Each fall, UConn 4-H members in every county across Connecticut participate in 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), which is the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. The hands-on experiment incorporates science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Motion Commotion, the 2015 experiment, taught 4-H youth members about physics and speed, while addressing the serious public safety threat posed by texting while driving. By tying real life problems and their solutions to STEM, 4-H youth are engaged as problem solvers and gain hands-on experience in STEM, learn life skills needed to succeed today as well as career readiness for the future. State 4-H Program Leader Maryann Fusco-Rollins and Joy Erickson from UConn’s School of Engineering had collaborated on a science experiment proposal for NYSD making it to the semi-finals. This collaborative experiment, Helping Hands Transforming Lives, challenges young scientists to become biomedical engineers for the day and design an Articulated Hand Prosthetic. It has been featured at 4-H Science Saturdays and was featured at the Adventures in STEM workshop in November 2016. UConn Engineering students are mentors at Adventures in STEM.
Lindsey is the new Program Assistant for the Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion. Lindsey is a recent graduate of the University of St. Joseph’s in West Hartford with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. Lindsey is also pursuing a certification as a personal trainer from National Academy of Sports Medicine. She has worked with community outreach including SNAP-ED, Boys and Girls Clubs, and telephonic health coaching. Lindsey brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to our team.
Whether protecting our nation and its highest ideals with military service or ensuring a safe, abundant, and nutritious food supply as veterans, we are grateful for their willingness to serve.
For more than 35 years, USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veteran Affairs have collaborated to support those who support America – the U.S. military Veterans and their families. These collaborations have helped thousands of military families gain access to the high quality educational programs in early childhood education, youth development, community capacity and related fields that land-grant university cooperative extension services provide.
In nearly every state, 4-H Military Partnerships offers youth development programs for children from military families in the form of day and resident camps, community 4-H clubs and leadership development programs. Other key initiatives include the Clearinghouse for Military Family Readiness (Penn State), the Virtual Lab School (Ohio State) and the Military Families Learning Network (eXtension). Each of these programs provide the most up-to-date, evidence-based programming to strengthen military families.
Solomon “Sol” Boucher of Tolland exemplifies the 4-H motto of making the best better. Sol has taken the foundation in leadership and citizenship skills developed through the 4-H program to a global stage, impacting his community, and a wider audience.
In 2003, 10-year old Sol joined the Mighty Mix 4-H Club. Deb Couture and Felicia Johnson, his mother, served as co-leaders. Sol was elected president by his peers, and maintained the post through 2010.
The 4-H fair is a highlight of the year. Mighty Mix sold simple, historic toys such as Jacob’s ladders at the fair each year. In addition, Sol and his fellow club members set up and ran kids’ games, donating proceeds to the Tolland Soup Kitchen. Sol entered his photography in 4-H competitions, winning best of show at the State 4-H Photo and Art Contest in the junior division in 2005, and senior division in 2008.
Connecticut 4-H members hold demonstrations in the New England Center at the Eastern States Exposition, or Big E. The Mighty Mix attended for five years, the first two years demonstrating their wooden toys. Then, Sol had the idea to connect a camera, laptop, drawing program, and printer. Club members took photos of interested fairgoers, converted them to computer-drawn likenesses, and printed them in black and white. Attendees could color the drawings, or take home the black and white version; it was a big hit for the three remaining years club members ran their booth.
Sol served on the Tolland County 4-H Fairboard from 2006-2010. The annual advertising campaign is critical to the success of the 4-H Fair. Members raise funds by soliciting advertisements from local businesses for the 4-H Fairbook. In 2009 and 2010, Sol was the highest salesperson, and inspired other 4-H members to sell more ads, then passed down his list of willing donors. He had a broad view of the 4-H program, and tackled numerous challenges throughout his service on Fairboard.
