STEM Education

Jessica LaRosa: 4-H Alumni Spotlight

Jessica LaRosa holding one of her Herefords at the 4-H fairThe UConn 4-H program fostered a passion for animals in Jessica LaRosa of East Windsor. While in 4-H, Jessica discovered she loved teaching the public and others about agriculture. “My passion for both animals and teaching other about agriculture is what led me to find my major at UConn,” Jessica says.

Jessica joined the Merry Mooers 4-H Dairy Club in Hartford County when she was 10 years old. During her 4-H career she was also active with Hemlock Knoll 4-H, First Town Veterinary Science, and Granby 4-H. Her projects included poultry, dairy goats, rabbits, swine, beef, and veterinary science. She gained leadership experience as a club officer, and serving on the officer team of the Hartford County 4-H Fair Association. Jessica represented UConn 4-H at National 4-H Dairy Conference, the National 4-H Conference, and Citizenship Washington Focus.

“I applied to UConn because the campus felt like home to me due to the number of 4-H events that I attended on the Storrs campus,” Jessica says. “4-H influenced my choice in university and major.” UConn 4-H hosts numerous events throughout the year on the Storrs and the Greater Hartford campuses. Jessica was one of many 4-H members to attend 4-H Dairy and Beef Day, Goat Day, and the New England 4-H Poultry Show on the UConn Storrs campus.

Jessica is currently a sophomore in the Ratcliffe Hicks two-year program, graduating in May of 2018, and transferring to the bachelor’s degree program with a major in Agriculture and Natural Resources. Her expected graduation date is May 2020. She plans to apply to the Teacher Certification Program for College Graduates in the Neag School of Education at UConn and earn her master’s degree in Agriculture Education in May 2021. Jessica plans on becoming a high school agriculture teacher, and staying involved with 4-H by serving as a volunteer.

“The most rewarding part about 4-H for me was being able to get hands-on agriculture experience starting at a young age, and being able to network with both other 4-Hers, along with professionals in various industries of agriculture,” Jessica reflects thoughtfully. “I know those friendships will last a lifetime, and the professionals I have met will be helpful resources to me in the future.”

Jessica cites her 4-H experience as forming a baseline for what she is learning in her courses at UConn. Her background knowledge in animal science has made it easier to learn the detailed information in the courses she is taking.

“4-H has left a lasting impact on my life, and has shaped me into the person that I am today,” Jessica concludes. “For example, I had the opportunity to visit Washington D.C. for the National 4-H Conference, and presented on backyard farming with my roundtable group to the USDA National Institute for Food and Agriculture (NIFA).”

Article by: Stacey Stearns

Spooky Science

UConn 4-H hosts Spooky Science activities at Community Event In Griswold

More than 100 kids and their families stopped by the UConn 4-H booth at the Spooktopia day at Veterans Memorial Park in Griswold, CT on Saturday, October 26th to learn a bit of Spooky Science from 4-H STEM educator Marc Cournoyer.  Dressed as a mad scientist for this Halloween event, Cournoyer led kids in activities including making their very own scary noise makers, checking out how a homemade lava lamp works, and taking part in a density test experiment using different household liquids like molasses, corn syrup, water and vegetable oil.

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Everyone especially enjoyed making the noise-makers which uses a plastic cup, yarn and a wet paper towel to simulate a creaky door in a haunted house.  Participants had an opportunity to make their very own noise maker that they could then take with them.  This activity and the other experiments allowed the children to look at science in a fun way by exploring these holiday themed activities.

Marc was also assisted by Jim and Gail McCloud, two volunteer 4-H leaders from New London County.

Along with the science activities, this event also served as an opportunity to promote the 4-H program in Windham and New London Counties. Children who stopped by the booth each received a pencil with the Windham County 4-H Facebook page address and parents were given CT 4-H brochures.  Cournoyer also donated 225 Windham County 4-H trick or treat bags that were used for the trunk or treat event that was held later in the evening.

Windham County 4-H Summer Science Mini-Camps

By Marc Cournoyer

                UConn Extension’s Windham County 4-H program continues to provide young people with an opportunity to explore the world of STEM education through hands-on minicamp programs taking place at various locations throughout Windham County.  In 2013 we are focusing on three distinct programs; Junk Drawer Robotics, STEM Gardens and video production with special effects.  Each minicamp is 4-5 weeks in length and challenges participants to work in small teams to explore, brainstorm and solve science, technology, engineering and math obstacles to achieve desired goals.

                In Junk Drawer Robotics, participants learn to think like scientists and design like engineers. Each week they are challenged to use provided materials to solve a particular problem.  Whether it is creating a small moving robot using a paper cup, small battery operated motor and other household materials, building a trebuchet style catapult that will launch a marshmallow or exploring ways to reduce friction on a variety of surfaces, they are encouraged to find innovative solutions while working as part of a design team.  Junk Drawer Robotics camps have or are taking place at the ASAP therapeutic mentoring summer program in Thompson, at the Windham Middle School, Griswold Summer Recreation, West Woodstock Public Library and the Windham County Extension Center.

Can Can Robot - WMS 3

                In STEM Garden, participants learn about the science of gardening. They explore how a seed germinates to turn into a plant, container gardening and bottle biology.  Using household materials, participants explore how things grow and interact with the larger world.  The climax of the program is the group creating an on-site spiral garden illustrating various design ideas using ecologically friendly, native plants and growing practices.  These gardens then serve as a living focal point that continues to educate long after the program is completed. This program is currently being held in partnership with the Killingly Public Library.

group at Windham Middle School works on trebuchet                In video production, young people are exploring the world of film using special effects like green screens and stop motion animation.  The program begins with the basics of story development where participants are given the opportunity to construct their own vision for their finished product, learning the steps of pre through post production.  Participants are taught how to properly use digital video and still cameras, the working of a tripod and story construction.  The program then progresses through filming and video creation using editing software.  This program is currently taking place at the Windham County Extension Center.

                Windham County 4-H is hoping to continue these science programs throughout the school year with the new Saturday Morning Science programs that will take place throughout the county each month.  If you would like more information about any of these programs or are interested in being involved with future programs contact Windham County 4-H program coordinator Marc Cournoyer at