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.
There 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.
The term “4-H” was an organization that I had heard about for many years. I knew the name, but I didn’t really know what it was. Around five years ago my mom saw an advertisement for a 4-H club called Bad to the Bone. This club showed dogs. I decided to go to a meeting and at least see what it was about. I went, and from then on, I have been all about 4-H. Two years after I started 4-H I made a hard decision to switch to another club, Great Goats and More. This is where my 4-H journey really started.
In this club I was exposed to so much more and I got to know about all the other events in 4-H, such as the Food and Nutrition show, public speaking, and state-wide events. I knew that other clubs were organized differently than ours was, but I soon realized the clubs had a president and other officers. I was not new to Robert’s rules as I was in the National Junior Honor Society at my school. These last few years that I have been in 4-H have impacted my life very much. I always knew that I had leadership qualities, but I have gained more leadership qualities, I have built lifelong friendships, I have had so much fun, and made so many lifelong memories. I can speak in front of people. I speak clearly and loudly. I have grown as a person, I am more confident.
In 4-H you are given many chances to lead a group. These opportunities have improved my leadership abilities a lot. I can use what I have learned and experienced not only in 4-H but also in my life. I have used what I learned in 4-H to be a better leader. I learned to listen to people. Since my leadership and citizenship abilities have grown I have been elected to positions that I know I would not have reached otherwise. I have learned to reach out to the quiet members and get them involved in making club decisions. I have also been able to go to programs I never thought possible like the Teen Leadership Forum. The only problem was that I wanted to grow my leadership abilities but there were not many more events in my state I was interested in where I could do this. So, I thought back and realized I could apply for this trip. Although I consider myself a pretty good leader there are things that I could improve. I need to work on delegating jobs. I normally get very stressed out when I plan larger events. I have realized that when I delegate jobs my stress level reduces. I used to be not very good about listening to other’s opinions and acting on them. Through a lot of practice I have gotten much better at this.
When I first joined Great Goats and More I knew that I wanted to be an officer. I knew that I could not do that right away. I needed to prove to my new club that I could do it. So, I set little goals like attending all meetings, volunteering for different activities, volunteering for different games, helping the younger kids get involved and attending other 4-H events. By reaching those goals I was elected vice president in that club and secretary in Canine Commanders.
4-H has impacted my life in many ways. I have learned to speak out, voice my opinion, to acknowledge every person has a different personality and to work among them. I have also learned to show my dog, better take care of my dog, and I have learned many things about other animals that I did not know. Before I started 4-H, I was not someone who always spoke out and expressed their opinion. I only did this sometimes; now I express my opinion whenever I think it is necessary or helpful. I also do this very kindly. I also learned that everyone has a different personality and sometimes people clash because of this. Through 4-H, I have learned to lead meetings and events successfully without a clash breaking out. Five years ago, I knew that showing dogs existed, but I never really thought that I could do it. When I started 4-H I learned to show my dog. Together my dog, Petey and I have placed multiple events, and even went to the Big E! Through showing my dog, I have learned to better take care of him such as trimming the fur under his paws and brushing his teeth more often. Since I started to go to Great Goats and More meetings I have learned that yak fur is called fiber and how to show rabbits.
The skills, knowledge, and leadership that I learn in 4-H will and have benefitted me and others. I have learned several skills. One being to take better care of animals especially dogs. I am more responsible in feeding, exercising and grooming my dog. When I have a family, I will be able to take extremely good care of the family pets and teach the other members to do so as well. I have gained a lot of knowledge in 4-H. I have learned how to be respectful towards others, listen to others and I have learned from my leaders how to handle the different personalities people have. I have also learned that staying true to your values and morals is extremely important. If people don’t like you or don’t appreciate you for these morals than that’s okay. I have become a leader, not a follower. I can make decisions for myself and not give in to peer pressure. As a leader, I have learned that every situation varies and must be handled differently. This has helped to prepare me for different experiences that I may come to in my life outside of 4-H.
Overall in the last four to five years; 4-H has been a large part of my life. I would not be the person I am today and would not be the person I will be tomorrow. 4-H has affected every aspect of my life from my personality, morals, friends, decisions and everything else.
By Chelsea Weimer
4-H has impacted my life by teaching me that even in the hard times you should hold onto your project and never let go. 4-H has also taught me how to do math. 4-H has helped me with my spelling. Through my 4-H years I have learned a lot. I have learned patience while working with my animals. It has helped me with setting and reaching my goals. It has made it so I know how to set goals that I can reach in a set time. The rewards that I have gotten out of my 4-H years are knowing how to deal with all sorts of different people. I have also learned a lot from being president in my club. I have learned how to deal with adults and how to talk respectfully to them. I have learned that people like to have fun and I want to better learn how to incorporate more fun into our meetings to hopefully keep everyone involved. The rewards I got from my citizenship and leadership opportunities are wisdom, understanding, and knowledge on how to deal with all sorts of people. I think I need more experience in being a leader to expound on my leadership skills. Some of the problems that I have experienced from these experiences are trying to keep the other members of my club interested in the meetings and getting people to come to the bake sales and the community services that the club does. I hope that by going on this trip I can learn how to better myself in these areas so the club will be more profitable for our community. I hope that the experiences I have had in 4-H and the ones to come will help me with getting in to the college that I want to go to, and I hope they will help me get a job when I am ready to get one. Sure not all my 4-H experiences have been good ones, but I have learned from all of them. I hope to learn from the ones I get in the future.
By Samantha Smith
To some people my 4-H story might seem dull, but to me it has been an exciting adventure! 4-H has taught me responsibility and how my actions can positively affect my community. I have also learned leadership and citizenship skills that I have been able to incorporate into activities outside of 4-H.
Setting goals in my project area has encouraged me to always strive to make the best better. I have also come to realize that setting the goal is what is important, not necessarily the attainment. I have found that it is important to rise to the challenge of pursuing my goals whether I attain them or not. For example, I set a goal last year to earn my CGC (Canine Good Citizen) Title with my dog, participate in local 4-H dog shows, and show my dog at the Big E. I accomplished earning my CGC title with my dog and showing in local 4-H dog shows. I decided not to show my dog at the Big E because I knew she wasn’t ready. Not attaining that part of my goal has taught me to be proud of my accomplishments and learn from my mistakes.
By participating in my community I have been able to share my enthusiasm for 4-H with many youth. I was invited to visit an afterschool 4-H Explorer club and talk to the members about my 4-H dog project. At the afterschool 4-H Explorer club I brought my dog and did a few demonstrations of what I do in 4-H. I found it rewarding to see how much the kids enjoyed asking questions about 4-H and playing with my dog. I am glad that I can share my passion for dogs and 4-H with the public.
4-H has given me the ability to become a leader and problem-solver. These are skills that will benefit me my entire life. I want to give back to 4-H by empowering other youth. I want to share with them the strengths and opportunities that I have been fortunate enough to gain through 4-H. I look forward to future years in 4-H in which I can perfect my citizenship and leadership skills to benefit my club, my community, my country and my world.
By Elizabeth Hall