On November 4, 2017, 63 youth at-tended the CT 4-H Adventures in STEM Conference at the UConn Storrs Campus. Youth participated in a variety of STEM related workshops and also had the opportunity to have lunch in the Whitney Dining Hall.
Thank you to the UConn faculty, staff and students who provided workshops that day giving youth the opportunity to be introduced to new STEM topics, learn new skills and meet college students.
The following workshops were presented that day:
Cows, Chips and Farm Animal Genetics—Ashley Smalls and Anna Mckay, UConn Diagnostic Genetic Science
Understanding Nutrition Fact Labels—Krissy Anderson, Community Nutritionist, SNAP-ed, Dept. of Nutritional Sciences
Liquid Nitrogen—UConn Chemistry Club, Dept. of Chemistry
Plant Genetic Engineering, Dr. Gerald Berkowitz, Dept. of Plant Science
Clicks, Chirps and Buzzes: The Science of Seeing with Sound—Laura Cisneros and Sara Tremblay, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
Be a Plant Doctor for a Day—Cora McGehee, Dept. of Plant Science
The Science of Dairy Food Products—UConn Dairy Club, Dept. of Animal Science
Paradoxical Machines—Engineering Ambassadors, School of Engineering
Sixty three percent of high school graduates are not prepared for college-level science and 57 percent are not prepared for college level math. Only 1 in 5 STEM college students feel their K-12 education prepared them for STEM college courses. 4-H Pro-grams provide youth with hands-on, engaging STEM experiences that build excitement around STEM topics and careers.
The UConn 4-H program fostered a passion for animals in Jessica LaRosa of East Windsor. While in 4-H, Jessica discovered she loved teaching the public and others about agriculture. “My passion for both animals and teaching other about agriculture is what led me to find my major at UConn,” Jessica says.
Jessica joined the Merry Mooers 4-H Dairy Club in Hartford County when she was 10 years old. During her 4-H career she was also active with Hemlock Knoll 4-H, First Town Veterinary Science, and Granby 4-H. Her projects included poultry, dairy goats, rabbits, swine, beef, and veterinary science. She gained leadership experience as a club officer, and serving on the officer team of the Hartford County 4-H Fair Association. Jessica represented UConn 4-H at National 4-H Dairy Conference, the National 4-H Conference, and Citizenship Washington Focus.
“I applied to UConn because the campus felt like home to me due to the number of 4-H events that I attended on the Storrs campus,” Jessica says. “4-H influenced my choice in university and major.” UConn 4-H hosts numerous events throughout the year on the Storrs and the Greater Hartford campuses. Jessica was one of many 4-H members to attend 4-H Dairy and Beef Day, Goat Day, and the New England 4-H Poultry Show on the UConn Storrs campus.
Jessica is currently a sophomore in the Ratcliffe Hicks two-year program, graduating in May of 2018, and transferring to the bachelor’s degree program with a major in Agriculture and Natural Resources. Her expected graduation date is May 2020. She plans to apply to the Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates in the Neag School of Education at UConn and earn her master’s degree in Agriculture Education in May 2021. Jessica plans on becoming a high school agriculture teacher, and staying involved with 4-H by serving as a volunteer.
“The most rewarding part about 4-H for me was being able to get hands-on agriculture experience starting at a young age, and being able to network with both other 4-Hers, along with professionals in various industries of agriculture,” Jessica reflects thoughtfully. “I know those friendships will last a lifetime, and the professionals I have met will be helpful resources to me in the future.”
Jessica cites her 4-H experience as forming a baseline for what she is learning in her courses at UConn. Her background knowledge in animal science has made it easier to learn the detailed information in the courses she is taking.
“4-H has left a lasting impact on my life, and has shaped me into the person that I am today,” Jessica concludes. “For example, I had the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. for the National 4-H Conference, and presented on backyard farming with my roundtable group to the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA).”
The purpose of the Excellence in Urban 4-H Programming Award is to recognize outstanding efforts by members in urban programming and to strengthen the commitment to urban programming curriculum. The National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Member Recognition Committee selected the Tools for Healthy Living program as the national award winner for the competition. This afterschool program, a group effort by Extension Educators Jennifer Cushman, Mary Margaret Gaudio, Sharon Gray and Miriah Kelly, teaches fourth to sixth grade youth in Hartford and New Britain about healthy homes. The recognition ceremony is on November 16, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.