“Sol was dismayed by the huge amount of garbage at the 4-H Fair, and the absence of recycling,” Felicia explains. In 2008, Sol and fellow 4-H Fairboard member Alix Moriarty formed a green committee, and Sol asked his father, UConn Extension Educator Jude Boucher, to serve as advisor.
“The green committee initiated buying recyclable tableware and cutlery for the snack bar, and purchasing recycling bins to be placed beside every garbage can. They included instructions about what could be recycled. At the end of the fair, Sol and Alix enlisted the Mighty Mix members and parents to sort through collected bags of recycling to separate out non-recyclables. It was a hot and dirty job, but they persevered,” Jude says.
The Green Committee held demonstrations about energy-saving strategies and products during the fair. Sol created a stand with illuminated LED, CFL, and incandescent bulbs connected to energy monitors that showed how much electricity each was using. He also had an outside table where fairgoers could play with toy solar cars.
Across Connecticut, people were talking about the green initiative at the Tolland County 4-H Fair. Sol and Alix gave an hour-long demonstration on living a green lifestyle at home, and steps one could take to make a local 4-H Fair green at the 2009 4-H Volunteer Conference, and again at the Association of Connecticut Fairs Convention in 2010. His peers recognized Sol with the 4-H Fair Exceptional Service Award in 2009.
Gifted in computer science, Sol was a member of the RAGE Robotics team in high school, and shared his knowledge with 4-H. He dedicated many hours each year setting up computers for entries at the Tolland County 4-H Fair. His robotics team brought their robot to the fair, and Sol arranged for an engineer to exhibit various solar inventions, and a Honda hybrid car modified to achieve over 100 miles per gallon.
He competed in Quinnipiac University High School Programming Competitions, and also volunteered to teach basic computer skills at the Tolland Senior Center. Sol graduated from Tolland High School as the salutatorian, and went on to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The RIT computer science (C.S.) undergraduate program involves five years of study, including co-ops.
“Sol’s first co-op was as a research assistant for the RIT computer science department, writing code for robotic obstacle detection and avoidance,” Felicia says. Another co-op involved programming for a tech startup company in Rochester, New York, developing an encrypted “purse” for bit coins. “His subsequent co-ops were spent as a software engineering intern at Google, Inc., first based in Seattle, Washington during the summer of 2013, and later in Mountain View, California for the summer of 2014, and the spring of 2015.”
Sol studied in Croatia during the spring of 2013, was an honors freshman orientation mentor at RIT, a math tutor at the RIT Academic Support Center, and served as an executive board officer in various capacities for the RIT C.S. Community. He also participated in C.S. programming competitions as an undergraduate. During two school breaks, Sol was in Quebec, studying and improving his French language skills. Staying true to his green 4-H roots, he led an effort resulting in the addition of recycling bins to every dorm kitchen throughout the university.
Sol graduated from RIT ahead of schedule, and received numerous awards while there, including the RIT Presidential Scholarship, RIT Outstanding Undergraduate Scholar Award, and the Norman A. Miles Award for Academic Excellence. The Miles Award recognizes a student entering his or her last year of academic study with the highest GPA across the university.
In 2015, Sol began a 6-year Ph.D. program in C.S. at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, one of the nation’s top-ranked C.S. programs. Sol has helped a professor at Carnegie Mellon resurrect a Teacher’s Assistant Advisory Committee to support fellow graduate students that are also teaching. Showing his usual green outlook developed while in 4-H, Sol succeeded in getting the owners of his apartment complex to improve their recycling services. Sol demonstrates that youth who learn perseverance and develop self-confidence early in life can have a positive influence on the world around them wherever they go.
