exposed to a micro- gravity environment, then the rubber bands will change and no longer be as effective or work at all.
They believed the temperature on the rocket space flight would melt the elastics together slightly, cool back down, and cause them to dry. The team thought the rubber band ball may not bounce as high as it did before, and it may bounce at dif- ferent angles instead of just straight up and down, especially if it melts.
Gallium in Space
Gallium is a post transition metal. What is so unique about this metal is that it has a melting point of 29.77 degrees Celsius (85.586 F). Gallium doesn’t occur as pure Gallium in nature, but as a compound with other metals. These compounds are
often used as semi and superconductors. On its own, gallium is a semiconductor. Gallium’s most similar alloys are used in LEDs and diode lasers.
Gallium is a soft metal and might change shape due to motions during space flight. If gallium doesn’t change shape,
it may be one of the best conductors of electricity used in space. The team hypothesized that gallium would change shape during space flight, due to heat when exit- ing the atmosphere.
All participants of the 80 selected experiments were invited for the launch at NASA Wallops Center in Virginia where they presented their experiments to an audience of 300 people that included NASA and Cubes in SpaceTM officials, other participants, teachers, sponsors, and family members.
Members gained valuable experiences through participating in the Cubes in SpaceTM project. 4-Hers learned the importance of working together, how 4-H and STEM fit together, and learned the process of doing research. The experience provided the Granby 4-H members with the opportunity to practice problem solving skills, answer their own questions, embrace their curiosity, and gain valuable experience in the world of STEM.
The 4-H in Vernon Afterschool Program was started in 2014 as a partnership between UConn Extension Tolland County 4-H and UConn Community Outreach (CO) Program. The 4-H in Vernon Afterschool Program is an enrichment opportunity where UConn CO student volunteers work with local area elementary school students in a fun and informal education setting, engaging in hands-on experiential learning activities in STEM and Healthy Living.
The 4-H in Vernon program meets on Monday, Wednesday and Friday in three elementary afterschool programs, presently run by the Vernon Department of Parks and Recreation. Coordinating all these partnerships and overseeing the program is the job of the UConn CO student leader.
For the last two semesters, Muhammad Shahzad has served as the UConn CO student leader for the 4-H Program.
Muhammad is responsible for coordinating between program and community partners as well as recruiting volunteers and implementing the program. He provides experience, motivation and opportunities for reflection for the collegiate volunteers, while striving to help meet the needs of the community.
This message is brought to you by the UConn Extension PATHS team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. We are an interdisciplinary team of University of Connecticut extension educators, faculty, and staff committed to understanding and promoting the benefits of trails and natural resources for health, community & economic development and implementing a social ecological approach to health education.
Do you know someone with diabetes? While most people may associate GMOs with food products, their use actually began in the medical field with insulin.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved GMO insulin for use inOctober of 1982after rigorous testing, clinical trials, and review. Prior to that, diabetics used insulin obtained from the pancreas of cattle or swine. Supplies were dwindling, and there was fear that the insulin shortage would result in negative health ramifications for patients. The recombinant DNA technology used, that we now refer to as GMOs, provided a safe and effective alternative. In fact, GMO insulin is a closer match to human insulin, and patients who could not tolerate insulin from a cow or pig can utilize GMO insulin without negative side effects.
Despite the benefits of GMOs, 80% of respondents to the2018 Food and Health Survey Reportfrom the International Food Information Council Foundation are confused about food or doubt their choices because of conflicting information. The report found that context of GMOs influenced consumer judgment. ThePew Research Centerfound that 49% of Americans think genetically modified foods are worse for one’s health. In short, many people may fear or be suspicious of GMOs, but there is a history of important effects that most people would applaud. Insulin is such a case.
Scientists create GMOs by changing the genetic code of a living being in some way. Plant and animal genetics have been altered for thousands of years through breeding. New technology lets scientists select a specific trait, instead of changing the entire genetic makeup. The medical, agricultural, and environmental fields all have GMO products.
Accepting or rejecting GMOs is an individual decision. However, all decisions consumers make should be based on facts. An overwhelming majority of scientists believe thatGMOs are safe, according to the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine. Information from science-based sources can be hard to find in the flood of information available on the Internet.
With that in mind, experts in agriculture, health and natural resources at the University of Connecticut (UConn) have established a web site (https://gmo.uconn.edu/) providing science-based information to help consumers make their own decisions about GMOs.
A handful of food products haveapproved GMO versionssold in the United States. These include: apples, canola, corn, papaya, pineapple, potatoes, salmon, soybeans, squash, and sugar beets. Insect resistant and herbicide tolerant crops are the two most common features in GMO varieties. Only specific varieties have a GMO version in many of these products, for example, the Arctic apple. The Flavr Savr tomato was introduced in 1994 as the first GMO food product, but is no longer sold because it lacked flavor.
Consumers benefit from GMOs. Although the benefits aren’t always noticeable when you’re browsing the grocery store, they include:
Improving food safety of products,
Lowering consumer food prices,
Protecting food supplies from insects,
Limiting food waste on the farm and in your fridge,
Reducing the carbon footprint needed for food production, and
Keeping the environment healthy.
Despite the benefits, negative perceptions about GMOs are wide-spread. Consumer knowledge and acceptance of GMOs has not matched the pace of adoption by the agricultural community. Experts in the field concur that GMO communication campaigns have failed to answer the “what’s in it for me” question for the public. The majority of campaigns only cite the benefits to farmers, and feeding a growing global population. Consumers commonly reference changes to nutritional content, or the creation of allergens as concerns with GMOs, although there is no evidence of either.
I notice negative perceptions about GMOs in the supermarket, when foods are labeled as non-GMO even though it’s impossible for them to contain GMOs. Salt doesn’t have any genetics to modify, although you’ll find some salt labeled as non-GMO. Cat litter is another example of a product that can’t have GMOs, but is labeled non-GMO.
Companies place the non-GMO label on their product as a marketing tool, either feeding off the fear generated by misinformation, or the demands of their consumers. People without a clear understanding of GMOs spread misinformation on the Internet. Much of what is shared lacks science-based facts and the rigors of peer review. A common tactic is connecting scientists to biotechnology corporations. Ironically, many of the campaigners in the anti-GMO movement arepaid to share these messages.
Consumers should form their own opinions about GMOs from the wealth of available science-based information and experts. Instead of accepting and spreading misinformation, shouldn’t we ask more questions, and turn to reliable sources instead?
American Chestnut Trees once dominated our landscape. Then, a blight wiped most of them out. Researchers are using science to try and discover a way to revive these majestic trees. Watch the video to learn more.
Funding for this animation is from the UConn Extension Bull Innovation Fund and Northeast AgEnhancement.