Since 2012, this curriculum has been taught at sixteen 4-H afterschool programs in Hartford and New Britain reaching approximately 430 urban youth. Over a two-year period, an additional 171 urban youth have also been funded through this program at the Auerfarm summer programs. This project is interdisciplinary, involving 4-H, nutrition, and technology specialists to achieve project goals. In addition, collaborations with afterschool project sites provided strong partnerships to deliver the program to youth and build an urban 4-H presence in these communities.
Through this program, youths in grades 4-6 learn the principles of a healthy home: it is clean, dry, safe, free of pests and dangerous chemicals, in good repair, and with fresh air. A series of 11 weekly lessons helps them to understand the effects of problems such as lead poisoning, asthma, mold and moisture, pests, environmental tobacco smoke, and clutter, as well as to develop strategies they and their families can use to reduce or eliminate these problems. Youths also explore the four key rules of food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill. A final component of the curriculum is a lesson on self-advocacy skills, helping youths to become agents for positive change in their homes, schools, and larger communities. A long-term project to be completed by youths further encourages them to share what they have learned.
Each lesson focuses on simple strategies youth can do to reduce their environmental risks, improve their health, and build upon previous lesson. Pre/post evaluations, and observations are conducted to measure gains in youth awareness and gauge impact. Pre/post evaluations are conducted in two modules: lessons 1-5 and lessons 6-11. The 4-H Common Measures in Technology are also assessed pre/post. Evaluation results show increased awareness of environmental risks such as mold, asthma, smoking, lead and food safety. Youth are able to demonstrate simple strategies to minimize these risks, such as proper hand washing, using food thermometers to cook meat to the correct temperature and avoiding asthma triggers. The impact of this is for youth to gain awareness of environmental risks and to utilize simple strategies to minimize risks in their home environment. Sharing this information with their families and the wider community helps the urban community as a whole. Newsletters on each topic covered are sent home weekly to share with their families or caregivers. The significance of this project is to develop educational material and delivery models to reach urban youth in this subject area that can be replicated in other urban communities. This program is part of an effort to bring 4-H to urban youth and communities as part of the existing Hartford County 4-H Programming.
This material is based upon the work of CYRFAR SCP Tools for Healthy Living, a project supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, United States (U.S.) Department of Agriculture, through a cooperative agreement with University of Connecticut under award number CONS-2012-00633.
Tools for Healthy Living is now a national 4-H curriculum, and a Healthy Homes Investigation Game was developed as an App. To purchase the curriculum go to http://bit.ly/2txWYWx. For more information on healthy homes for children and adults visit http://www.hec.uconn.edu.
CT FANs IM is supported by a five-year $2.5 million grant from USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) and is an offshoot of the original 4-H FANS program, which also focused on fitness and nutrition for school-aged children and their families.
“We’re bridging community connections with Extension, by serving youth and families in under-served areas,” says Umekia Taylor, associate educator and project director. “With the startling statistics on obesity in our country, I find it exciting to promote healthy lifestyles by combining nutrition and fitness in programs that engage our youth.”
Amy Walker, third grade teacher at W.B. Sweeney Elementary School in Willimantic, serves as adult leader for the school’s new 4-H Club. Funded through CT FANs IM 4-H STEM grant, the program started last winter with the planning and construction of six raised bed gardens.
“This school garden has been a wonderful opportunity to connect young, urban children with healthy, local produce,” says Marc Cournoyer, UConn Extension 4-H Youth Development Program Coordinator. “These kids are very excited to not only learn where some of their food comes from, but they also get to know the pride of growing, harvesting and eating food that was created by their own hands.”
Desiree Parciak, Sweeney Before and After School Program coordinator, worked with the CT FANs IM 4-H STEM staff to help establish the club. Students from her program were given the opportunity to join the club. In addition to Walker, the team includes Extension Public Service Specialist Kelly Caisse and CT FANs IM 4-H STEM teen mentor Mackenzie Hill, a former Sweeney student.
Linda Castro, Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs IM 4-H STEM program administrator, assisted the team with several training sessions. “It was very interesting because we did some great activities that really identified our unique personality traits and showed how different we work,” Walker says. “I think that is what makes the team so successful.”
Last spring, eighteen students planted the gardens that by early summer were overflowing with of tomatoes, corn, peppers, cucumbers, string beans, dill, basil and strawberries.
The team planned a summer reading night, but due to construction at Sweeney, the event was held during the afternoon at Memorial Park. The gardens were harvested before the event. Children heard a story about gardening while parents watched a food demonstration. Families left with a healthy recipe and an armful of vegetables.
