Education

‘Completely Connecticut Agriculture’ Explores the Creativity and Resilience of Connecticut Farmers

Alyson Schnedier, Jon Russo and Zach Duda with words Completely Connecticut Agriculture over the photoIt’s easy to take our food supply for granted while strolling through the abundant aisles of a grocery store. We do not often consider how our food gets to the store or where it comes from. A group of students in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) is bridging the communication gap between agriculture and consumers in a new documentary film, “Completely Connecticut Agriculture.”

Zachary Duda, Jonathan Russo, and Alyson Schneider are agricultural advocates and vocalize the importance of the industry while inspiring others to do the same. All three are CAHNR Agriculture and Natural Resources majors, graduating in May. The students met as high school agriscience students, and later served together as state officers in the Connecticut FFA Association. The idea for the documentary about Connecticut agriculture formed while they were state officers.

Read more or watch the documentary online.

June Zoppa Wins the Northeast 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Award

June ZoppaUConn 4-H has selected June Zoppa, a 46-year volunteer of the UConn 4-H Program as the Connecticut nominee for the National 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Award. She won the Northeast 4-H Lifetime Volunteer Award and now moves on to compete nationally.

June Zoppa is an integral part of the 4-H community in Hartford County Connecticut. She is the only volunteer who serves or has served simultaneously on the Hartford County 4-H Advisory Board, Hartford County 4-H Fair Association, and the Hartford County 4-H Camp, Inc, Board of Trustees, while serving as a 4-H club leader. As new volunteers join the committees and boards, June has grown from their new ideas and ways of executing programming or operations. New and experienced volunteers speak about June’s ability to sensitively work through challenges and create innovative solutions that propel Hartford County 4-H towards reaching its goals and achieving its mission.

She is selfless in the time she gives to many aspects of the 4-H Program affecting thousands of youth on an annual basis. She is a go-to volunteer and her contributions to the Hartford County 4-H Program will continue to positively impact generations of UConn 4-H’ers for years to come.

June has served as a 4-H Fair Association Advisor since 2002. In this role, she mentors and empowers officers as they plan and implement the Hartford County 4-H Fair. June regularly serves as an Advisor for Fair Ad Hoc and subcommittees. As a member of the 4-H Advisory Board, June organized and procured items for the annual silent auction. June also served as the committee’s treasurer for 21 years and currently and serves as Committee Chair.

Her pragmatic approach allows the 4-Hers to take charge of the tasks at hand but is hands on in many of the Fair’s aspects up to and including spending the entire week prior to the fair ensuring its success.

The 4-H Camp Board of Trustees has benefitted from her expertise with stocking and promoting the camp store and annual Camp T-shirt design. June has sat on many Camp committees such as Staff Procurement, Maintenance and Special Events volunteering wherever she’s needed to make sure the 4-H campers have a safe and happy summer. In the over 30 years of her Camp Board involvement, June has attended almost every spring and fall work weekend ensuring that the over 1200+ campers and 200 teen counselors have a positive 4-H camp experience.

June’s 4-H Club “4-H Clovers” is in East Hartford. Zoppa Studios expanded their facilities building a ‘4-H Room’ where they host weekly club meetings and county committee meetings (Fair, Camp, and Advisory), as well as providing storage space while absorbing all expenses (utilities, storage, etc.). June follows UConn 4-H protocols to minimize risk and ensure the safety of all 4-H members.

June dedication extends to the local community. For example, her club assembles, bakes and delivers pies to local shelters for the Thanksgiving holiday. Numerous volunteers, who June recruited, have served for decades and continue their commitment to community service and employ the leadership skills they honed with June in their professional role.

June bleeds 4-H green and consistently demonstrates a professional attitude. June is a tireless advocate for all 4-Hers. She leads by example and never boasts or takes credit for her many accomplishments. She has a focus on doing what is right for youth, even if it requires more effort or energy. She is a well-respected volunteer throughout the county and state.

Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator, Jen Cushman notes “June’s life-long dedication to the UConn 4-H Program at a highly engaged level is highly commendable and has made a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of 4-H members.” Fellow Hartford County 4-H Volunteer, Aimee Gilbert recognizes “June’s gentle spirit and strong dedication to the program help her connect with the youth members providing a positive experience. The youth members enjoy working with and learning from June as an advisor/mentor/leader.”

