Oregon 4-H Sustainable Communities Programs

From July 2009 through June 2014, Oregon 4-H provided after school SET (Science, Engineering, and Technology) programs in two counties each year, largely funded by a 5-year CYFAR/SCP grant (Children, Youth, and Families at Risk; Sustainable Communities Project). The participating schools (four to seven each year) were known to have substantial numbers of at-risk, low income, and/or Latino students.

Although Latinos were the primary target audience, all youth in grades 3-5 were welcome. Interested youth at each school were organized into 4-H clubs that usually met for 1-2 hours a week; field trips and other outings were also included. One county also offered a 4-week summer program. Each county selected its own SET content and supportive activities, with teamwork as a learning strategy. One Extension Educator in each county coordinated and delivered the program, assisted by adult volunteers and older youth. The number of contact hours averaged about 155 annually. The number of regularly participating youth ranged from 149 (35% Latino) in Year 1 to 186 (39% Latino) in Year 5. The overall 5-year total was 857 youth (42% Latino).

Additional evening activities were offered to engage parents of targeted youth in activities designed to increase their ability to support the academic achievement of their children.  Examples include Family Math and Science Nights (Years 4-5) and Robotics Showcases (Years 3-5), each of which annually drew about 100 people.

Two counties, Yamhill and Benton, were primary in the project—Lane County completed Year 1, but when the County Extension Service was shut down the following year due to lack of funding, SCP efforts were shifted to Benton County for Years 2-5.  Although CYFAR/SCP funding has been phased out, programs in Benton and Yamhill counties are continuing in 2014-2015.  Benton County activities are being sustained through a 5-year 21st Century Learning Grant from the State Department of Education and OSU Extension funds have been provided to support a program assistant in Yamhill County. Below is a five-year summary of specific learning activities and outcomes for each continuing county.

Learning Activities

Yamhill County: Total youth = 536 (36% Latino).  In Years 1-2, afterschool SET programs were provided in two McMinnville schools. Each offered the same mix of content relating to technology (videography, robotics) and science (natural/ biological) and included field trips to the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the Hatfield/OSU Marine Science Center. In Year 3, the focus was shifted to robotics, using the nationally recognized FIRST LEGO League (FLL) model.  Two skill levels were offered.  Beginners built simple robots and programmed them to perform basic tasks. Advanced youth worked in teams that created research projects designed to provide robotic solutions to issues relating to FLL “challenge” themes (food safety, natural disasters). Participants in both skill levels combined increased 86% from Year 3 to Year 4 and the number of schools grew to seven. Lego Robotics Showcases, where advanced teams shared their projects, were featured in Years 3-5; about 100 parents and children attended annually.

Benton County: Total youth = 293 (52% Latino).  Focusing on the question, “What do scientists do?”, youth from two Corvallis schools conducted experiments, investigated research questions, and explored various environments. Highlights included Science in the Neighborhood where youth made a series of field trips to explore and identify science and math in practice at near-by locations including gardens, restaurants, bike shops, and grocery stores. Physics on the Playground featured a series of activities that included investigating the properties of “swinging” from a physics point of view and determining how friction and other factors can affect the speed of (toy) cars. A Family Math and Science Night in Years 4-5 annually engaged about 40 parents and 60 children in participatory SET activities. A summer program, Super Science Snackers, drew about 40 youth annually in Years 3-5.

In Years 4-5, about 60 preservice teachers (OSU students with STEM interests) planned and delivered six afterschool sessions, supported by the new FIESTAS model (Families Involved in Education, Sociocultural Teaching, and STEM) developed by Oregon 4-H and the OSU College of Education.  The SCP coordinator was instrumental in originating the model and also partnered in its implementation with two College of Education faculty members (math and physics specialists) who trained and coached the students.  FIESTAS features a framework for (a) providing underrepresented youth with exposure to higher education and SET careers and (b) engaging preservice teachers in culturally and linguistically diverse settings to better prepare them for teaching in a multicultural and multilingual context.  

Learning Outcomes

The young age of the participants, the wide variety of subject matter and activities, and the use of teamwork as a learning strategy led to a choice of outcome indicators that were mostly project-specific, as well as embedded into learning experiences. These factors are reflected below in 5-Year summary statements of primary achievements.

4-H Robotics Clubs. 277 youth (40% Latino) in the robotics beginners group, working in teams of three and guided by an adult, successfully built LEGO NXT Mindstorm robots and were able to perform five or more basic programming tasks. Acquired skills were documented using checksheets that youth could take home.  

4-H Advanced Robotics Teams.  194 youth (34% Latino) completed FLL challenge activities. Thirty teams (up to 10 youth per team) presented their robotic solutions at Regional FLL Tournaments hosted by the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum, where their efforts were evaluated by experienced FLL judges. Awards included two championships, five ACE Trophies for overall high scores, and three Core Value Awards for outstanding inspiration, teamwork, and professionalism.

4-H SET Clubs.  169 youth (56% Latino), role-playing as “scientists”, completed an average of 50 hours of experiential learning activities each year.  Highlights included youth (a) taking field trips to identify science and math in practice in nearby neighborhoods and working in teams to document their observations in short videos and (b) using “research questions” to investigate such activities as swinging and other playground activities from a physics point of view, logging their findings, and orally reporting the results in small group sessions.

Super Science Snackers.  124 youth (58% Latino) completed the 8-hour, 4-week summer program where they experienced learning activities creatively linking food production, food science, and nutrition as they learned to make healthy and affordable snacks.

Videography.  202 youth (49% Latino), in teams of two or three, learned to produce short videos with Flip cameras by scripting a theme, shooting appropriate images, and editing the results.

Share this