Education

Meet Zachary Duda: Litchfield County 4-H Intern

Zachary DudaHello my name is Zachary Duda and I am excited to be an intern this summer with Litchfield County 4-H! I am currently a senior pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of Connecticut. At UConn I serve as the President of the UConn Agricultural Advocacy Club and am active with the UConn FFA Alumni. My agricultural experience is broad having jobs in areas such as nursery and landscaping, forage crop production, and dairy science. As a former FFA member I was able to learn the value of hands-on applications and want to bring agriculture to the younger generation of agriculturalists in Connecticut.

This summer I will be working on a series of virtual lessons on all aspects of the agricultural industry as well as some leadership skills and techniques. The topics include tractor safety, weaning cattle, nutrition labels and food packaging, potting plants, quick cooking recipes, and many more. I hope that these lessons will provide younger learners with a platform to build off of so that they may enter the field of agriculture with ample knowledge and a set of skills that will benefit them for years to come.

I am eager to learn more about 4-H and the extension system as I believe it serves the state well in multiple aspects of community and overall well being. I look forward to being part of the great things 4-H has done for countless individuals over the years.

Meet Jade Hardrick: CEDAS & Best Practices in Economic Development Program Intern

Jade HardrickJade Hardrick is a rising junior at the University of Connecticut and is from South Windsor, CT. She is currently double majoring in economics and urban & community studies. Her interests include urban planning, business, and law. She plans to obtain an advanced degree in at least one of those listed fields. On campus, she is the vice president of the organization Women & Minorities in Economics which encourages more women and minorities to enter the field of economics and has in-depth economic discussions about racial and gender inequality, income inequality, and climate change. Hardrick enjoys running and reading books in her free time.

Invasive Crabs Threaten Connecticut’s Shores

Chinese mitten crabHave you seen this crab before?

This is a Chinese Mitten Crab – named for its fury, mitten-like claws.  These crabs have started to appear in Connecticut’s shores raising concerns as they are an invasive species that can cause a lot of costly environmental damage.

Want to learn more? Check out this article: Invasive Crabs Threaten Connecticut’s Shores

Connecting Towns and UConn Students

LID tour on UConn Campus
Climate Corps students tour low impact development on the UConn Storrs campus. Photo: Chet Arnold

UConn received a $2.25 million grant from the National Science Foundation to expand and study a new public engagement program that combines teaching, service learning, and Extension outreach. The program is called the Environment Corps and focuses on using STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) skills to address important environmental issues like climate adaptation, brownfields remediation, and stormwater management at the municipal level.

Environment Corps combines the familiar elements of classroom instruction, service learning and UConn Extension’s work with communities in a unique way that allows students to develop STEM skills and get “real world” experience as preparation for the work force, while communities receive help in responding to environmental mandates that they often lack the resources to address on their own.

The Environment Corps project is built on an extensive partnership at UConn. It includes faculty from four schools and colleges in five departments: Natural Resources and the Environment, Extension, Geography, Civil and Environmental Engineering, and Educational Curriculum and Instruction. In addition, the project involves four university centers, all three environmental major programs, and the Office of the Provost. Learn more about the Environment Corps at clear.uconn.edu.

Article by Chet Arnold

Meet Sydney Collins: NRCA Intern

Sydney CollinsHello all! My name is Sydney Collins, and I am excited to announce my partnership with UConn Extension as a NRCA Intern for the Natural Resources Conservation Academy (NRCA) in Summer 2020. 

More about me, I am a rising sophomore at the University of Connecticut studying Environmental Science with a keen interest in Urban and Community Development. My love for the outdoors spawned from the beloved stream I regularly paddled around in growing up in the backwoods of Willington, CT. I was able to interact with a plethora of ecosystems right in my backyard and experience the beauty of the environment, that almost appears untouched by human influence.

This love soon turned into a passion when I uncovered the atrocities occurring to our planet, and thus the stream that I grew quite fond of. This was due to human dependence on fossil fuels to supply our ever growing energy demand and also the poor maintenance of our resources through dumping and pollution. I am fascinated by the intersection of social science and natural resources, particularly in the realm of environmental justice, to best curate human experiences founded on sustainable and accessible development. My engagement in organizations that address various local issues emphasize the importance of community-based initiatives, especially in reference to sustainability, hence my excitement to be involved in UConn NRCA. My interests are particularly focused on areas of food and energy production and how they influence the ever-dawning threat of climate change.

