Extension programs cover the full spectrum of topics aligned to the CAHNR strategic initiatives:
• Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
• Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
• Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate
• Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of the 169 municipalities across the state (see map). The “by the Numbers 2019” highlights some of our key impacts from these initiatives.
UConn has 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 entire team is excited and gratified that NSF has selected us for funding. This will allow us to expand and better coordinate our efforts, and create something that will hopefully be part of the University’s public engagement portfolio for a long time,” says Extension Educator Chet Arnold, principal investigator of the grant and the Director of UConn’s Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR).
The Environment Corps or “E-Corps” came out of a three-year pilot project originally funded by the UConn Provost’s Office in 2016. That project developed the Climate Corps, an undergraduate instructional effort focused on local, town-level impacts of, and responses to, climate change. Designed to draw students from the Environmental Studies, Environmental Sciences, and Environmental Engineering majors, the Climate Corps debuted in the fall of 2017. The program consists of a class in the fall with a strong focus on local challenges and issues, followed by a “practicum” spring semester during which students are formed into teams and matched with towns work on projects. Partnerships with the towns are built on the long-term relationships that have developed between local officials and Extension educators from CLEAR and the Connecticut Sea Grant program.
Climate Corps was a hit with both students and towns, and in 2018 spun off a second STEM offering, this one focusing on
brownfields (contaminated sites) redevelopment. The Brownfields Corps, taught by the Civil and Environmental Engineering Department, debuted in the fall of 2018. With the NSF funding, there will now be a third “Corps,” the Stormwater Corps, which is under development and will help towns deal with the many requirements of the state’s newly strengthened general stormwater permit.
The NSF-funded project involves expansion and coordination of the three programs, but also has a major focus on studying the impact of the E-Corps approach on students, faculty, participating towns, and the UConn community. Faculty from the Neag School of Education will lead the research. The Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning will take the lead in working with university administrators and faculty to promote further expansion of the model.
The local, real-world focus of the E-Corps model is getting an enthusiastic response from students. One student wrote: “Climate Corps had a huge influence on me, and for a while I wasn’t super excited about the sorts of jobs I’d be qualified to do…but having this experience opened so many doors for me and exposed me to so many different things I could do. I’m really excited to start my new job because I’ve been able to combine a career with something I find super interesting.” Fall classes are filled to capacity for the Climate and Brownfields Corps.
“With two years of the Climate Corps and a year of the Brownfields Corps under our belts I think we can say that both the students and the communities are benefitting from this program,” says Sea Grant Extension Educator Juliana Barrett, a Climate Corps instructor. “As a Land and Sea Grant University UConn has a critical mission to engage the community, and the E-Corps project gives us a new, exciting model for doing that.”
“I have recently had the opportunity to work with some Extension faculty in the second semester of the UConn Climate Corps program. For the projects I have worked on, Extension faculty made the process a combined effort. I was given the opportunity to develop plans and troubleshoot problems with my team of students, while the Extension faculty acted as a resource and provided guidance. They gave feedback on our work to help us narrow in on what was crucial to our project goals. There was ample space to work on problems and develop creative solutions as a team, knowing the Extension faculty was available to help… I think community engagement is crucial in applying new research and making strides toward sustainable practices, and UConn Extension emphasizes this perspective.” ~ 2018-19 UConn Climate Corps Undergraduate Class and Independent Study Student
The Climate Corps is a collaboration of UConn Environmental Studies, UConn Environmental Sciences, and Environmental Engineering programs, the Connecticut Sea Grant Program, and the UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research (CLEAR).
The Litchfield County 4-H Fair Association made up “Birthday Parties in a Bag” which are distributed to shelters and food kitchens. Every child wants a birthday party, and every child should be able to celebrate their birthday. They have been doing this community service project since 2012, when three 4-Hers went to a leadership Conference with Jann Carmody-Tanner at the National 4-H Center, and this was their project. Each bag contains party basics.
The Litchfield County 4-H Fair Association also met earlier this month and did a Water Quality STEM activity led by Meg Tanner. The group had a great time.
We want to take this opportunity to welcome Laura Brown to UConn Extension as our new Extension Educator for Community Development. Laura has wonderful experience here in Connecticut where she worked with the Hartford Food System as their Director of Education and Community Outreach and then as a statewide Community Development Specialist at University of WI – Madison. Prior to coming back to Connecticut, Laura worked with partners including the WI Extension Environmental and Community Development Association, American Planning Association, WI Economic Development Association and the Community Development Society. Laura will be based in the Fairfield County Extension office but will work statewide with a focus on urban communities. Welcome Laura!