Investing in Idaho’s future through 4-H STEM
Two important developments will impact youth non-formal science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) education through 4-H. First, we are very thankful to the Idaho legislature for providing funding for a new 4-H STEM regional educator. The funding will begin on July 1 and we will hire as soon as possible after that date. The individual will lead our STEM efforts on a statewide basis. This UI Extension 4-H educator will develop training and support for 4-H professionals to build their capacity for implementing or expanding STEM programs and provide programs that are useful in 4-H afterschool and school-enrichment STEM modes of delivery.
In addition, the 4-H Youth Development program is partnering with AmeriCorps to bring almost twenty FTE (full-time equivalents) to engage youth in learning activities using 4-H materials. Besides the STEM components, this program will include teaching in the arts and will use the acronym STEAM. These AmeriCorps members may be full time, half time or quarter time. UI Extension county programs and program partners may apply for these individuals to implement planned STEAM based programs in communities throughout the state.
By working together, we can build a better tomorrow for Idaho through education. STEM education teaches youth to build problem-solving skills. In STEM activities, youth learn how to analyze problems and then work to correct and overcome them.
STEM education instills creativity. In our world of innovation, creativity is the fuel for new technologies and ideas. Creativity allows youth to see problems in new ways and to think outside of the box.
STEM education gives kids the edge in flourishing careers. When youth have hands-on STEM activities, they gain important knowledge and skills. More and more careers require advanced mathematical and scientific knowledge and ability. Becoming introduced to science and math at an early age will give students an advantage.
STEM education is an authentic learning experience that integrates four major content areas and brings the real-world application to those areas. So much in our world is interconnected. Youth need the opportunity to collaborate and apply all of their skill and knowledge to solve a problem or improve an idea.
We at University of Idaho Extension 4-H Youth Development are pleased to be partners to bring these important educational resources to Idaho.
4-H Youth Development Director
University of Idaho Extension
Livestock Judging Program Changes Lives
The 4-H livestock judging contest or activity centers around the evaluation of a class or group of four animals and then a determination of a placing or ranking of the animals from most desirable to least desirable. These rankings are based on a standard set forth by experts from the University of Idaho and the livestock industry. Livestock judging exercises participants’ decision-making and problem-solving skills as they determine the most logical ranking order of the animals.
“I have to be able to work through priorities, look at the animals, mark my judging card, and place the class,” said one Madison County team member. “That way of making decisions have been more then helpful when assessing situations and making decisions, however large or small, every single day.”
Another important component of the judging activity is preparation and actual delivery of a set of oral reasons. The oral reasons are presented individually by each team member to a knowledgeable livestock person and given a score. These oral reasons are the contestants’ way to describe their ranking of the animals and defend their thought processes and decisions. The reasons are typically presented in a logical and professional manner.
Idaho’s 4-H Livestock Judging Contest was reinstated as a state contest 20 years ago. It is held the Saturday after Labor Day in Blackfoot during the Eastern Idaho State Fair. Youth from the four UI Extension districts in Idaho regularly participate. Youth participate on teams consisting of four members. Teams compete against one another to determine a winning team. The ranking scores and the reasons scores of individual team members are added together to determine a total score for the team. The highest scoring senior 4-H team is awarded the opportunity to represent Idaho at the Western 4-H Roundup in Denver, Colorado.
The team from Madison County represented Idaho at the Western 4-H Roundup in January 2019.
“Livestock judging has impacted my decision making by giving me the confidence to explain my opinion about my choices,” a team member reflected. “I have better decision-making skills because of judging. It has taught me to study things more carefully. Livestock judging has given me many opportunities that I may not have had in other circumstances. I have been incredibly blessed to have been coached from the time I was eight years old to present by my dad. I am grateful that I could share this experience and love of livestock with him. Being able to judge at Denver was an incredible opportunity that I will forever remember.”
4-H Volunteers Make All the Difference in Idaho Communities
According to headline statistics, today’s youth are stressed out and often technology captive. Youth spend more time inside than out, leading to what has informally been referred to as nature-deficit disorder. While that isn’t a medical diagnosis, it is reflective of the growing concern of the negative consequences that come from too little time with interactive and outdoor activities that stimulate and engage the senses. Embracing 4-H provides a very real opportunity to help — and inspire — our youth.
