Congratulations to our Natural Resources Conservation Academy on their 2020 Excellence in Conservation Org Award from the Connecticut Land Conservation Council! The NRCA team comprises faculty members in Natural Resources & the Environment, UConn Center for Land Use Education and Research, Extension, UConn CAHNR, UConn Neag School of Education, and NRCS!
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.
Article by Maryann Fusco
By Alexis Nadeau, Alyssa Newell, Emmit Starkweather
Innovation is a modernly essential pillar to human development and growth into the future. It is this innovative thinking that the organization For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology or FIRST seeks to harness within adolescents and young adults. Focusing on the fields of STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics –FIRST wishes to fuel interests in the younger generations.
State of the art organizations such as the First Robotics Program help to assist students in grades 9-12 with learning the difficult but necessary skills that shall be required to continue the technological growth and innovation which our era depends. Some of the careers that require these skills are mechanical design, electrical engineering, software engineering, and manufacturing. Certain teams in the first robotics program, such as ours (Team 3555) are 4-H clubs.
“My experience on the 4-H First Robotics Team has provided me with access to more knowledge than I was able to acquire previously, and has introduced me to better overall materials than I would have access to otherwise,” club member Nick Mercado said.
The way the club works is that students are allotted a time known as a build season, where each team is given six weeks to build a robot that will be used to compete in various competitions across that state. Each branch of our team does different tasks and works together with the other parts of the team in order to build a robot in a fast and efficient way. For example, the mechanical design people work on the technical sketches of the different components of the robot, while the electrical engineering people work on the wiring and the electrical boards.
While these two branches do very different things, they have to cooperate to make sure that all of the electrical components will be able to fit and work on the mechanical parts. Likewise, people operating in the software engineering branch have to program the robot so that it moves, which requires significant communication with people in the electrical and design branch. This is because the programmers need to know the electronic components that will be used in order to program them correctly, and they need to know the design of the robot, so that it is programmed in a way that allows it to move smoothly and effectively.
After the six weeks, our robot is taken out to various competitions around the state where it competes with other teams in doing certain tasks, such as lifting up boxes and putting them on levers, climbing up walls, or shooting balls at specific targets. The adrenaline rush that is experienced is wild, as the arena is constantly filled with the passion and excitement that is elicited by the thrill that comes with having the crowd at the competitions.
“Both optimists and pessimists have a place in the world. The optimist will build the robot, and the pessimists will bring the safety bucket,” club member Sam Secondo said about the challenge.
The competitions offer many new learning experiences for those who join the 4-H First Robotics Team. Students work under stress, cooperate with other teams, manage safety, show leadership, act graciously, show professionalism, demonstrate quick thinking, and take quick action, all of which are unquestionably valued by the 4-H program. Last year, the team had performed in two out off-season events: Bay State Brawl and the Where Is Wolcott.
“Without the 4-H First robotics program, I wouldn’t know even half of the information about engineering and mechanical design that I currently know,” said club member Alexis Nadeau.
Many people in today’s era strive to learn the new skills that drive the engineering world, and the 4-H First Robotics Program gives students the opportunity to be part of a team that teaches the fundamentals of engineering.
By Pamela Gray
Every summer, New London County 4-H provides programming to our local libraries. These partnerships benefit the libraries as 4-H provides technological equipment that are not affordable to individual libraries (especially the rural libraries in our county) and a range of experiential learning activities not readily available to libraries with limited staff. 4-H activities are easily adapted to fit any age group and is beneficial to every individual, regardless of their learning abilities. The theme this summer, 4-H Libraries Rock!, was a 7-session summer program giving participants the opportunity to do STEAM-related activities (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math).
Instead of taking a two month break from school, participants continued learning over the summer, promoting greater learning at school, more enthusiasm in the classroom, and a desire for experiential learning outside of the classroom. 4-H Libraries Rock! encouraged youth to work as a team, taught how problem-solving leads to success, and gave a general understanding of STEAM concepts.
A successful experience from the Janet Carlson Calvert Library (Franklin) involved young adults with special needs. These individuals were able to take part in the activity “ROCKets to the Rescue”. Together they assembled rockets made out of cardstock and launched by stomping on a soda bottle connected by PVC piping to the rocket (aka air propulsion). It was a challenge for the special needs participants using large motor skills to stomp on the soda bottle. However, with patience and assistance, they were thrilled to see their rockets shoot into the sky.