Twenty-eight years as an elementary school teacher has not dampened the enthusiasm of 4-H volunteer Marcia Johnson. She’s upbeat, energetic and clearly excited about teaching. Five years ago, Johnson created a school gardening program for her students at John Barry Elementary School in Meriden. When Johnson took a position at Meriden’s Nathan Hale School, she created the 4-H Environmental Education and Garden Club. She says, “I love the 4-H curriculum, and the kids really enjoy it.” In 2013, Johnson brought the Junior Master Gardener curriculum to her program, and a year later, she decided to complete the 4-H volunteer training so she might bring 4-H to students in her after-school and summer clubs. This year, thirty students joined the club from grades three, four, and five. High school students volunteer to assist with the program. “I am by no means a gardening expert,” says Johnson.
“I am learning along with the kids. For two years before we planted our first seed, I collected information on gardening curriculum at every grade level. I’m always searching online for gardening ideas. I would love to take the Master Gardener Program at UConn.” The students planted eight raised beds filled with strawberries, eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash, basil and green beans, in addition to a few annual flowers chosen to attract pollinators. Johnson added a hydroponic tower to house a lettuce crop. She uses the harvested produce to teach the children healthy cooking and food preparation. Students take produce home as well.
Umekia Taylor, associate extension educator with UConn Extension, was so impressed with Johnson’s program, she awarded the school a 4-H CT FANs IM mini grant that provided raised bed kits, curriculum materials and tools, as well as programming assistance. Over the summer, two 4-H CT FANs IM staff spent two days a week with Johnson’s students, providing fun activities that focused on gardening, nutrition, and fitness.
Johnson is continually looking for new club activities to provide experiential learning for her students. She brought in chicken eggs to incubate in the classroom, and set up honey tasting with a local beekeeper. Johnson never tires of working with her students. “It’s the best part of my day. The kids just love it and they never want to go home.”
Johnson received the 2013 and 2014 Connecticut AgriScience Award sponsored by the Connecticut Corporators to the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E). She is also the recipient of the American Farm Bureau’s White Reinhardt Award and received a grant from the Connecticut Agricultural Education Foundation.
“I can’t get over how fascinated the kids are to see things grow from a seed,” Johnson says. “We live in such a technological society where kids go to a restaurant and food suddenly appears. We rarely take the time anymore to teach children about nature.
The 120-acre 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm is a private, non-profit education center located in Bloomfield. Over 15,000 students and family members participate in year-round 4-H curriculum-based school science programs, animal clubs, and Junior Master Gardening projects annually.
Hartford entrepreneur and retailer Beatrice Fox Auerbach and her husband purchased the farm in 1925. Beatrice took control of the farm and managed it for 40 years when her husband died in 1927. Dairy, poultry, and apples were produced. At its peak, the farm was 230-acres, and honored in 1950 for its innovation and modern practices. The family of Beatrice Fox Auerbach deeded the farm to the Connecticut 4-H Development Fund in 1976.
A volunteer board of directors and staff run the farm’s day-to-day operations and educational components. The partnership with UConn Extension brings the research from UConn to real life for visiting groups. Educational programs encourage critical thinking and curiosity through hands-on discovery in science and agriculture. Volunteers from the 4-H program, Master Gardeners, and the community are a vital component of the farm.
“We are very passionate about the mission of the organization, which is to connect people, agriculture, and the natural environment through education and recreation,” says Chairman of the Board Bob Lyle. “At Auerfarm we have a wonderful 120-acre outdoor laboratory for learning, and we focus on bringing young people and their families out for fun, hands-on lessons in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).
“Youth learn about nutrition, food production, plant, and animal life,” Bob continues. “It’s gratifying to observe how participants enthusiastically react and enjoy learning in this kind of living classroom. We offer educational opportunities that many would not otherwise have.”
Through their experiences at Auerfarm, youth connect to their food environment while building a foundation in STEM education. Auerfarm recently finished construction of a new animal barn, and over the course of the year, the farm has many different species including alpacas, sheep, beef cattle, goats, pigs, chickens, and rabbits.