While I’m not interning at the office, I can also be found planting and plucking crops at a local farm in Coventry, where I work to better understand the farming practices that support the food we eat. I look forward to further engaging with my local communities at farmers markets to provide fresh grown vegetables, and thus decrease the carbon footprint of families shopping locally. When you’re not looking for a bite to eat, feel free to pop by the beautiful hiking trails of Vernon, where you can find me as a Trail Manager up-keeping the local landscape. 

I am so excited for all I have to learn at the “office” this summer through this distance internship, and all the wonderful workshops and community-initiated projects I have the pleasure to engage with. NRCA is a wonderful office, but we also would not be anything with the splendid engagement with local youth, volunteer adults, and professionals that bring great dedication to our programs. So here is to an amazing summer and all we have to learn!

Original Post: https://blog.nrca.uconn.edu/2020/06/11/meet-sydney-new-nrca-intern/

Conservation Training Partnerships

Connecting Generations for Conservation

students and adults in a Conservation Training Partnership program at UConnThe Cheshire Land Trust’s largest conservation property, Ives Farm, is a working 164-acre farm along the Quinnipiac River that includes picturesque public hiking trails through 80 acres of woodlands with mature stands of oak, mixed hardwoods, and old field cedars. In recent years, the trails became overgrown, impassable in spots and largely unused.

A Cheshire Land Trust volunteer sought to restore the trails and enlisted the help of a Lyman Hall High School student to get it done. Together they organized trail stewardship days to clear and clean the trails, used smartphones and a 360-degree camera to map them, and created an interactive website to educate the public about the trails and encourage their use. The property is now one of the land trust’s most popular for recreational use and education about the value of conservation.

This is just one of over 64 local conservation projects that have been undertaken throughout the state by intergenerational (adult plus teen) teams in the Conservation Training Partnerships (CTP) Program, a multi-departmental and multi-college effort at UConn that is funded by the National Science Foundation. Extension educators from the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research’s (CLEAR) Geospatial Training Program collaborate with faculty from the Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (NRE) and the Neag School of Education to create a unique intergenerational learning experience with innovative technology and conservation science to enhance community engagement in environmental issues.

Through the CTP, enthusiastic teens and knowledgeable local conservation leaders team up to form intergenerational teams, attend a two day workshop to build their skills, and then apply these skills to address local environmental issues. Many of the tools that the teams learn to use in the course of the workshop are free and accessible smartphone applications that marry mapping and ecological field data collection, the operation of which are taught by Extension’s Cary Chadwick and Dave Dickson.

The teams then plan and implement a local conservation project, with the guidance and help of project faculty from NRE, Extension and Neag. Issues addressed include water quality, recreational access, invasive species identification and removal, and biodiversity.

Within these broad categories, local projects have spanned a wide range including stream sampling, green infrastructure, grazing management plans, interpretive nature trails, wildlife monitoring, and more.

The program is truly one with multiple benefits. Local organizations and leaders get help in completing long-delayed “someday” projects, both participants learn about smartphone mapping tools and other technologies, and youth become more engaged in conservation science and action. “It is so inspiring to see local conservation leaders share their passion for the environment with the next generation of leaders and to see teens share their enthusiasm and technological skills to solve local challenges,” says Geospatial Extension Educator Chadwick.

John Volin, Vice Provost for Academic Affairs, NRE Professor and the Principal Investigator of the project, says, “It’s gratifying to think about all the local conservation projects we’ve jump-started throughout the state.”

Article by David Dickson

Genetic Engineering Professional Development

teachers in laboratory with Dr. Gerry Berkowitz learning about DNA and GMO ]The American public is growing increasingly skeptical about the safety of genetically modified (GM) foods. Despite consensus in the scientific community that foods containing GM ingredients are safe, nearly half of Americans believe otherwise. Younger adults are also more likely to regard GM foods a health risk.

In order to address misunderstandings about GM foods and provide information about the applications of genetic engineering in agriculture and other fields, a team is developing a program to enhance science literacy for educators and young adults. The team is collaborating to create a standards-based curriculum and laboratory-based professional development for secondary school teachers on genetic engineering. The project aims to build the knowledge and confidence of educators and provide them with materials to deliver lessons related to genetic engineering in their classrooms.

