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Teens implementing “hands-on” science

The Issue

In the National Assessment of Educational Progress report for science in 2009, 77 percent of fourth-graders and 81 percent of eighth-graders in California fell into the below basic or basic levels of science proficiency in the earth and space, physical and life sciences. This data has spurred professionals working in out-of-school time programs to begin addressing the growing concern of science literacy by placing an emphasis on science.

What Has ANR Done?

The 4-H Youth Development programs in Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito counties partner with afterschool programs and other youth serving agencies to provide professional development opportunities for staff, volunteers and teens to deliver out-of-school-time science education programs. The goal of these programs is to increase science literacy among youth, while at the same time building the capacity of adults and teens to deliver non-formal science education. To do this, youth development advisors use specially developed curricula materials designed to provide learners with opportunities to explore and investigate science phenomena in a safe environment, where the focus is on the process of science, and not the end product. One such curricula, Youth Experiences in Science (YES), uses specially trained teenage volunteers to conduct “hands-on” science units for children 5 to 8 years old. The main objectives are: 1) provide teens with authentic learning environments to develop leadership and life skills, 2) provide younger children with hands-on science exploration activities, and 3) enhance science literacy among teens and younger children. Teen participants are recruited for this experience through local career centers, school principals and guidance counselors, and then participate in a focused learning program where they develop skills to facilitate science education programs, work with professional staff and gain skills in working with younger youth.

The Payoff

New ways of learning improve academic performance and self-confidence in youth

Based on observations and teen feedback, these experiences provide teens with leadership and life skill opportunities, authentic teaching experiences and positive modeling that enables them to develop confidence and skills as educators. As a result of the Youth Experiences in Science Program, site directors indicate an increase in student academic performance, a greater interest in science, and positive learner attitudes among participants. Furthermore, site directors note an increase in self-confidence, improved problem solving techniques and increased positive attitudes among the teen leaders as a result of participating in these programs.


Supporting Unit:

Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Benito
Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty
4-H Youth Development Advisor
Santa Cruz, Monterey and San Benito Counties
(831) 763-8026