September/October 2017 – Vol. 30 No. 1

4-H Programs Focus on Science

Posted: Tuesday, February 1st, 2011

by Steven Worker, Martin Smith, Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, Richard Mahacek

4-H, the nation’s largest nonformal youth education program, has made a commitment to help address youth science literacy needs in the U.S. through its 4-H Science Mission Mandate.  This effort seeks to engage youth across the country in out-of-school time science programming that is experientially based, uses inquiry methods, and supports the National Science Education Standards.  By offering engaging science programming in nonformal settings, youth are provided with a variety of options that address different learning needs and promote excitement in learning about phenomena in the natural world.

The California 4-H Program, housed at the University of California in the Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), has responded to the National 4-H Science Mission Mandate by launching a statewide 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) Initiative.  These efforts aim to develop new and strengthen existing programmatic opportunities for California 4-H that align closely with the new UC ANR Strategic Vision 2025 that emphasizes the need for improved science literacy in natural resources, agriculture, and nutrition.

The goals of the California 4-H SET Initiative are to improve 4-H members’ understanding of science and help address the critical need for more scientists and engineers in the workforce.  The expected outcomes of the initiative are to help youth improve their knowledge and skills around science, engineering, and technology; connect learning with real-world situations where youth can adopt and use new science methods or improved technology to solve problems; and, in the long term, increase the number and diversity of youth pursuing higher education and careers in science, engineering, and technology fields.

The 4-H program helps young people, ages 5-19, reach their fullest potential as competent, confident individuals who contribute to and are connected with their communities.  4-H serves youth throughout California in urban, suburban and rural communities.  In 4-H programs, youth serve in leadership roles where they set goals, develop plans, complete projects, and reflect on their experiences.  Using a learn-by-doing educational model, 4-H helps youth develop essential skills that they will use throughout their lives, such as identifying and nurturing interests, desiring knowledge, setting goals, self-reflection, adapting to new situations, communicating, and responding to the needs of others.

The California 4-H Program involves 210,000 active youth members supported by 14,000 adult volunteer educators in 4-H clubs, camps, short-term projects, and school-enrichment activities.  4-H provides youth with an opportunity to develop strong, positive relationships with adults while engaging in meaningful activities.  By placing an emphasis on youth-adult partnerships, both members and volunteers can effectively learn, plan, and work together.

County Cooperative Extension 4-H staff partner with schools and other community-based education programs on 4-H SET projects and programs.  4-H Youth Development staff deliver professional development workshops focused on effective science pedagogy and utilize a range of 4-H curricula in different content areas that support state and national science education standards.  Professional development opportunities are tailored to meet the needs of partner organizations.  4-H curricula are designed using experiential and inquiry-based methods that help build knowledge and skills by drawing on the natural curiosity and creativity of youth.

For more information about 4-H and to access 4-H SET curriculum materials, please visit us at www.ca4h.org.

Steven Worker, Martin Smith, Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, and Richard Mahacek are with the California 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology Leadership Team

Written by California Science Teachers Association

California Science Teachers Association

CSTA represents science educators statewide—in every science discipline at every grade level, Kindergarten through University.

One Response

  1. HI Martin and Richard,

    What a great surprise to see this article in our CCS. It has been a long time since we have connected. I’d love to talk with you and see what is going on.

    Currently, I am the Director of Region 1 for CSTA. In that capacity I am looking for articles to reprint in the CSTA’s Spring Journal on informal science ed. Perhaps one of you has some ideas for the journal regarding 4-H and informal science ed. I’d love to hear your ideas!

    I look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Hope all is well!
    Valerie
    v_joyner_99@yahoo.com

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