High school teachers will participate in training at the Storrs campus, where they will utilize laboratory resources and build connections with academia and industry professionals. The networking opportunity will also allow educators to share career opportunities in the field of genetics with students. In addition to the professional development workshop, the program will prepare simpler exercises that can be taught outside of classroom and without the resources of a lab setting, such as during 4-H youth activities, to introduce scientific concepts.

Read the full article at http://bit.ly/UConn_PDSTEP.

Article by Jason M. Sheldon

Meet Meg Sanders: Environmental Education Intern

Meg SandersHello everyone, my name is Meg Sanders, and I am a UConn Extension Environmental Education intern with the Natural Resources Conservation Academy for summer 2020.

A little bit about myself, I am a sophomore at UConn studying environmental science with a minor in communication. I was an intern with UConn Extension during the summer of 2019 and I worked with other extension educators and 4-H educators. My experience with UConn Extension has allowed me to gain valuable field experiences at Auer Farm, the 4-H Hartford County Fair, and other 4-H sites in CT. I’ve been really lucky to have had opportunities working with many diverse groups of youth and adults in order to both teach others and learn about their experiences with the environment. I especially loved working with CT youth at Auer Farm, and being able to teach students who didn’t have much experience with rural ecosystems about the animals on a farm.

During the academic school year of 2019-2020, I was a grant recipient for the UConn Co-op Legacy Fellowship Change Grant. With this grant, I worked with two fellow UConn undergraduate students to create environmental education curriculum kits that we hoped to distribute to middle school educators all over Connecticut. We prepared an online and in-class curriculum using existing 4-H educational materials on climate change education, and planned to distribute these and kits to CT middle schools before schools were closed down this spring. This effort was done in paralleled with Connecticut Environmental Action Day. From this experience, I was able to learn more about what goes into creating environmental educational content, and was able to further my experience working with extension educators.

My interests in the environment are still growing and changing daily. A fun fact about myself is that I had the opportunity to attend a short UConn study abroad experience before I began interning for UConn Extension. Unfortunately, it did not happen due to the pandemic, but we would have traveled to South Africa to study African field ecology. With this, I’d hoped to be able to see ecosystems that I normally wouldn’t be exposed to, and learn about what conservation means to different people around the world. This trip will not be happening this year but will be next year, and I hope to be able to still gain these unique experiences. Next year, I would love to be able to use some of the knowledge about conservation that I will have learned this summer and apply it to what I will be learning abroad.

This summer, I am very excited to learn how to provide environmental education in many ways, including online. Learning how to utilize resources online to deliver similar content that would have been used in hands-on field experiences will be interesting and thought-provoking. I look forward to improving my skills with mapping technologies, such as GPS and GIS. Overall, I look forward to being able to apply all of the natural resources knowledge that I can to other aspects of my life in order to promote conservation and sustainability.

Original Post: https://blog.nrca.uconn.edu/2020/06/09/meet-meg-new-ee-intern/

Raised beds for my vegetable garden?

Raised BedsThere’s a growing interest in using raised beds in vegetable gardens, and if that’s your interest, read on. It’s always a good idea to plan a project before jumping in and consider the many variables. Let’s explore some of these.

Why you’re considering raised beds. Many people are interested in raised beds as a way to eliminate as much bending and stooping over in the garden as possible; the higher the beds, the less bending required as you tend your plants. This, in turn, will impact the type of material your beds are made of and the amount of soil your beds will have in them. If you’re interested in portable raised beds (perhaps to be able to move your beds during the day to get the maximum amount of sunlight), that will limit the size each bed will be and what they’re made from.

Space needs and sizes of beds. If you’re a patio-gardener, and have limited space, your beds will need to be smaller than if you set beds within a larger garden area. What you want to grow can also determine the size of your beds. For example, herb gardens fit nicely in smaller beds, while tomatoes, root vegetables, and many other crops need beds that are deeper and larger. If you want to use raised beds with walls, a bed that is wider than four feet will be more difficult to tend; a length of more than eight feet will require more movement to get around the bed itself. The layout of raised beds that are simply mounded soil hills, without structured walls, can much more easily be changed than structured beds with walls.

