One million new scientists, one million new ideas

4-H science programs are preparing the next generation of scientists.

It is no secret that science proficiency scores have been below average in the U.S. and, according to Michigan State University Extension, fewer young people plan to enter a science-based career. Having a generation of young people that do not enjoy, understand or plan to work in science could have significant economic consequences in the years to come. So, what are we doing about it? The 4-H Youth Development organization decided to step up by starting the 4-H One Million New Scientists, One Million New Ideas campaign in 2008. The purpose was to address this issue by engaging more young people in science-related programs and increase the number of youth pursuing higher education and careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). After five years, the organization met its goal by engaging one million new youth in STEM programs. While one million youth is a big number and exposing young people to science in a fun and hands-on way is great, the real question is whether these young people will pursue science degrees and science careers as a result of that experience? Will they step up and be tomorrow’s science literate workforce and keep the U.S. competitive in STEM fields?

While a few more years is needed before that question can be answered, a three year study was developed to learn how 4-H science programs and projects were affecting science engagement, aspirations and knowledge in the young people participating within the programs.

The results:

  • 71 percent of 8th grade 4-H science participants indicated that they like science, compared to 50 percent of 8th grade National Assesment of Educational Progress (NAEP) respondents.
  • 73 percent of 8th grade 4-H science participants indicated they are good at science, compared to 44 percent of 8th grade NAEP respondents.
  • 64 percent of 8th grade 4-H science participants indicated that science is one of their favorite subjects, compared to 47 percent of NAEP respondents.
  • 77 percent of 12th grade 4-H science participants indicated they would like to have a job related to science, compared to 37 percent of NAEP respondents.

These survey results validate the positive impacts 4-H Youth Development has on young people. The results are promising and hopefully will lead to more youth pursuing science degrees and careers, building a science-literate workforce and keeping the U.S. competitive in STEM for years to come. To learn more about this survey, visit the 4-H Youth Development science related webpage. Watch a great video on the One Million New Scientists, One Million New Ideas campaign.  MSU Extension has additional information about programs near you.

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