“The 4-H club at the farm works with the animals to further their understanding of various STEM-based concepts such as nutrition and animal health,” Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator Jen Cushman explains. “In addition, various school-based, summer programs, and birthday parties integrate the animals into their learning experiences. For example, enrichment programs highlight the life-cycle connections between chickens and eggs, baby animals, and the role that alpacas and sheep play in the creation of yarn.”
The Master Gardener/Foodshare garden is a quarter acre vegetable garden used as a demonstration site for learning the basics of environmentally responsible vegetable and flower production. Students learn about growing conditions through understanding management of soil, water, insects, and diseases.
Opportunities to watch seasonal progression of plants, as well as observation of birds and wildlife are available in the garden. Master Gardeners work with approximately 300 volunteers throughout the season. Each year, volunteers harvest over 3,600 pounds of fresh produce for distribution to the community kitchens through Foodshare.
An anonymous $50,000 grant allowed the 4-H Farm to install a 20 x 48 polycarbonate rigid-walled greenhouse, which has space for in-ground and bench-top growing. Classes and demonstrations are held in the greenhouse.
“It’s a sunny and green oasis during the winter months,” Hartford County Master Gardener Coordinator Sarah Bailey mentions. “Spinach and herbs grow throughout the winter, and as the season shifts, more varieties are planted. While heated, we run it as a cold house with minimal non-solar heat in the winter, yet it stays warm enough for several cold-hardy plants.”
The greenhouse expands growing space available, and extends growing seasons, allowing for more educational programs. Master Gardener volunteers are growing more plants for the Foodshare production garden in the greenhouse.
Sarah is the Junior Master Gardener program statewide coordinator, and utilizes the greenhouse to teach students how plants grow, science experiments, and techniques for planting and harvesting. Teachers receive instruction at the greenhouse, and take hands-on curriculum back to their schools. Sarah is also developing a multi-generational Gardening with Families series.
“I look forward to engaging current UConn students in the activities of Auerfarm through internships and service learning to expand the connection between Auerfarm and UConn,” Jen concludes. “By tapping the expertise of UConn Extension specialists, I anticipate enhancing the agricultural production and practices that occur on the farm.”
The New Haven County Extension Resource Council, Inc. (NHCERC, Inc.), a volunteer organization supporting the educational outreach programs based in this center, is hosting this event. Faculty, staff, and volunteers will be available to discuss Extension outreach programs offered via this Extension Center. Brief spotlight presentations will be made on “4-H STEM Activities to Do with Kids”, “Your Garden in Fall” and “How we sometimes get sick from the food we eat”. Educational displays and materials will also on hand. At 5:45 pm there will be a very brief Annual NHCERC, Inc. Meeting followed by The Extension Volunteer Recognition Ceremony. The public is welcome to attend all or any portion of this event. Light refreshments will be available. Call 203. 407. 3160 for more information. RSVPs are appreciated.
The New Haven County Extension Center, one of eight county-based UConn Extension Centers, provides a wide variety of educational outreach programs for families and individuals, youth, staff, farmers, professionals, businesses, and social service and public agencies, among others, in New Haven County and beyond. UConn Extension faculty and staff, based in the New Haven County facility, work in fields such as 4-H youth development, food safety, master gardening, financial literacy, Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP), and Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion (CT FANs IM) and coastal storm preparedness. For more information, visit http://www.extension.uconn.edu/extension-centers/newHaven.php.
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Learn how UConn Extension is tying research to real life in your community through our 2015 Highlights of Extension.
Every child has the potential to be a true leader. However, kids today say they are missing experiences that grow the life skills they need – like confidence, responsibility, independence and compassion. It is a serious problem now that will lead to a severe leadership void in the years to come – impacting communities across America, and nearly every industry and sector.
UConn 4-H grows true leaders. Become involved with our program today.
During National Volunteer Week, we thank all of our Connecticut 4-H, UConn Extension Master Gardener Program, People Empowering People (PEP), and other volunteers who make our programs so successful each year! Our volunteers contributed over 100,000 hours, or $2.4 million to their communities served last year.