“We had adorable chef hats for the children, which they loved,” says Walker. “And story time was a hit. Families from the school attended as well as a few other residents from town. It was a wonderful feeling to share the vegetables. There was enough for all the children and everyone went away happy.”
With the gardens still brimming with produce, Walker plans to continue harvesting as the students return to school. She hopes to secure additional funding to continue the program, expand the gardens and include educational sessions on nutrition and fitness.
“We had parents from the PTO notice how excited the kids were with the program,” Walker says. “Every administrator wants parents involved in their kids’ school, but it’s difficult for many parents in this district, where so many work multiple jobs to support their families. My goal is to encourage the students to eat healthier through gardening, while increasing parent involvement at the school. That’s the big thing for me, to see parents interested in learning with their kids and sharing the gardening process.”
Planning for the Regan Elementary School garden in Waterbury began during the winter of 2015, under the direction of technology/library teacher, Kimberly Williams. The cold frames and raised beds arrived in spring, along with seeds and worms for the worm factory. Students planted carrots, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, watermelon, pumpkins, lettuce, basil, beets, spinach, snapdragons, and cosmos. The first family harvest was held in July, followed by summer maintenance and fall clean up. A fall planting of broccoli rabe, lettuce, and carrots went in during October. The school club is in the works. Club recruiting began with Family Night events.
“Our parents have been very enthusiastic about the program and have enjoyed the Family Nights that we’ve held,” Williams says. “Students and families are excited to be part of the program. Everyone is looking forward to playing fitness games, getting into the garden and making healthy choices. Our staff is excited to see the science learning in our club translate to the classroom, and enable our students to make connections in their learning that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.”
In March, two New Haven schools, Hill Central Music Academy and West Rock STREAM Academy, will begin a spring CT FANs IM 4-H STEM program.
Volunteers are a critical component of the 4-H Mentoring program. Dr. Robert Beaudoin is one such volunteer. He started volunteering with the Connecticut 4-H Mentoring Project conducted at the Waterbury Youth Services, Inc. in 2011. He is the CEO of Beaudoin Karate Academy in Waterbury and has provided the support of his school and trainers at no cost to the participants of the programs conducted at the Waterbury Youth Services, Inc.
Under Dr. Beaudoin’s guidance, the program has grown into a major part of the 4-H Mentoring project, with about 45 youth participating in workshops that meet twice a week throughout the year. Four of his staff volunteer their time as trainers and mentors for the 4-H members, enabling youth to participate in local and regional contests, earn their belts, and demonstrate their skills at agency functions as well as the 4-H Fair.
“I never miss 4-H, my mentor thinks I’m special” says a mentee from the Connecticut 4-H Mentoring project. A parent says, “my child is never sick on 4-H day.” The Connecticut 4-H Mentoring Project is a prevention program designed to assist youth in acquiring knowledge, building character, and developing life skills in a fun learning environment that will help them become self-directing, productive members of society. Waterbury and Bridgeport have participated in the Connecticut 4-H Mentoring Project for 7 years, and are presently serving 120 youth, ages 10-14. The National 4-H Council, through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, funds this program.
Mentoring is a proven strategy for helping at-risk youth achieve a better future. Youth are more likely to succeed in life when they have the additional support of a caring, consistent adult mentor. Sharon Stoyer, Bridgeport site coordinator says, “Mentoring can have a profound impact on a youth. Having a mentor can enhance a young person’s learning skills and help build resiliency and self-control.”
Youth with mentors are less likely to engage in risky behavior with drugs and alcohol. They are more likely to develop positive relationships with peers and adults; hold a leadership position in a club, school council, sports team or other group; enroll in college; volunteer regularly in their communities and grow up to become productive members of society. Mentors provide the spark that encourages youth to dream and achieve.
“Be a Mentor-Change Two Lives” is a popular slogan in mentoring programs. Why? Mentoring does in fact improve the mentor’s life. How? Research shows that mentoring can:
provide a sense of health and well-being;
improve one’s self-image and self-worth;
provide a sense of feeling valued, needed, appreciated, competent, and accomplished; and
provide a sense of satisfaction from giving back to the community, and earning the respect of others by contributing to society in a very important way.
How does the Connecticut 4-H Mentoring Project make a difference? Its goals are to increase the interpersonal skills of selected youth and to strengthen their family bonds through a 12-month mentoring program. The project consists of three components, mentoring, 4-H activities, and family nights. All three collectively contribute to positive impacts. Mentoring and 4-H are conducted in small groups, one mentor to a maximum of four youth. 4-H Mentor groups meet weekly, with activities such as cooking, technology, gardening, crafts, dance, or karate. To be a Connecticut 4-H group in good standing, 4-H mentor groups must keep records; perform a community service project; participate in public speaking activities; and assume leadership for their group’s functioning. Through 4-H group mentoring, youth learn teamwork, critical thinking, public speaking, leadership, decision-making, communication, and record keeping.
