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Science and technology in the Colorado 4-H Program

June 28, 2010

A workforce strong in science, technology, engineering, and math is essential for Colorado to compete in the national and global economy. When they participate in community engagement and service projects with caring adults, thousands of Colorado youth benefit from the 4-H mission to empower young people to reach their full potential.

Hands-on learning, discovery, science

4-H’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) initiative reaches more than five million youth nationwide with hands-on learning experiences that encourage discovery, develop young minds and fill the pipeline of young leaders proficient in science. Only 32 percent of current U.S. college graduates are earning degrees in these fields, compared to 66 percent in Japan and 59 percent in China.

4-H is strategically positioned with CSU Extension’s direct connection to the cutting-edge research and resources of Colorado State University and the nation’s 106 land-grant universities and colleges. Nationally, 4-H has set a goal of preparing one million new young people to excel in science, technology, engineering, and math by 2013.

Today, 4-H out-of-school opportunities focus on:

  • agricultural science
  • electricity
  • mechanics
  • natural sciences
  • rocketry
  • robotics
  • biofuels
  • renewable energy
  • computer science

These projects also foster the 4-H goals of learning, mastering skills, and demonstrating generosity.

New and emerging science-related 4-H projects

Lightning Photography

In this pilot activity, 4-H members will learn:

• lightning safety
• the science and physics of lightning
• the science and physics of film photography versus digital photography

4-H members from across the state will submit their best lightning photographs for display at the Colorado State Fair and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science.


4-H members learn what a robot is, how to build one and how to program the robot to use sensors to interact with its environment. Working collaboratively, 4-H team members make decisions and organize information to complete the activities. Robotics is an ideal way to introduce science, math, engineering, and technology while teaching life skills to youth ages eight through 18.

Robotics teaches 4-Hers programming concepts using the ROBOLAB® language. Robotics also teaches 4-Hers more advanced topics in both programming and mechanics.

Youth advance their programming techniques, use subroutines and variables to achieve more precise movements of their robots and build their own custom functions while they practice and develop creative thinking, decision making and leadership skills.

4-H Geospatial Technology Programs

A partnership with ESRI, the premier geographic information systems (GIS) soft ware supplier, has allowed 4-H to utilize geographic positioning systems (GPS) and GIS to implement community service projects.

Nine Colorado 4-H programs received software grants, site licenses and training from ESRI—valued at up to $35,000 each—to conduct geospatial community service projects. The goal is to gather community-based data that will better inform decision-makers about new and emerging community issues and areas for improvement. Projects have included:

• developing a new community park
• identifying potential mosquito breeding sites to mitigate the spread of West Nile Virus
• mapping the spread of invasive species
• developing a community tree inventory
• marking buffer zones around raptor nesting sites
• identifying litter patterns at a youth conference center

Future 4-H projects

'4-H Power of Wind' Curriculum

This new addition to state-supported curriculum includes activities that involve young people in the engineering design process as they learn about wind and its uses. Youth work with members of a team to design, create, build and test a wind-powered device which must solve a problem. It also requires the designers to balance options and requirements.

Utilizing life skills such as teamwork, learning from others, planning, organizing and following through on a project, participants are guided to make adjustments and retest until the vehicle or machine solves the original problem.

They learn about transfer of energy and using machines to simplify tasks. Some activities ask youth to use their research and analytical skills to examine national, state, and local issues surrounding wind power.

'Exploring Your Environment' Curriculum

This soon to be released project focuses on global issues such as how clean (or dirty) the air is and how to turn waste into something valuable. The project also addresses the impact of food production on the environment and how consumer choices can affect food and fiber practices. Using the scientific method of discovery, 4-H members participate in several activities such as:

• what plants need
• how the elements of life interact
• where organisms fit in the food chain
• how to measure the weather
• construction of a compost pile
• how to clean an oil spill

Source: 4-H Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Report

Contact: Willa Williams
Phone: (970) 491-0892