Bridging the Gap Between Scientists and Communities
4-H knows talent is everywhere, but opportunity is not. Building youth equity and closing opportunity gaps by connecting youth curriculum, lesson plans, technology and training is the focus of the UConn CAHNR Extension Computer Science (CS) Pathways program.
Computer science and technology are not just transforming jobs and economies in cities, they are equally important to rural communities and within the agriculture sector. UConn 4-H received the 2019-2020 Growing a Computer Science Pathway – Launchers for America’s Youth grant presented by National 4-H Council as part of a $6 million grant from Google.org. 4-H and Google are bringing computer science education to the 4-H system with the goal of creating equitable access to these life-changing skills for kids and teens everywhere. 4-H works wherever the youth are with a focus on rural youth and populations that traditionally have limited access to computer science education.
In Connecticut, whether through a military program developing a lighting system for a henhouse, a small town community club using e-textiles in a sewing project or an urban afterschool program using code to make robots run more efficiently, the 4-H approach is flexible to help students see the range of ways computer science can connect the things they care about. Computer science skills, like analytical thinking, resilience and creativity, are some of the most sought-after skills in today’s job market.
The 4-H Computer Science Pathways Program represents an opportunity for young people of all backgrounds to create, not just consume technology, while also fulfilling a critical workforce need. UConn 4-H brings over 100 years of transformational educational experiences that build successful youth-adult partnerships in our communities. The UConn 4-H Computer Science Pathways Program is using the grant to continue building on our success delivering computer science education to communities in four primary ways:
1. Creating mobile learning libraries and laboratories
Also known as mobile labs, these are self-contained traveling classrooms used to teach new skills and ways of thinking that bring all of our young people access to opportunity and help them innovate. We teach youth technical computer science skills such as coding, and essential life skills including computational thinking, teamwork, and problem solving. The mobile labs have digital and unplugged activities. Digital activities do not require internet access. “Unplugged” activities are used on their own or as part of other programs, including the healthy living program, civic engagement program or STEM programs. Educators and 4-H club leaders receive essential and support training with the mobile labs.
2. Providing comprehensive, statewide, professional development
Teens as Teachers: Teens learn the fundamentals of teaching diverse audiences. These skills benefit many subject areas, not just computer science. Youth-Adult Partnerships: This training teaches the fundamentals of youth-adult partnerships and strategies for success. These partnerships were part of the original design of 4-H programs and are a core value today.
Growing Computer Science Pathways: This face-to-face training teaches the fundamental theories of computer science program delivery and introduces the lesson plans, curriculum and supplies needed.
Growing Computer Science Pathways Digital and Unplugged: Hands-on learning.
Principles for effectively delivering digital and unplugged activities for youth of all ages is provided in this training Unplugged activities teach computational thinking, problem solving and the basics of coding without needing digital technology.
3. Creating and facilitating teen mentoring, teen-led programming and youth-adult partnerships
We teach volunteer and teen training programs. In these workshops participants learn the importance of, and strategies for, giving youth authentic and meaningful engagement opportunities. These opportunities, in programs, and in their communities, help youth find their voice. Youth see that they can exert influence and develop decision-making authority.
4. Leveraging the National 4-H Council’s and Google’s computer science expertise and resources
Community educators receive the skills and resources they need to deliver cutting-edge computer science programming through this collaboration. Youth computer science programming from 4-H fits community’s needs, while fostering leadership, confidence, and life skills.
There is a tremendous need for young people to create technology, not just consume it. By bringing our organizations together, we are combining the reach and expertise of the nation’s largest youth development organization, 4-H, with the power of Google’s computer science educational programs and volunteers.
Visit 4-H.uconn.edu for more information on the Computer Science Pathways Program.
Article by Maryann Fusco-Rollins