By: Andrew Yuan & Melissa Sharp 4-H Youth Mentors, Pinellas County Extension
What does 4-H mean to you? Do you think it’s all about agriculture and animal care? Not anymore it’s not. 4-H programs and clubs have progressed to include project areas outside the traditional agricultural beginnings. 4-H has evolved to keep up with modern times. As 4-H looks even more towards the future, it has adopted a new initiative: developing and implementing programs for 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology, better known as 4-H SET.
The 4-H SET initiative is being carried out through the 4-H Youth Development Program in response to increasing global competition in the field of science. In the United States only about 18 percent of high school seniors are proficient in science according to a 2005 National Assessment of Educational Program study. In addition, only 5 percent of college graduates earn degrees in science, engineering, and technology compared to 66 percent in Japan and 59 percent in China. 4-H SET could be the solution. With resources and connections to 106 land-grant universities and colleges, 4-H is in the perfect position to educate today’s youth.
In conjunction with the new SET initiative, last year 4-H successfully launched the national public service campaign, One Million New Scientists. One Million New Ideas.™ The goal of this campaign is to attract youth to the sciences and have one million new youth in 4-H SET programs by the year 2013. To date, 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology programs reach roughly 5 million youth with hands-on learning experiences with more than half a million adult volunteers providing their devoted support. These programs capture all sorts of subjects including but not limited to rocketry, computer science, bio-fuels, robotics, and renewable energy.
Another product of this initiative is 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD). The first NYSD ever was held last year on October 8, 2008. It was an official day recognized by Congress that emphasizes the importance of science and sparks interest in youth to pursue careers in science, engineering, and technology. The 2008 National Science Experiment featured on that day focused on environmental science and water conservation. Look for upcoming details later this month on the second annual 4-H National Youth Science Day.
The 4-H SET initiative will ultimately increase science literacy and aptitude among the 4-H youth, spark their interest in careers in science, engineering, and technology, and prepare them to compete in a global community. 4-H SET will breed the next generation of global thinkers and technological innovation as we head into the future.
An example of a new 4-H SET curriculum is The Power of the Wind. This is a fun hands on book that teaches middle and high school youth the value of critical thinking and different ways of going green.
The Power of the Wind has many different activities. One activity is about making a wind power boat that could slide along a smooth surface when a fan was activated. This teaches youth the engineering process of planning, building, testing and then modifying an idea. By using interactive methods, youth learn fundamental engineering principles while having a great time! Another example in to build pinwheels in order to learn how turbines work.
Critical thinking is stressed heavily in this book. The activities encourage youth to come up with their own ideas about a problem, or design. For example, in one activity youth are asked to design and then build a wind power machine.
Going green is a big theme in society now, and this curriculum definitely fits into the green movement. The book discusses the benefit and workings of turbines and other wind powered machines as well as how much money turbines save on electricity cost, and why it’s so clean. The curriculum even touches briefly on solar energy, and why going green is good.
If you are interested in more information about 4-H SET, The Power of the Wind, or other project areas for the 21st century, please contact the 4-H office at 582-2215, firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com.