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4-H program brings families together for fun science

The Issue

The 4-H SLO Scientists program was conceived and piloted in San Luis Obispo (SLO) County to address the desire and need to involve youth and adults together in hands-on science. This helps improve science processing skills, science literacy and issues of family dynamics.

What Has ANR Done?

The SLO Scientists Clubs utilize a new model of 4-H club structure that involves adults in a one-on-one (one adult/one youth) basis. Each third- to fifth-grade child attends the twice monthly meetings and field trips with an adult partner. The clubs were designed with five principles in mind:
  1. The skills of scientific investigation are taught in an enjoyable setting.
  2. Activities encourage youth/adult pairs to utilize critical thinking skills.
  3. Participants are encouraged to utilize their new skills and knowledge to better understand and to initiate action on science-related issues in their communities.
  4. Clubs provide a safe and fun environment for adults to learn from children and children from adults.
  5. Family dynamics of mutual respect are fostered for all participants so that involvement might allow a child to develop or strengthen an ongoing relationship with parent/guardians or other caring adults.
The program was one of the 15 “4-H Science In Urban Communities Promising Programs” in the U.S. in 2011.

The Payoff

4-H SLO Scientists Clubs improve critical thinking and family dynamics

Approximately 1,500 individuals have participated in the program since its inception in late 1995. Random samplings of participants throughout the years have found that more than half of the children spent more time on such things as observing and experimenting after becoming involved in the SLO Scientists Program; 33 percent of the adults reported an increase in this activity.

Two-thirds of the children reported that they “always” or “most of the time” talked with other family members about the activities after each meeting and 95 percent of the adults reported doing so. Half the children reported an increase in talking with her/his adult partner “about things other than science” since joining the program and half the adults reported more talking with her/his child partner. Thirty-six percent of the children and 25 percent of the adults reported an increase in “family meetings to talk things over and solve problems” since starting the program.


Supporting Unit: San Luis Obispo County

Richard P. Enfield, UCCE Advisor (Emeritus)
Katherine E. Soule, UCCE Advisory, kesoule@ucanr.edu, (805) 781-4093