Hero Image

4-H Youth Development and the UC Carbon Neutrality Initiative: Engaging Youth Through Experiential Education

The Issue

In November 2013, University of California (UC) President Janet Napolitano announced the Carbon Neutrality Initiative (CNI), which commits UC to emitting net zero greenhouse gases from its buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025, something no other major university system has done. The initiative builds on UC's pioneering work on climate research and furthers its leadership on sustainable business practices.

What Has ANR Done?

The 4-H Youth Development Programs in Colusa, Marin, and Santa Cruz counties implemented the “Be a 4-H Scientist! Materials in a Green, Clean World” polymer science curriculum in summer camp settings with kindergarten through third-grade youth. Through participation in the curriculum, youth were introduced to science and engineering as they explored how objects are designed based on their material properties. With a special focus on the impact and prevalence of plastics in our everyday lives, youth sorted materials based on their observations, identified different types of plastics, learned about proper plastic disposal, discovered how to lessen their impact on the earth and its resources, and gained understanding on the role scientists and engineers play in advancing our knowledge about the world.

The Payoff

Youth gain understanding of the role of carbon through polymer exploration.

The project allowed local 4-H youth development programs to develop new partnerships with schools, recreation centers, experiment stations, and the center for land-based learning as a way of extending the program to new audiences and exposing youth to experts in the field. Spanning several weeks as a summer enrichment program, over 400 youth in three counties participated in field trips and experimentation on sustainability, carbon neutrality, food production, climate change, green jobs, science careers, and how science and engineering practices can help the environment. Evaluations from community partners identified that participating youth developed skills in making contributions to their community by supporting recycling projects at their out-of-school-time facility. Additionally science, engineering, and technology content allowed youth and adults to make positive connections to one another by bonding through shared educational experiences.


Supporting Unit:

Colusa, Marin, Santa Cruz
Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, lschmittmcquitty@ucanr.edu
4-H Youth Development Advisor
San Benito, Monterey, Santa Cruz Counties

Luis Espino PhD., laespino@ucanr.edu
Rice Farm Advisor, Colusa County

Dr. Steven M. Worker, smworker@ucanr.edu
4-H Youth Development Advisor, Marin, Napa, Sonoma

Allison Keaney, alkeaney@ucanr.edu
4-H Program Representative, Marin County