STEM

Auerfarm: Growing Opportunities

in gardenThe 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.”

Sugaring Manure

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Connecticut has more manure nutrients than we need for our crops. UConn Extension Educator Rich Meinert and two summer interns spent Friday “sugaring” manure. Just like maple growers sugar sap by boiling away the water we will be sugaring liquid dairy manure from a screw press separator to remove the water so that we can quantify the mass and more importantly the volume of the material that remains. In order to plan a meaningful strategy to move nutrients off of Connecticut farms and onto crops somewhere else, either in Connecticut or beyond, we need to know how much quantity we are talking about.

Hartford County Urban 4-H

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The Hartford County Urban 4-H after school programs are free for children age 7-19. Youth enrolled in Urban 4-H receive effective hands on STEM related activities which include but not limited to: health and nutrition, science related activities, social skills, and work force readiness courses.

On May 26th at the Boys and Girls club in Hartford the group had our annual end of the year after school program wrap up celebration. On May 28th in Hartford at Thirman Milner School our wrap up celebration was held to conclude the 2015 afterschool program.

Learn more about the Hartford County Urban 4-H program by contacting LaShawn Christie-Francis at 860-570-9008 or lashawn.christie@uconn.edu

Windham County Skill-A-Thon

 

By Marc Cournoyer, UConn Extension 4-H Program Coordinator

4-H program coordinator Maryann Fusco-Rollins helps 4-Hers construct scarf marionette puppets using plastic material, beads and string.

 16 4-H members from around Windham County gathered together on Saturday, April 12th to explore STEM through a series of exciting and fun experiential activities.  They participated in three workshops that were facilitated by UConn staff and students.

In the first workshop, 4-H program coordinator Maryann Fusco-Rollins taught participants how to make and operate a scarf marionette.

Members of the UConn Engineering Ambassadors lead 4-Hers in STEM demonstrations

In the second workshop, students from the UConn Engineering Ambassadors led participants through a series of STEM related demonstrations using various household materials such as corn starch and hydro polymers found in diapers.  They also showcased some things that could be done using liquid nitrogen, including freezing a raquetball and operating superconductor magnets along with exploring memory recognition metals.

In the final workshop, members of the UConn collegiate 4-H club led participants in a Jeopardy style game exploring 4-H related trivia called “Are You Smarter than a Collegiate 4-Her?” Kids were split into small teams and had buzzers to signal their readiness to answer questions.  The game show atmosphere was very contagious.

At the end of the event, participants were given the opportunity to share something they learned over the course of the morning that they did not know when they arrived.

 

Mackenzie and Bridget from the UConn collegiate 4-H club lead 4-H trivia challenge. Noelle, Shannon and Colton soak up water and food coloring using hydro polymers found in baby diapers.

UConn Extension 4-H Partners with UConn Engineering Ambassadors

By Marc Cournoyer, UConn Extension 4-H Program Coordinator

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Members of the UConn Engineering Ambassadors share the story of how they chose to study a career in STEM.

Two undergraduate students from the UConn Engineering Ambassadors stopped by the Extension Center in Brooklyn, CT on February 22nd to assist members of the Windham County 4-H Saturday Science club in exploring some of the science required to colonize Mars.

 Participants had an opportunity to create their own make shift filters to purify contaminated water, as well as, explore the science of propulsion through the creation and experimentation of small rockets which use water and sodium bicarbonate to create enough pressure to launch the capsule.

 Members of the club had the opportunity to experiment with various materials to see which would work best in achieving the desired goals.  As small groups presented their designs, members discussed what worked well and what could be adjusted to provide better results. Group members were able to revise their design and retest until they achieved the desired outcome.

 The two engineering ambassadors also spoke about their personal story that led to them becoming engineering students and choosing a STEM related career.

 The Windham County 4-H Saturday Science club meets monthly and focuses on a different STEM related topic each month.  In March they will focus on the science of sound, making musical instruments out of recycled materials.  In April, they will participate in the annual county 4-H STEM Skill-A-Thon.

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  Molly and Bella work on their water filtration system design.
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Club members prepare their capsules to be launched in the sodium bicarbonate rocket experiment.

4-H Saturday Science

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Youth at the 4-H Saturday Science program.

Denise Coffey of the Reminder News covered the first 4-H Saturday Science Program at Windham County Extension:

“The Windham County Extension Center in Brooklyn hosted the first 4-H Science Saturday on Nov. 16. Program Coordinator Marc Cournoyer led a group of youngsters through “Maps and Apps,” an exercise in map-reading and map-making. With nods to technology and Rand McNally, the kids were given a chance to design their own maps.

The program is part of a larger effort on the part of national 4-H to boost the scientific, technological, engineering and mathematical skills and interests of youngsters. “Maps and Apps” was the national 4-H science experiment held for 4-Hers across the country. The experiment on Saturday required participants to use geographic information systems (GIS), global positioning systems (GPS), grid paper and their own creativity in coming up with a map they could call their own.”

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