Family Nights are a critical component of the program. These nights are designed to foster family bonds through fun and experiential learning. Each night has an activity related either to building trust, family support, positive family communications, working together, problem solving, or family traditions. Families eat a light dinner, complete and process the activity, and have fun. Field trips to the Big E, apple picking, and county fairs also provide an opportunity for youth and their families to learn new things about the world, and each other, while having fun.
All mentors undergo the UConn 4-H volunteer application process, and then receive additional training on how to be an effective mentor. Parental involvement is key to a child’s success. Before joining, mentoring staff meets the parents, explains the program, and the parents’ responsibilities to it.
Realizing it takes a village to improve the lives of youth and their families, the Connecticut 4-H Mentoring Project partners with local agencies to fulfill project goals. In Bridgeport, Barnum and Cesar Batalla Elementary Schools are community partners. According to Margaret Grillo, 4-H Educator and Co-Principal Investigator, “UConn 4-H and Extension has worked with Waterbury Youth Service System, (WYSS) Inc., our Waterbury partner, for over 25 years. Partnering with them augments the impact of grant funds. Adding the 4-H Mentoring Project provides an opportunity for WYSS youth and their families to broaden their horizons with positive involvement in all of the activities, events and training that 4-H Mentoring and UConn 4-H has to offer. It’s a win–win for both agencies, and for youth and their families.”
The Connecticut 4-H Record Keeping system was developed as an outcome of a survey taken among leaders, parents, 4-Hers and alumni. The record keeping system mimics the real world, and uses industry standards as a guide for deciding on the information needed for record keeping.
4-H members are encouraged to keep records as part of their leadership experience. The 4-H records present a picture of growth and development as a 4-H member. A complete 4-H record book includes a:
4-H Activity Record for each year of experience
4-H Project Record sheet for each individual project taken during that year
Financial Summary of the project; and
Appropriate 4-H project supplemental sheets for each individual project taken during that year
Sean Murdock of Tolland was 8 years old, and out playing baseball that he first heard about 4-H. In between innings he and a teammate started talking about their hobbies, and interest in building with their hands. Sean enjoyed learning how things worked and took household items apart and rebuilt them. That day, Sean learned about a local 4-H small engine club called the Piston Pushers.
Sean went to observe a 4-H meeting at the barn of 4-H leader Mike Hoffman. There he met Mike Hoffman and Mark Kloter, co-leaders of the Piston Pushers 4-H club. The barn houses a workshop, and the club’s business and project meetings are held there. Sean joined the Piston Pushers 4-H club in 2010, and started learning how to safely and efficiently rebuild a tractor. He hoped to enter, and one day win, the UConn Tolland County 4-H Fair small engine and tractor pulling competitions.
At the 2016 Tolland County 4-H Fair, Sean won best of show for his tractor and placed third in the tractor-pulling contest, pulling 4,050 pounds. He also received a blue ribbon and best in show for a 3D printer he built and entered. Sean credits Mr. Hoffman with teaching him everything he knows about tractors and small engine design. “The 4-H logs and financial recordkeeping component taught me important organizational skills,” Sean says. But most important, Sean attributes gaining self-confidence in his abilities, to working with Mr. Kloter.
“Mr. Kloter always encourages me to take the next step,” Sean continues. “It was Mr. Kloter who encouraged me to join the 4-H Fair Board of Directors (Fairboard) in 2014. Mr. Kloter is a part of the Fairboard Advisory Committee and thought I would enjoy the experience.” Fairboard is made up 4-H members; ages 12-18, who plan all aspects of the annual 4-H Fair. Over 2,000 people attend the Tolland County 4-H Fair each year. With Mr. Kloter’s encouragement, Sean ran for and was recently voted in as an officer for 2017. It was also because of Mr. Kloter’s encouragement that Sean entered his 3D printer in the 2016 Tolland County 4-H Fair.