As the UConn 4-H nominee, June won the Northeast Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award and will now be competing nationally.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Rachael Manzer Wins the Northeast Region 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award

Rachael ManzerRachael Manzer, a five-year volunteer with UConn’s Granby 4-H Club of Granby, a UConn 4-H Alum, and former NASA astronaut teacher, won the Northeast Region 4-H Volunteer of the Year after being selected by UConn. Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator, Jen Cushman notes, “Rachael’s dedication to making a positive difference in the lives of 4-H youth has greatly expanded the STEM opportunities for 4-H Members and promoted UConn 4-H to new audiences.” Rachael Manzer exemplifies science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in 4-H. She understands the importance and need for STEM and Agricultural Literacy, and she has increased opportunities for STEM learning by establishing the only 4-H VEX Robotics Program in New England. Rachael’s efforts have not only expanded 4-H programming throughout New England (CT and MA) members participate, but also increased the visibility of UConn 4-H on the national level as the team participated at the World Competition and the NASA Cubes in Space Competition.

This robotics program has its own “Cinderella” story – big dreams and the amazing efforts of many to make it a success. In 2015, she started 4-H Robotics with participants who had no idea how to build and program robots. After only one year, the VEX Robotics Project group expanded to include a competition team and a high school VEX Robotics Project group. The team qualified for the World VEX competitions three times! All of the teams have qualified this year for the Southern New England Championship and are hoping to yet again earn a spot at the World Championship.

Mrs. Manzer creates opportunities for 4-H’ers to go beyond the robotic competitions to share what 4-H STEM is all about. This program has done workshops for preservice teachers, led build your own robots at local libraries, and done demonstrations for the general public at the 5th largest fair in the United States.

Her enthusiasm for STEM is infectious and every 4-H’er feels important. Rachael dedicates a large amount of time to 4-H throughout the year teaching 4-H’ers how to think, not what to think, and that you learn by failure. She focuses on workforce readiness skills in communication, listening, time management, critical thinking, problem-solving, and teamwork. Rachael regularly works with the youth on public speaking, marketing, and financial operations in order to prepare the members for the various roles they encounter as a team member. They work closely with the youth in planning and implementing the building of the robot, public speaking presentations, fundraising and various community service demonstrations with the robot. The 4-H youth in her project group shared, “Mrs. Manzer is extremely dedicated to the robotics team and its members. She is constantly cheering for us, both inside of the robotics environment and out. Her encouragement has impacted us greatly.” She is growing future leaders in 4-H, STEM, and Agriculture.

Rachael Manzer’s innovation shined as she was able to keep the 4-H robotics program going during COVID-19 following safety protocols. For many of the 4-H’ers, 4-H Robotics was the only interaction with others they had outside the home.

Rachael also led an additional project group for youth who were interested in developing a science experiment to send into space. Three projects were submitted by Granby 4-H and all were selected to fly into space, in June 2018. These projects provided youth with the opportunity to work as a team, design experiments, apply scientific knowledge, and deliver a public presentation at NASA. Rachael’s impact on programming and youth is literally out of this world!

Rachael Manzer, a 4-H alumna of the Litchfield County 4-H Club, grew up showing beef cattle. 4-H gave so much to her, her goal was to give back to the organization. As Mrs. Manzer stated, “4-H helped me develop a set of skills like; teamwork, problem solving, public speaking, dependability, leadership which I use every day in my career.” Rachael Manzer is a nationally awarded educator. Currently she is the STEM Coach for Winchester Public Schools. Mrs. Manzer has experience as an educator working in both suburban and urban schools in Connecticut. She also worked in the education department at NASA Langley Research Center in Virginia. In that role, she worked with scientists, astronauts and engineers delivering the latest breakthroughs in STEM to teachers and students across the United States.

Rachael competed against nominees from the other northeast states for the Northeast Volunteer of the Year Award. She is moving forward for consideration as the National Volunteer of the Year Award.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, civic engagement, and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more about becoming a volunteer or enrolling your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Learn Gardening Fundamentals in New Online Course

FANs gardenInterested in how plants grow? Do you want a healthy, productive, and sustainable landscape for your home?  UConn Extension now offers the Fundamentals of Home Gardening, an asynchronous online series of classes covering a wide variety of gardening topics. These classes explore the foundation of good gardening practices, and help explain the “why” of successful gardens.  Taught by UConn Extension educators and specialists, and drawing on the Extension Master Gardener curriculum, this four-part, online series can be taken at your own pace, at times that work for you. Choose just the segments you’re interested in or complete all four components and earn a certificate of completion in the Fundamentals of Home Gardening.

The four modules cover Core Fundamentals, Environmental Factors, Ornamental Plants and Growing Your Own Foods. Each module is independent and does not require any prerequisites. All modules will be available by the end of April, and a registrant will have six weeks to complete the three or four classes contained per module.

Modules are $150 each. A flyer with more information is available. Registration is at https://uconnmastergarden-ers.gosignmeup.com/  or for more information, contact sarah.bailey@uconn.edu.

4-H Biotechnology Project Area Survey

4-H cloverAre you interested in biotechnology? UConn 4-H is pursuing grant funding in STEM programming about biotechnology and gene editing with career focus in agriculture and food sciences. 

