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Academy improves capacity of 13 western states to deliver 4-H science education

The Issue

Scientific literacy is necessary for developing an informed citizenry, workforce preparedness, and economic growth. However, national and international assessments of K-12 youth have revealed that U.S students' achievement scores in science have been stagnant for over a decade. Also, fewer students are pursuing science-based degrees and careers, which adversely affects the nation’s workforce. Research has documented that nonformal science programs can interest youths in science, positively influence their academic achievement and expose them to future career options in scientific fields. As one of the nation’s leading nonformal youth education organizations, the 4-H Youth Development Program can play an important role in improving youth science literacy. Furthermore, strengthening 4-H science programming can lead to higher quality educational experiences for 4-H youth.

What Has ANR Done?

To increase science literacy among the state’s youth, the California 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) Leadership Team has developed a plan that aims to improve organizational capacity around nonformal science education. The California 4-H Youth Development Program hosted the 2012 Western Region 4-H Science Academy at UC Davis. Funded by the Noyce Foundation, the academy brought together 125 4-H faculty and staff from 13 western states, including 42 from California, for three days of professional development. The academy was designed to build participants’ competence and confidence to develop and deliver effective 4-H science programming. The training included curriculum identification and adaptation, evaluation and applied research, fund development, partnerships and collaborations and professional development.

The Payoff

Participants improve 4-H science programming

Our post-academy evaluation indicated the participants gained statistically significant understanding in all functional tracks.

As a result, California 4-H Youth Development advisors and program representatives have strengthened science programming with local clientele. For example, in Tuolumne County, staff are strengthening the partnership between 4-H and the PM Club afterschool program to integrate science education into afterschool programs. In Amador, Calaveras, Tuolumne and El Dorado counties, professional development workshops are training 4-H volunteers to focus on the experiential learning model and to incorporate science, healthy living and citizenship into every project. In Yolo County, 4-H leaders are increasingly integrating inquiry as a teaching method in 4-H science projects. In Santa Barbara County, 4-H youth will participate in the 4-H National Youth Science Day experiment. In Trinity County, staff have partnered with a local school district to offer garden-based educational programming.


Supporting Unit: Youth, Families & Communities

Steven Worker, 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology coordinator, smworker@ucanr.edu
Martin Smith, UC Cooperative Extension science literacy specialist, mhsmith@ucdavis.edu
Shannon Dogan, associate director of 4-H Program and Policy, sjdogan@ucanr.edu
Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, 4-H Youth Development advisor, lschmittmcquitty@ucanr.edu
Andrea Ambrose, California 4-H Foundation, apambrose@ucanr.edu
Richard Mahacek, 4-H Youth Development advisor, Emeritus, rlmahacek@ucanr.edu