Sean built his 3D printer from a kit. He improved on the kit design and created a metal frame to replace the kit’s plywood frame, by sourcing his own parts, cutting a plywood frame, then updating the frame by sending out the design to a machine show to get it cut in a thicker cold roll steel. Sean taught himself the Computer Aided Design (CAD) programming. Mr. Kloter was very impressed with Sean’s work and wanted him to enter it in the fair along with his tractor. Sean was apprehensive about entering his 3D printer and speaking to the public about his work. Sean explained, “If it wasn’t for Mr. Kloter encouraging me to enter my 3D printer in the Fair, I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of all the other opportunities that have happened.” Winning at the 4-H Fair was just the start of an impressive summer for Sean.
As Sean was preparing for the 2016 4-H Fair, his former teacher Celeste Estevez was attending the UConn Engineering Joule Fellows program. The Fellowship brings K-12 teachers from across Connecticut to the Storrs campus for a six-week summer engineering program. While attending, Ms. Estevez talked to Reza Amin, a graduate student with the Tasoglu Research Group, about Sean and how he helped the Tolland Middle School to get a 3D printer.
“I had been interested in having a printer for our school, but cost was a barrier,” Ms. Estevez says. “Also, there were no other printers in the district and no one with expertise on how to run or maintain them. I had been talking with Sean about 3D printing since he was in 6th grade and at the end of 7th grade I asked him if he would be willing to suggest a kit that he would then build for us. He agreed and then he presented the budget request to the PTO. At the meeting, he gave an overview of 3D printing, brought some of his models, and showed a video of his machine in action, demonstrating his knowledge of additive mechanics. After seeing and listening to Sean, the PTO voted unanimously to approve $1000 for all the parts for the kit, and 8 rolls of filament. I created the SPARK award in honor of Sean.” The annual award recognizes students who use their talents and do something that ‘sparks’ activity in and for the school.
The Tasoglu Research Group invited Sean to work on a project this past summer, and he built a chip microscopy holder. Mr. Amin said that Sean worked so well on his first assignment, that they asked him to join the team. The lab typically takes on promising undergraduate students and teaches them how to properly conduct research. “This is the first time we have asked a high school student to join us,” Mr. Amin says. Because of his experience in 4-H, when the Tasoglu Research Group spoke with Sean about joining their lab, he was ready.
Sean Murdock is presently in 9th grade. He is a member of the Piston Pushers 4-H club and Second Vice President of the 4-H Fairboard. He is working on an electromagnet design for the Tasoglu Research Group. He hopes to attend UConn and is interested in electro mechanical engineering and computer science.
Congratulations to New Haven County 4-H volunteer Bill Jacobs, who was recently selected as this year’s recipient of the Salute to Excellence Northeast Region 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award.
William (Bill) Jacobs is in his ninth year as a 4-H volunteer in New Haven County, CT. He works as a Vocational/Transition Coordinator for Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES), a regional public school that provides schools and programs for students with regular education, special education and talented and gifted needs. He is located at Whitney High East/ West and CREATE, a high school and post high school school for students with special needs. The school has committed itself to the incorporation of 4-H club work to give special needs students with all levels of abilities the opportunity to participate in 4-H activities, integrate their school programs into 4-H and learn new skills to better prepare them for the adult world.
Nine years ago this Cooperative Extension Educator was approached by the vice principal of ACES to collaborate and apply for a three year recreational grant with the Dept. of Education yearly to provide gardening, work force preparation and leadership skills to special needs youth aged 13-22. About $120,000 was awarded the first year, $100,000 the second and ending with $80,000 the third year. These funds provided transportation to classes, supplies for making gardens both on school property and in a neighborhood garden and field trips to the University of Connecticut at Storrs and Eastern States Exposition, along with learning work-force prep skills.
Bill was asked to be lead teacher in establishing the 4-H program in all the classrooms. He took on this role with gusto, encouraging every classroom to select a project, meet as a 4-H club weekly and participate in some of the county 4-H activities. He was responsible for collecting registration forms, volunteer applications and assisting with training of the teachers. The group also went to Lyman Hall in Wallingford for weekly classes with their vo-ag teachers in both gardening and animal science. Bill was responsible for arranging these classes. 170 youth became registered as 4-H members along with over 15 adult volunteer leaders. He also took on the role of chief collaborator and liaison between the school personnel, extension staff and area vo-ag schools, taking on leadership in writing the yearly re-submission of the grant for the first three years.
Bill organizes the yearly 4-H Fair that is held each May and designed to showcase the work of the students. After the first three years, the grant funding ended and it looked like the 4-H program might end along with it. Bill was able to inspire the teachers and youth to continue, finding some funding to conduct 4-H activities and keep both the 4-H clubs and the 4-H the fair going. Congratulations Bill, and thank you for all you do!