Partnership in action: Alcona 4-H Makerspace

Youth in Alcona County are growing in STEM with help from the Alcona 4-H Makerspace.

Youth learning about electricity as they figure out how to light the lightbulb.
Youth learning about electricity as they figure out how to light the lightbulb. Photo by Tracy D'Augustino, MSU Extension.

Youth in Alcona County are growing in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) through a partnership between Michigan State University Extension and Alcona Community Schools that supports the Alcona 4-H Makerspace.

The Alcona 4-H Makerspace is a collaborative workspace that opened in 2018 at Alcona Elementary School. It provides STEM enrichment for many second, third, fourth and fifth grade students. Selected students explore electricity, marble roller coasters, water rockets, unplugged coding, Rube Goldberg machines, and other topics through enrichments opportunities. Each week, students participate in activities around a specific topic for 4-H Fridays. The following week, new students rotate in for a new topic.

Colored popsicle sticks balanced on top of plastic cups.
Youth participating in a build a platform engineering challenge.

Beyond direct youth activities, the 4-H Makerspace partnered with the Alcona science teacher to develop classroom STEM activities. These activities hang in backpacks in the hall by the Makerspace and teachers can check them out at any time. Each backpack contains the instructions and supplies for the entire class. Backpack activities range from communication and cookie mining (where students learn about mining by trying to remove chocolate chips from a cookie), to running and animal feet. Each activity is framed with a question that is attached to the backpack.

Green backpacks hanging on hooks
Backpacks available through the 4-H Makerspace.

While the Alcona 4-H Makerspace has increased access to STEM for many Alcona youth, it still has room to grow. The Makerspace is available to all Alcona 4-H volunteers interested in facilitating STEM activities with youth. 4-H leaders have access to free activities and lesson plans from MSU Extension’s 4-H science team, along with the space and supplies to facilitate these and other activities. The Alcona 4-H Makerspace has its own door to the parking lot and classroom bathroom, so the space is available on the weekends and evening, when the school building is closed. If you are a 4-H leader interested in using the 4-H Makerspace, contact the Alcona County MSU Extension office at (989) 724-6478. If you are not a 4-H volunteer or leader, you can learn more and apply to become a volunteer at Volunteer Central or by calling the Alcona County MSU Extension office.

MSU Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM. 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success.

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