4-H Libraries Rock! programs at Groton Library and Otis Library (Norwich) reach a diverse community. The central locations of the libraries make them available to children and families who do not have transportation and need to depend on public transportation or walking. The majority of the youth participating in these programs make up urban demographics and may not have caregivers who are able to enroll their children in costly summer enrichment activities. 4-H’s involvement in these communities encourage and enhance youth’s cognitive development through the summer.
Today’s youth rely heavily on technology to solve problems and for some youth, experiential learning is intimidating. The first week of 4-H Libraries Rock!, youth made foil boats. They pulled out their cell phones, googling the best way to make a boat that will hold the most pennies before sinking. The 4-H instructor asked “Why would you use someone else’s knowledge when you have a brain of your own?” The phones were put away, and never came out again for the rest of the summer. Other kids engaged in negative self-talk: “This is stupid.” “This is not fun. Can I leave?” “I can’t do this.” Encouraging positive remarks, from the 4-H leaders and from kids to each other, such as “Let’s try again.” “That’s so awesome!” “Can I have help?” were game changers for the youth. They brought family members into the library to see what they were doing, and started each week with a ‘can-do’ attitude, no matter the activity or how challenging.
For more information on 4-H STEM activities, or how to get involved in 4-H, contact your local 4-H Program Coordinator here.
Eight youth from Granby 4-H along with one leader, Rachael Manzer successfully launched three experiments into space on a NASA rocket. The three experiments 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. Cubes in SpaceTM, a global competition designed to help students ages 11-18 launch experiments into space on a NASA rocket at no cost made this opportunity possible.
It took the 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 electronically to Cubes in SpaceTMwhere 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. After months of waiting, final decisions were made. All three Granby 4-H proposals were selected as part of the 80 experiments selected out of the 450 total proposals submitted.
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 “Rubber Bands in Space” group evaluated how rubber bands are affected by a microgravity environment by creating a rubber band ball. By placing a solid piece of Gallium in the cube with padding the “Gallium in Space” group studied if Gallium changes into a liquid state during space flight.
All participants of the 80 selected experiments were invited for the launch at NASA Wallops Center where they presented their experiments to an audience of 300 people.
Members gained valuable experiences through participating in the Cubes in SpaceTMproject. 4-Hers learned the importance of working together, how 4-H and STEM fit together, and learned the process of doing research. Members note that the experience provided them with the opportunity to practice problem solving skills, answer their own questions, embrace their curiosity, and have experience in the world of STEM.
UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. 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 citizenship and healthy living. To find a 4-H club near you visit 4h.uconn.edu or call 860-486-4127.
Article by Jen Cushman and Yutin Zhao (‘20)
RACHAEL MANZER JOINED LANDMARK GATHERING OF STATE & FEDERAL STEM EDUCATION LEADERS AT THE WHITE HOUSE
WHITE HOUSE SUMMIT WILL HELP INFORM NEXT 5-YEAR STEM EDUCATION STRATEGY
Rachael Manzer, STEM Coach at Winchester Public Schools and a UConn 4-H Leader was recently invited to attend the first-of-its-kind State-Federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education Summit hosted by The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on June 25-26, 2018, in Washington, D.C.
Jen Cushman, Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator says “We are fortunate to have a UConn 4-H Volunteer in attendance to share the STEM experiences UConn 4-H Youth are engaging in.”
According to the OSTP, the State-Federal STEM Education Summit convened a diverse group of State STEM leaders, including officials from governors’ offices, K-20 educators, workforce and industry representatives, State policy experts, and non-government organization executives. These attendees participated in the development of a new Federal 5-Year STEM Education Strategic Plan in compliance with America COMPETES Act of 2010.
“This event is the first time an administration has asked for this level of State input when developing a Federal STEM education strategy,” said Jeff Weld, senior policy advisor and assistant director for STEM education at OSTP. “Top-down approaches to STEM education can often yield wonderful ideas, but it’s at the State and community level where the momentum happens. State leaders know best what kinds of programs will work in their communities, and where they need the power of the Federal government to help drive success in this field. STEM education is critical to preparing our students for the jobs of the future. We must do everything we can to ensure that Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, communities, educators, and private industry partners are united for the long-term success of our Nation.”
Alongside OSTP in planning and carrying out this Summit are the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Smithsonian Institution. STEM leaders from all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories and tribes, will attend the Summit to illuminate and advance State-Federal STEM alignment.