Materials for raised beds. Raised bed kits are readily available, especially online, and made from a variety of materials, including wood and plastic. Will you buy raised bed kits, which can be expensive, or create your own? If you create your own raised beds, will they be very simply made from highly-mounded soil in your garden, or will they have a solid, box-like structure? If they’re structured, what will they be made from…. wood, concrete block, brick, or plastic? Some materials are more readily available than others, some will last longer outside than others, some are more decorative and easier to disassemble and move, and prices will vary, depending on what you choose.

Irrigation needs of plants in raised beds. Soil in raised beds generally dries out more quickly, since air circulation around the perimeter of the bed contributes to drying, so your garden may need to be watered more frequently. Whether you water by hand, sprinkler, or soaker hoses, it’s important to check the amount of moisture in the soil when setting a watering schedule. As with a ground-level garden, mulching will help retain soil moisture. If you decide to use soaker hoses, it’s helpful to draw a layout of your garden and how the hoses will be laid out to assure that you can water each bed when necessary, especially if some plants need more water than others. Hose layout is also important to plan so that you don’t end up with raised hoses draping from one bed to another, making it more difficult to move among the beds.

Overall, gardening in raised beds can be very rewarding, and much easier if you take the time to plan before you build. If you’re unsure if using raised beds is the right choice for you, start with one or two small raised beds, learn as you go along, and determine what best meets your gardening needs for the future. If you have further questions, you can contact the UConn Extension Master Gardeners at https://mastergardener.uconn.edu/ask-us-a-question/

Article by Linette Branham, 2019 UConn Extension Master Gardener

How To Weed Your Garden: How Often, What to Weed, Tips or Best Management Practices

Yellow FlowerAny undesirable plant in your garden can be labeled a weed. The vegetables or flowers you want to grow will be robbed of nutrients, moisture, light, and space if weeds are not managed. Weeds seem to always outpace the desired plants in growth. They can also harbor insects and diseases.

To be fair, it needs to be noted that some “weeds” in our gardens have a positive side in other circumstances, such as when not surrounding our tomato plant. Many weeds play a healing role in restoring worn-out soil or prevent erosion. Many also provide nectar and shelter for beneficial insects, and can be a food source for animals.

Common garden weeds in our area include annual bluegrass, crabgrass, henbit, creeping Charlie (also known as ground ivy), nutsedge, prickly lettuce, broadleaf plantain and, of course, the dandelion! The best way to know if a self-invited plant on your territory is a potential friend or foe is to get to know your weeds. We can’t eradicate the weeds but we can learn about the ways to manage them.

For weed control it really all comes down to well-timed physical measures. Preparing the ground properly for planting and doing modest clean up often results in a good-looking and productive result.

The simple rule to live by is to avoid procrastinating by waiting for weeds to mature and set seed. Whether annuals, perennials, or biennials, weeds are famous for their rapid seeding and spreading ability.

Hand pull in small enclosed garden spaces. Loosen the soil around the weed with a hand fork so you can remove it with its root. Be careful not to pull flowers or vegetables if weeds are too close to them. Practice close planting when possible to suppress weeds.
Hoeing is the most useful and easiest method to remove the plants you don’t want. Skim the soil surface, don’t dig in too deep to avoid hurting the roots of your plants, and avoid bringing up more seeds to the surface. Hoe on a warm, dry day so the weeds wilt and die quickly after hoeing.

Remove stems and leaves from the garden beds as they may root. Do not compost any weeds that
have set seeds!

Mulching is an effective deterrent to weed growth. When weeds do come up they are usually lanky and can be easily hand pulled. Hay, straw, wood chips, and compost are all natural mulches that work well to smother weeds, and are a good buffer to protect the soil from evaporation and erosion. For large flower areas or vegetable beds, landscape fabric or plastic roll-out weed barriers can be installed, with or without a covering of mulch.

Also, consider where the weeds are, and their amount. If they are in the lawn and there are only a few of them, hand weeding will be more efficient. If the weeds have overtaken an entire bed, hoeing or digging them out may be the best action to take.

Most garden spaces can be managed with physical and cultural controls. If you do chose to use an herbicide, make sure the product is right for your situation – both for the weed in question and the location. Follow the instructions for correct timing and application rates and wear the appropriate personal protective gear.

If you have further questions, you can contact the UConn Extension Master Gardeners at:
https://mastergardener.uconn.edu/ask-us-a-question/

Article by Tatiana Ponder, 2020 UConn Extension Master Gardener Intern