Michigan 4-H grows scientists

4-H helps to increase science literacy and grow future scientists in Michigan through hundreds of science programs statewide.

Youth use microscopes to analyze samples during the 2016 4-H Animal and Veterinary Science Camp.  Photo: Julie Thelen, MSU Extension.
Youth use microscopes to analyze samples during the 2016 4-H Animal and Veterinary Science Camp. Photo: Julie Thelen, MSU Extension.

4-H is the largest youth development organization in the U.S. Through Michigan 4-H, the youth development program of Michigan State University Extension, more than 200,000 youth are engaged annually with experiential leaning opportunities in nearly every county in the state. Clubs unite youth with similar interests to teach and learn from each other, all while doing so with the support of 4-H volunteers. Project areas cover everything from developing important life skills, learning about civic duties and citizenship, healthy lifestyles, discovering different cultures around the world, exploring careers, and creative opportunities through the arts.

One of the largest areas in 4-H programming is science literacy, which includes such topic areas as animal science, environmental and outdoor education and science and engineering. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are rapidly growing fields; however, only 16 percent of high school seniors want to enter a STEM-related career.

MSU Extension, through 4-H programming, is helping to excite youth about science and engage them in STEM opportunities throughout the state. In 2014-2015, 36,000 people participated in more than 600 science programs that ranged from weekend-long workshops to outreach events, to series focused on specific science topics, and to week-long camps. These programming efforts made an impact on the youth and adults in Michigan, as is demonstrated by survey responses from participants.

Impacts include:

  • 96 percent of youth report an increase in their science knowledge after attending a program.
  • 93 percent of youth said they had the ability to apply the knowledge gained after participating in a 4-H science program.
  • 74 percent of youth reported they want a career related to science.
  • 96 percent of adults plan to apply the science knowledge and skills gained through programming to facilitate science learning for other youth.

Comments from participants in various science programs or events reveal how valuable the experience was.

  • “[Great Lakes Natural Resources] Camp has taught me more about job ideas and to never give up.” - Youth participant
  • “[Michigan 4-H Animal and Veterinary Science Camp] has influenced me to become more active in animal-related projects now, to better prepare myself for future college classes and accomplishments.” - Van Buren County youth
  • “[LEGO Mindstorms EV3 Robotics Teacher/Educators Workshop] was extremely beneficial. I hadn't gotten my hands on a Lego Robotics kit since I was in the eighth grade and it was very helpful to learn about all of the attachments to the kit and how to go about programming them.” -Adult participant

To learn more about all of the impacts 4-H science programming is having in Michigan, check out “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals” by MSU Extension. For more information from MSU Extension about additional 4-H impacts on youth, see “Preparing the Future Generation for Success,” “Preparing Michigan Youth for Future Careers and Employment” and “Developing Civically Engaged Leaders.”

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