In 4-H, youth engage in a positive and fun environment to complete hands-on projects that develop life skills in teamwork and leadership. It’s a powerful process that lets kids have a voice to express who they are and how they make their lives and communities better. Research has found that 4-H’ers are four times more likely to give back to their community, two times more likely to make healthier choices and two times more likely to participate in STEM activities.
4-H used to be primarily linked to agriculture, but today’s 4-H covers everything from rabbits to robots; horses to health; and cattle to crafting. The subject matter of a club can be specific, such as creative arts, or general. In a general club, the projects and activities are based around the youth and leader interests with ample 4-H materials to use for programs and projects. The key is that 4-H uses a research-based framework for positive youth development within fun hands-on interactive activities that have a foundation in helping youth grow in any or all of the following ways:
- Making thoughtful decisions
- Developing a zest and skill for lifelong learning
- Learning positive socialization skills by working in a group and as part of a team
- Enhancing citizenship skills by developing an awareness and involvement in their community
- Learning to manage time wisely and set priorities
4-H is the largest youth organization in the nation and is offered in every county in Idaho through University of Idaho Extension and can be accessed through local UI Extension county offices. 4-H clubs and activities are organized and offered throughout the county based on volunteer leader and youth interests. Being a 4-H volunteer can take many forms, from being the main club volunteer to offering a one-time program to a 4-H club. While 4-H volunteers are often parents of current or former 4-H youth, a growing number of volunteers are adults with a passion for helping young people grow and thrive in an environment focused on positivity, discovery and fun.
Setting our Sights on the Future
For over a century, 4-H has provided dynamic learning opportunities for Idaho youth within the fields of agriculture and family and consumer sciences. As our population continues to become more urban, creating new avenues for innovative educational engagement is vital. Among those options is one of our nation’s fastest-growing 4-H project areas: shooting sports.
Many youth are naturally inquisitive about firearms or archery equipment. Through shooting sports programs, members can learn about their safe and responsible use, under the guidance of highly trained, caring adult instructors. These volunteers must successfully complete a separate 12-hour training for each discipline (archery, hunting, muzzleloader, pistol, rifle and shotgun) they wish to teach at the local level.
Besides learning essential safety practices, youth engage in positive peer groups, develop respect for others and make enhanced opportunities for quality family involvement.
“We would never put our child behind the steering wheel of a car without proper training; it doesn’t make sense to hand a child a firearm or bow and arrow without similar training,” said one 4-H parent in Idaho.
In the nearly 40-year history of this program, there have only been six documented injuries nationwide requiring medical treatment by a physician, none fatal. Safety is the highest priority.
While 4-H shooting sports is founded on the principles of education and recreation, competitive venues do exist for youth wishing to test their personal proficiencies. Moving from an archery only state shoot in 2016 that involved 21 youth, 2018 saw our multidiscipline State Shoot (featuring compound and recurve archery, hunting, air and smallbore rifle, and shotgun) soar to over 100 entries. In just two years, Idaho will have sent seven teams to the National 4-H Shooting Sports Championships.
Since we developed a consistent set of state rules and implemented a multidiscipline 4-H State Shoot, our enrollment has grown from 950 youth to over 1,220 youth in just three years. The UI Extension 4-H Youth Development program has a goal of enrolling over 2,000 youth in shooting sports by 2021.
“Now is an excellent opportunity for our 4-H alumni and supporters to get engaged, be it becoming a certified instructor, helping county personnel and volunteers to conduct local shoots or even choosing to invest financial support in growing this dynamic program,” said Jim Wilson, 4-H shooting sports coordinator.
While Idaho currently lags behind other states with long-established shooting sports programs, Wilson is optimistic that the equipment, personal involvement and donor support will evolve to insure Idaho is competitively positioned for the future.
Those interested in becoming instructors or helping conduct local events, please contact your county or tribal UI Extension 4-H personnel. Should you choose to provide financial support for equipment, training, state shoots, supporting Idaho delegates to nationals and more, please consult our donor page.
Together, we can safeguard the well-being of our youth, teach responsible firearm safety and make the personal and financial investment to grow 4-H shooting sports in Idaho to its fullest potential.