In 1976, Congress established OSTP to provide the President and others within the Executive Office of the President with advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations, the environment, and the technological recovery and use of resources, among other topics. OSTP also leads interagency science and technology policy coordination efforts, assists the Office of Management and Budget with an annual review and analysis of Federal research and development in budgets, and serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the Federal Government.
Rachael Manzer is a 4-H Leader in Connecticut. She leads three different projects groups: VEX Middle School Robotic Competition Team, who won the Connecticut State Robotic Championship and competed in the World Championship; a VEX Robotic Project Group, who designs and builds robots to compete at the Hartford County 4-H Fair; and a 4-H Cubes in Space Group who had three experiments fly in space on a NASA Sounding Rocket on June 21, 2018. Rachael Manzer is passionate about 4-H and STEM Education.
Written By: Jen Cushman, Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator
At Worlds, the youth will compete in teamwork, programming and driving competitions. In addition, they are eligible for team awards for energy, journal, design and research project. Throughout the competition, these youth will also network with teams from around the world as they promote 4-H through their team booth.
Since May of 2017, the youth have been learning about this year’s Ring Master Challenge in preparation for the build season. Using science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts, competition team members developed, designed, and practiced their robot driving skills. In addition, the 4-H’ers maintain an engineering journal 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 the annual STEM Research Project which is also component of the competition.
Supported by six 4-H volunteer mentors and parents, this group of 4-H youth competed as the only 4-H team in Connecticut. While 4-H volunteer mentors are there to guide and facilitate the youth, 4-Hers do all the design and construction work. Each member of the team is assigned a leadership role in a specific area. Team members meet 1-2 times per week for 8 months of the year and then 2 to 6 times a week as the competition gets closer. Along with the leadership, STEM, teamwork, communication, citizenship and life skills that the youth gain they also develop entrepreneurial skills designing and running fundraisers to cover the expenses of the robot and competition fees.
Members implement the values of the 4-H motto to Make the Best Better by improving their robot after practice and competition sessions. 4-H members note that they
have benefited from participating in the VEX 4-H Robotics Program by gaining and enhancing their skills; for example, in the area of spatial geometry or in programming their robot 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. In fact, during the qualification rounds at the State Competition, the team was twice awarded the Judges Award for Spirit and Energy at the Regional Level and they were the Teamwork Challenge winners on the state level. The competition members also serve as mentors to the non-competition 4-H VEX Robotics group members. Lastly, members see their experiences in VEX 4-H Robotics helping them to identify future career opportunities. Beyond the VEX Robot competition, this project group of the Granby 4-H Club also attends UConn STEM events, participates in community service activities as well as county-level activities including the annual Hartford County 4-H Fair.
UConn 4-H is the youth development program of the UConn Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. 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 citizenship and healthy living. To find a 4-H club near you visit 4-H.UConn.edu or call 860-486-4127.
Setting a Course for Active Learning: An Interview with Senator Beth Bye
By Nancy Wilhelm, Program Coordinator, State 4-H Office
Elizabeth “Beth” Bye is the Executive Director of the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm in Bloomfield. She has worked in early childhood education for over 30 years. She is also a member of the Connecticut Senate representing the 5th district which includes Bloomfield, Burlington, Farmington and West Hart-ford. Beth has spent her career working to assure all children have access to high quality learning opportunities. I sat down with her recently to get her thoughts on the benefits of early childhood education.
Her background in early childhood development and education began with a BA and MA in Child Development from the University of New Hampshire. Beth states that she was interested in the research on the impact of infant daycare on child development and in helping children to develop internal controls. She adds that “you can al-ways impact children, but it’s great to set their course early in life.” When asked what the research says about how we educate our youngest children she responds, “the research tells us that young children learn actively. They need to interface with a variety of materials, and explore, move and go outside. They also need to interact with other children and teachers. Their brains are qualitatively different and so they take in information differently than adults.” Beth also states that “play is the work of children”. It is universal, like walking and talking and is essentially how children make sense of their experience. Developing an attitude toward learning that is enthusiastic and flexible is also important and early childhood education programs can help to set the stage for children to be eager and excited about learning through play and active learning.
Environment also plays a key role in creating an effective early child-hood education program. The environment needs to be conducive to learning with interesting materials and activities. Safety is a key factor as well. There is more fear among parents now regarding their child’s safety and so the question arises, how much freedom to allow children to explore and develop. Responsive care is critical to a safe learning environment. Building self-regulation is also important so that children can be part of a com-munity early on, learning how to work as a team, and care about others.
