PHOTO: Students prepare videos during Cowley County’s 4-H Tech Wizards sessions developed by 4-H Youth Development agents.
Children may avoid science classes; however, Mad Science Monday, an afterschool program offered in Cowley County, attracted 60 first- through sixth-grade students ready to learn.
Kelsey Holcomb, K-State Research and Extension 4-H Youth Development agent in the county, planned the science-is-fun afterschool program.
Youth who fail to embrace science and technology have difficulties staying in school and limit their readiness for post-secondary education and employment, said Holcomb, who has reached out to more than 100 at-risk youth.
To increase understanding of science and technology among underserved and at-risk youth, Holcomb and Becky Reid, family and consumer sciences agent, worked with Gary Gerhard — professor of youth development and 4-H state liaison for science, engineering and technology — to develop a grant proposal.
Holcomb secured an $82,000 grant from the National 4-H Council (charged with granting juvenile justice funds to aid underserved audiences) that allowed Cowley County agents to introduce 4-H Tech Wizards curricula to youth at day camps, afterschool programs, and in small-group mentoring opportunities.
The 4-H Tech Wizards model program was developed by Oregon State University to introduce at-risk youth to emerging technologies, encourage technology proficiency, and school and community involvement, said Holcomb. She worked with area schools to identify fourth- to fifth-graders in Arkansas City, and fifth- and sixth-graders in Winfield.
Program announcements were provided to families, and students were invited to a free introductory day camp and nine-week afterschool program focusing on robotics, Web 2.0, photography, and videography.
Holcomb coordinated the educational effort in Winfield, and Reid managed the Arkansas City program.
“Technology sparked the interest,” said Holcomb, and she credited the content and a safe, caring learning environment with teen and adult mentors for holding students’ interest.
Ninety percent of the parents responded to the evaluation. One parent stated, “I am more impressed with this project than any other project she has participated in outside of regular school.”
Reid shared a few of the comments from the survey question that asked if the parents noticed improvement in their student’s desire to attend school:
“He looks forward to school, especially on Mondays.”
“Loves the program, disappointed the day it was cancelled. Not a problem getting her out of bed on Mondays.”
“Yes, he has fun learning and spending more time with friends.”
“Yes, she doesn’t want to miss it.”
“He loves school, but really loves Tech Wizard nights.”
Students were enthusiastic about bringing family members to show-and-tell sessions, which provided opportunities for Holcomb and Reid to discuss important topics, such as food, nutrition, health, youth development, and community involvement.
Despite time and money constraints, Holcomb and Reid plan to continue 4-H Tech Wizards. They also are exploring funding opportunities to help area youth maintain their connection with emerging technologies and position them for success in school, work, and life in their community.
For More Information:
Gary Gerhard, 785-532-5800, firstname.lastname@example.org
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