Programming would include hands-on biotechnology activities along with the opportunity to educate others through the creation of a digital game on biotechnology/gene editing for high school age youth. Topics could include the use of biotechnology to create solutions to problems we face, for example developing insulin for patients with diabetes or addressing issues like citrus greening that prevent oranges from being harvested. We are seeking your input on the level of interest around Connecticut on expanding program opportunities in this area. Please take a moment to complete the survey at http://bit.ly/4Hbiotech the survey will close on Tuesday, April 13th. 

E-Corps Two-Part Workshop at the UConn Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning

group of girls at a table

Please join your UConn colleagues for two one-hour virtual CETL workshops in April on:

The Environment Corps: an engaged scholarship model that combines classroom instruction, service learning, and Extension (an act in two parts)

Workshop Description:
A partnership at UConn that reaches across college and departmental lines is engaged in a project that seeks to enhance, expand, institutionalize, and study a new model for experiential learning and community engagement. The model, called the Environment Corps (“E-Corps”), combines familiar elements of classroom instruction, service learning, and extension outreach to create a method of engagement that aims to benefit students, faculty, surrounding communities, and the university community itself. This two-part series will review E-Corps structure, operation, results, and early lessons learned.

Part One will focus on course design, faculty development, and pedagogical strategies for engaged student learning; attendees will hear from instructors and students of the three current E-Corps courses.
Friday, April 9, 2:00 – 3:00 pm                   Focus on the Classroom
REGISTER HERE

Part Two will focus on building community partnerships and designing appropriate student projects, including several examples; attendees will hear from additional instructors and our municipal “clients.” Both sessions will set aside ample time for discussion.
Friday, April 23, 2:00 – 3:00 pm             Focus on Community Projects
REGISTER HERE

https://ecorps.initiative.uconn.edu/

Mars Base Camp 4-H STEM Club Teaches Youth Skills for Future Careers

Life transformative education begins at a young age for UConn 4-H members. The 4-H project experiences provide a foundation of knowledge and instill enthusiasm for lifelong learning. A group of youth participating in the UConn 4-H Mars Base Camp STEM Club are learning about science, technology, engineering and math while launching rockets and building rovers.

Marc Cournoyer, a 4-H educator with UConn Extension, is leading this seven-week hybrid program via Zoom on Thursday afternoons. Youth participation began in February on the same day the Perseverance rover touched down on the surface of Mars and concludes with their project meeting on April 1st. Curriculum is based on the 2020 National 4-H STEM Challenge and other STEM curriculum. The goal of the program is for youth to explore Mars from rocket launch to setting up a permanent human colony on the red planet. All participants were mailed a program kit prior to the first meeting and each week they have an online discussion in conjunction with hands-on unplugged activities.

boy with hands over his head and excited expression on his face while toy rocket lies on mars map in his drivewayThere are 12 youth participating in the program, and they reside in Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island. “The virtual nature of this club makes it possible to reach youth from a wider geographic distance” says Cournoyer. During the first week the group focused on rocket launches and getting to Mars – a mat with the image of Mars on it that they could leave a certain distance away from their rocket launch setup. Youth used the rockets to the rescue resources from the 2014 National Youth Science Day kit to build and successfully launch their rockets while tweaking designs to solve for problems encountered along the way.

“It was wonderful to see participants excitedly carrying their laptops around the house or making parents film their launches so they could proudly share their success,” Cournoyer says. “Throughout the next week I had parents sending me videos that the kids insisted I see as they achieved their goals. The excitement of the participants is obvious.”

The curriculum has focused on engineering design process using techniques of NASA scientists. Experiencing failures in the design and launch process builds resiliency and innovation in the youth and compounds the feeling of achievement when they reach their intended goals. Group meetings include discussions on prototyping and the scientific method, as well as engineering concepts and the science of space. Youth participants have continued researching on their own throughout the week between meetings and share additional related content of their findings.

One parent states, “I just wanted to quickly reach out and say how grateful we are for all you are doing with this club!  Jack absolutely loves all the learning and projects, and his curiosity is even stretching beyond your meeting. He’s asking questions, tinkering and overall so happy. Thank you SO much!”

Another parent reached out to say, “Luke Loves Mars camp! He’s a very reserved and shy guy; I am so happy to see him excited about this 🙂 Thank you so much for this program – it’s wonderful!”

“Club members are stretching their minds and imaginations, asking ‘What If?’ As we develop the next generation of scientists and explorers, opportunities to try new things are crucial,” Cournoyer says.

A new virtual 4-H STEM club will start in mid-April and run through May. This next seven-week club will focus on environment awareness and the important role we all play. Parents interested in enrolling youth members can email Marc.Cournoyer@uconn.edu for more information.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. Learn more and enroll your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.

UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:

  • Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
  • Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
  • Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
  • Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.

Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.

Job Opening: Evaluation Specialist/Academic Assistant II

venn diagram of Extension programs with food, health and sustainabilityPosition Location: Storrs, CT

Position Description: Reporting to the CAHNR Associate Dean for Extension, the Evaluation Specialist works with an interdisciplinary team of faculty and staff in UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). The Evaluation Specialist provides leadership to build Cooperative Extension’s capacity to assess the effectiveness and efficiency of Extension’s instructional programs in achieving desired results and to contribute to individual, community and organizational learning and performance improvement. Capacity building includes initiatives such as conducting evaluation studies, facilitating professional development opportunities, supporting program accountability and reporting functions.

Duties and Responsibilities:
• Conduct program evaluations for multiple purposes, i.e. reporting requirements for granting agencies, and audiences on an ongoing basis.
• Provide leadership for Cooperative Extension’s internal efforts to build individual, team, and organizational evaluation capacity to improve program effectiveness through professional development including technical assistance, training, resource development and dissemination.
• Lead CAHNR initiatives specific to evaluation to programs.
• Collaborate and provide technical support to Extension faculty and staff delivering programming to local and statewide communities, groups, agencies, organizations and individuals.
• Independently travel to and carry out field work throughout the geographic region including urban, rural and remote locations and work and/or programming sites.
• Provide leadership for annual planning and reporting of Extension programs to federal funding partners.
• Advance CAHNR’s commitment to equity and inclusion by 1) considering sources of bias and structural inequity based on race, ethnicity, disability, gender, and sexual orientation, and 2) facilitating and evaluating programs that address the burden these injustices impose on members of the campus community and residents of the state where appropriate.
• Write, publish and share articles, curricula and program designs that contribute to understanding and support the scholarly practices of evaluation.
• Cooperate with other research and Extension personnel to develop strong, integrated programs.
• Collaborate on and submit grant proposals for initiatives consistent with and in support of the purpose of this position.
• Provide relevant information to public officials, legislators, the general public, and other interested parties to communicate Extension’s value.
• Develop and use an appropriate system for reporting and evaluating programs to UConn Extension and to clients, colleagues and other Extension collaborators as needed.
• Research, gather and compile information from multiple sources utilizing various systems and techniques to conduct qualitative and quantitative data analyses and reporting.
• Attend and participate in state and national program activities as appropriate, meetings, committees and local, state and national conferences; represent and serve as a representative of the Department of Extension.

Read more information, including application instructions – search 495055.

UConn EFNEP Celebrates National Nutrition Month

vegetables on a white dinner plateMarch is National Nutrition Month! This past year has proven that nutrition and health are more important to all of us than ever. The Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) is UConn Extension’s outreach nutrition program in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). Since EFNEP’s inception as a USDA demonstration program in 1968, community educators work with low-income, limited resource families with children to learn how to food shop, prepare and eat more healthily as well as increase physical activity.

National Nutrition Month is a natural connection for EFNEP’s year round healthy lifestyle education. Designated in 1973 by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, this promotion began as a weeklong campaign to promote the profession as well as to communicate nutrition messages to the public. As a result of growing consumer interest, there was a transition to month long event in 1980. Each year a theme is chosen to embody health through nutrition and physical activity.

This year’s theme is Personalize Your Plate because everyone is unique in regard to body type, goals, cultural background, taste preferences and experiences. During this unprecedented past year, EFNEP has pivoted along with the rest of the world to social media for connection and engagement with friends, family and acquaintances. Through the EFNEP Facebook page and Extension Instagram and website, messages have included recipes, video short talks and cooking demonstrations to highlight how to Personalize Your Plate. Join us on social media and our websites to learn more about nutrition and healthy lifestyle education.

National Nutrition Month Video Topics:

March is National Nutrition Month: English https://youtu.be/b-nDAgkU9ks
                                                        Spanish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2GpfOweLl-s
What is EFNEP: English https://youtu.be/9NeSq0Tk2es
                           Spanish https://youtu.be/fRh7QoiyX3Q
                           Spanish https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UGE3HrSJ30Y&feature=youtu.be

Article by Umekia R. Taylor, MS, RDN, CDN; UConn Educator/EFNEP Supervisor

Reference

Denny S. National nutrition month: a brief history. J Am Diet Assoc. 2006;106 (3):365-366.

Bug Month

Bugs are crucial components of many ecosystems. Unfortunately, many people are unaware of the significant role they play in maintaining our environment. The UConn Extension Bug Month program provides educational resources and activities to help expand knowledge about insects.

The program will host its 6th annual Bug Month virtually in July. You can learn more about Bug Month and find additional resources and activities at https://bugs.uconn.edu/.