Beth credits the 4-H program with helping youth to create their own inquiry experiences with 4-H pro-jects and activities as well as teaching independence, enthusiasm for learning and contribution to com-munity. 4-H members learn these skills early on and it tends to stay with them for the rest of their lives.
Beth’s connection with Auerfarm began as a consultant for the Bloomfield Public Schools. Over 13,000 youth visit Auerfarm each year to learn about agriculture and the environment.
Auerfarm offers a variety of seasonal, school and summer enrichment programs that provide a wonderful setting for active sensory learning. Children take a hayride around the 120-acre property exploring the gardens, orchards and fields and also get to sample apple cider and maple syrup during seasonal programs. Auerfarm also has an ongoing relationship with the Wintonbury Early Childhood Mag-net School which visits the farm for several weeks during the year. What better backdrop for active learning than a 120-acre farm with animals, gardens, and orchards.
It was never a question of if Laura Irwin of Hartland would join 4-H, but rather, when she would become a 4-H member. “My mom always wanted to be a 4-H member, and never had the opportunity,” Laura recalls. “So, she made sure her children did. I joined when I was 7-years old, and I’m still a volunteer and junior advisor for the Hartford County 4-H Fair Board.
Laura was a member of the Granby 4-H Club, and quickly seized every opportunity offered. She started riding horses when she was 8 years old, and then developed a 4-H goat project when she was 12. At age 16, she began a beef cattle project, and then swine came after that. Laura’s beef and swine projects were through the Gilbert family of North Granby, longtime 4-H volunteers. She also volunteered with the Hemlock Knoll 4-H Club.
Laura always tries to maintain a positive attitude, and you quickly realize this while talking to her. She handled the increasing responsibility and challenges of multiple 4-H projects with the same poise, determination, and professionalism that she demonstrates on a daily basis.
As a 4-H member, Laura came to UConn for Goat Day, and also visited the Greater Hartford campus for fashion review and other 4-H events. When considering colleges, Laura applied to UConn, Delaware Valley, and Colorado State, but never planned to go anywhere besides UConn. “I completed my first two years at Asnuntuck Community College in Enfield,” she says. “It offers a competitive financial aid package and I was able to participate in the gap program, and then transfer to UConn with all of my general education courses completed.”
Laura is a junior majoring in Pathobiology, graduating in 2019. She wants to double major in Animal Science and become a large animal veterinarian. “If I don’t become a veterinarian, I will complete a graduate program at UConn, focusing on research and becoming a pathobiologist, I’m already exploring work-study options in this field.”
Her experience in 4-H has enhanced her course work here at UConn. Material being covered in Introduction to Animal Science, Genetics, Pathobiology, and Physics courses is all an extension of the knowledge she gained through her 4-H career.
This fall, Laura competed in the Little International Livestock Show at UConn that is organized by the Block and Bridle Club in the Department of Animal Science. She showed a sheep, and won premier showmanship. “I credit 4-H for the win in Premier Showmanship at the Little International,” Laura says. “I never would have had the knowledge and skills without 4-H.”
Earning the respect of her riding instructor and having her 4-H project work come full circle were the most rewarding parts of 4-H for Laura. She began taking lessons with Lisa Dinsmore when she was 8-years old, and now Lisa looks at Laura as a knowledgeable horse person, and an equal.
Laura worked with her Hereford beef cow and calf every morning during her last year in 4-H and was Reserve Grand Champion Showman of Goshen Fair in 2015. Laura was able to see her calf grow up, have her own calf, and Reserve Grand Champion in the Cow-Calf class at the highly competitive Big E. The calf represents the third generation of Laura’s 4-H project work with that beef cow family.
In 2015, the Hartford County 4-H Fair advisors selected Laura as the Louis Kristopik Award winner at the 4-H Fair. The award recognizes a youth member who takes initiative, demonstrates leadership, and the ability to work as a member of the team. “It meant a lot that they picked me out of all the 4-H youth members because everyone is equally deserving,” Laura says. “If you receive the award you know you’ve done an excellent job.”
Laura began playing the piano when she was 6-years old, and knows many pieces by memory. “Music was my passion before 4-H,” she says. “I have a deeper understanding of poetry and lyrics of music. It’s still one of the pathways I use to connect with my brother.”
“I enjoy working with youth, especially those with special needs,” Laura mentions. “I want to stay involved with 4-H and help other youth gain the confidence to speak up for themselves. If you don’t have your own voice, what do you have?”
By Stacey Stearns