Diane Prather: Promoting learning the 4-H way

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Diane Prather

Recently, there’s been a nationwide push throughout the 4-H program to increase each 4-H member’s knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering and math.

The push is known as STEM, the letters derived from each of the disciplines listed in the previous sentence.

STEM is also an acknowledgment of what has already been done in this area, as science, technology, engineering and math are incorporated into the project work.

Take the livestock projects, for example. It’s necessary to use math to calculate the pounds of feed in an animal’s diet, to figure rate of gain and to keep books.

Members learn about nutrients needed in an animal’s diet, steps in keeping an animal healthy, and genetics — all examples of science. Computers are used in record keeping.

Now consider other projects such as small engines, woodworking, rocketry, robotics, sewing, cooking and so many others. Members have an opportunity to learn skills in science, technology, engineering and math, indeed.

Besides projects, 4-H members gain knowledge and skills in these areas while participating in special programs held as a part of conventions, workshops and other activities.

And, 4-H members aren’t the only youngsters to benefit from STEM incorporated programs. During the month of December, Moffat County 4-H Agent Alisa Comstock is using “4-H in the classroom” as she meets with groups of sixth-graders during intervention time.

Michelle Henderson, counselor at Craig Middle School, explained that intervention time is a 36-minute block of time built into the daily class schedule. Teachers divide sixth-graders into small groups, each one with a teacher.

For two weeks, the students take part in programs designed to enhance special skills. At the end of two weeks, students move to other groups.

So for two weeks in December and January, Comstock is taking “4-H into the classroom.” Intervention time for Comstock’s students began with a challenge to build bridges.

Each team received the same materials: construction paper, little pieces of paper-like foam, large and small popsicle sticks, scissors, masking tape, round foam pieces and pipe cleaners.

Each team was asked to build a bridge that would hold a small 4-H bear that could sit on top of the bridge or sit or lay under it.

After bridge-building, the students moved on to making boats. Each student received molding clay with which to make a boat.

The boats were tested in a pan of water to see which one would hold the most pinto beans.

According to Comstock, the favorite student project was making a roller coaster.

For this project, students received foam (the kind that is used to wrap around pipes) cut into three pieces of track, a roll of masking tape and a marble, to serve as a car.

The roller coaster had to have a hill and a loop, and when tested the marble “car” had to follow the track and then land in a shoe.

“It was really fun to watch the kids work in groups and work together as teams,” Comstock said.

The last project for the two-week intervention time was making creations out of duct tape. Each individual student was given all kinds of colored duct tape, scissors and a ruler and two days to make their creations.

Comstock reported that the favorites were wallets and flip-flops.

Efforts will be made to make sure 4-H members gain knowledge and skills in science, technology, engineering and math in project work in 2011.

If you have a youngster interested in joining 4-H, pick up a project list and enrollment packet at the Extension Office.

The enrollment fee (to cover the cost of project manuals) is $30 for regular members (ages 8 to 18 by Dec. 31) and $20 for Cloverbuds (age 5 by Dec. 31).

Comstock asks that kids sign up for 4-H by the end of January, if possible, so that clubs can get started.

After enrolling, members will be put on a mailing list for the 4-H newsletter, which provides valuable information about project work and upcoming events.

The Moffat County 4-H program is always looking for leaders.

At the present time, some of the project areas open to leaders are: geospatial, bicycle, computers, power of wind, robotics, gardening, weeds, forestry, wildlife, ceramics and scrapbooking.

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