Youth learn critical thinking and problem solving through hands-on science experiments

Youth engaged in 4-H science projects learn critical thinking and problem solving skills by asking questions and discovering answers.

The 4-H Youth Development program engages children and youth in a wide variety of projects and programs teaching youth skills and knowledge they will benefit from for life. Science is one of the many program areas 4-H offers. The word science may sound somewhat intimidating for people. Quite often people associate science with a lab coat, complicated formulas, Bunsen burners and petrie dishes, and the response to the word science is, “That’s not for me!” However, science does not have to be complicated and intimidating. It is simply asking a question and exploring the answer to the question. Michigan State University Extension encourages youth to think critically, ask questions and discover the answers.

The Utah State University Extension 4-H Discover 4-H Clubs Series is a wonderful resource for simple science projects that can easily be done with any group of youngsters. The 4-H Kitchen Science Club curriculum lists a variety of fun experiments, which are inexpensive, use common household items and are easily done. From cleaning pennies with taco sauce, sliding eggs through a bottle neck, making polymer bouncy balls and cornstarch goo to freezing soda, bubble gum science and making homemade ice cream, all activities engage youth in science. All activities challenge youth with questions, stimulate their curiosity and engage them to explore the answers through experiments. Why does taco sauce clean tarnished pennies? What ingredients do the cleaning? Through experiments, youth will discover that not one ingredient, but a combination of two specific ingredients has the cleaning power and why.

Youth will make cornstarch goo. While having fun with the goo and exploring suspensions, they will learn the science of quicksand. When making homemade ice cream in a sealable plastic bag, youth discover the role of salt in the process. What difference it makes if we shake the bag during the process or not, and what ingredients could be added to get flavored ice cream. At the end of this experiment, youth will have a yummy treat to taste and enjoy as an extra bonus.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development teaches youth valuable life skills through hands-on, experiential learning opportunities. It stimulates curiosity and inquiry. Asking questions and exploring answers through simple, fun and hands-on science projects can ignite youth interest in science and may be the foundation for a future career path for youth. Volunteers leading science projects with youth will discover how rewarding it is to see youth discovering answers to their questions, and that science can be non-intimidating fun after all.

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