STEM programming for 4-H clubs or at home – Part 1

Learn why incorporating science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) activities while working with youth during out-of-school time are easy and important for 4-H members’ development.

Girl at science camp
Photo by Tracy D'Augustino, MSU Extension

America is facing a national shortage of young people with skills in the areas of science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), which is resulting in a significant workforce shortage in STEM fields. Michigan State University Extension's 4-H Youth Development Program has a strong history of mobilizing volunteers to work with youth through hands-on learning experiences, which makes our program a natural fit for helping children generate an interest in science which then propels them to a desire to gain knowledge and skills.

Youth in the 4-H program are encouraged to use science to explore their world and discover knowledge. Through 4-H STEM activities, young people are becoming more engaged and motivated to learn science content. It is an opportunity for students to learn real-world applications of the knowledge they may have gained in school. Youth who participate in STEM activities outside the classroom are more likely to consider with these fields of study as a career.

This is Part 1 in a series of 4-H STEM articles designed to help 4-H leaders or other adults discover ways to easily incorporate STEM concepts in their work with youth. It is not about redesigning or creating entirely new activities for 4-H club meetings or an afterschool program, but rather simply becoming intentional about how to frame and introduce activities to 4-H members.

Science happens every day in the world around us. Our goal with 4-H STEM is to help youth notice and capture science in action. 4-H can help to make STEM meaningful and applicable.

The National 4-H Program encourages 4-H leaders to use inquiry-based learning methods while working with members. To do so, leaders refrain from giving answers to youth, but instead encourage them to seek answers to questions. This is the learning style that is most similar to how professionals in STEM fields conduct their work and can help youth increase their skills in critical thinking, problem solving and decision making.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 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.

To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2018 Impact Report: “Equipping Young People for Success Through Science Literacy.”

To learn more about MSU Extension, visit the MSU Extension website. To learn more about 4-H and Extension opportunities in Alcona County, stop by our Harrisville office at 320 S. State St. Harrisville, MI 48740, or visit us online at our Alcona County MSU Extension Facebook page or Alcona County Extension office page.

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