More than 6 million young people across the country are celebrating National 4-H Week this week, including here in Nevada where more than 40,000 youth are engaged in urban and rural 4-H Programs administered by University of Nevada Cooperative Extension in counties throughout the state.
A highlight of the week is Wednesday, Oct. 9, when millions of 4-H youth nationwide will participate in the sixth annual 4-H National Youth Science Day, conducting this year’s activity, “4-H Maps & Apps.” The activity will turn young people into geospatial thinkers as they design and map their ideal park, use GIS mapping to solve community problems and contribute data about their community to the United States Geological Survey.
In Washoe County, youth at the Coral Academy of Science in Reno (1350 E. Ninth St.) will begin the activity at 2:30 p.m., joined by Gary Zaepfel with Washoe County’s GIS Department and Jennifer Budge with Washoe County’s Parks Department, who will help the students design and map an ideal park for the county. Washoe County Commissioner Kitty Jung will also be on hand, along with 4-H administrators and staff from University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.
Currently, more than 5 million young people across the nation participate in 4-H STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) programming in topics as varied as robotics, agricultural science, rocketry, wind power, environmental science and alternative energy.
“As a program run by the country’s land-grant universities, 4-H aims to engage youth in STEM activities at an early age, so that they will be interested in these areas and pursue higher education and careers in these fields later on down the line,” said Frank Flavin, Washoe County Extension educator with University of Nevada Cooperative Extension.
And, according to research, 4-H activities provide an ideal venue not only for engaging youth in science activities, but also for teaching them science-related concepts that they will retain.
“Research shows that when youth learn about science through activities outside of the normal classroom structure, they retain it better,” said Sarah Chvilicek, Washoe County 4-H youth program coordinator. “We use the experiential learning method of ‘do, reflect, apply,’ and it works exceptionally well.”
Chvilicek said that in Washoe County, STEM-based education has been incorporated into all 4-H Programs – clubs, afterschool programs, camps, etc. – for the past seven years. Plus, there are several specific clubs and programs specifically targeting STEM.
Research has proven that participation in 4-H has a significant positive impact on young people in a number of ways. Recent findings from the Tufts University 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development indicate that, when compared to their peers, young people in 4-H:
– report higher levels of academic competence and an elevated level of engagement at school,
– are 2.2 times more likely to plan to go to college,
– are 2 times more likely to participate in STEM learning programs during out-of-school time, and
– are 4 times more likely to contribute to their communities.
To find out more about 4-H or how your county is celebrating National 4-H Week and 4-H National Youth Science Day, contact your county’s University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office.