4-H seeks Volunteers for STEM Program

4-H'ers participating in the STEM program "Build An Amusement Park" overlook their creation - a 'roller coaster". Lessons on gravity were incorporated into the experience to provide hands-on learning. Image provided.

Chester County 4-H is looking for volunteers with backgrounds in fields such as engineering, science, and computer programming to help lead the charge in engaging local youth in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) education.

“We have our roots in agriculture and home economics with clubs such as our animal clubs, but the face of Agriculture is changing and so is 4-H,” said Toni Stuetz, Chester County’s Extension Educator/ 4-H Coordinator.

Part of that change takes shape in the form of a nation-wide effort to establish new STEM clubs. There are already more than 30 other types of 4-H clubs in Chester County, where volunteers provide fun, hands-on learning opportunities for youths, yet this new effort requires a new crop of volunteers who have backgrounds in professions related to STEM instruction.

A recent example of a STEM event was a “Build an Amusement Park” program where Chester County 4-H’ers used materials to build small-scale mock roller coasters and learned how fundamental science laws affect their park rides.

“Our nation has fallen behind other countries in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math,” said Donald T. Floyd, Jr., president and CEO of National 4-H Council. “However, we believe that the solution to this problem lies in engaging youth early and often in exciting, hands-on exploration of timely scientific subjects to demonstrate that STEM isn’t scary or intimidating, it’s approachable and interesting.”

STEM volunteers would work directly with youth on short term projects or in on-going clubs. Stuetz said that volunteers first undergo a background check, and then are trained by 4-H before being matched with programs and activities that suit their knowledge and ability. 4-H also offer free program materials for the programs.

There are different roles available for volunteers:

• Organizational Leaders – organize and direct 4-H clubs

• Project Leaders – teach 4-H’ers in specific project areas

• Activity Leaders – provide guidance with demonstrations, exhibition, recreation, etc.

• Teen Leaders – assist the leaders by helping the younger 4-H’ers with projects, activities, etc.

• Special Event Assistants

All volunteer options come with different levels of commitment, and volunteers will work with Stuetz to determine how to successfully deliver programs.

“Right now we are looking for people to help us get two robotics clubs started,” explained Stuetz, “Through these programs we can show how robotics can tie into a variety of applications (such as) replacing humans in hazardous environments, engineering sciences kids how robotics can assist people in tasks such as environmental cleanups and farming.

One upcoming Chester County 4-H STEM event is an “Introduction to Robotics” class, which will be held at the Romano 4-H Center in Honey Brook, 1841 Horseshoe Pike, on March 23 from 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. (register call 610-696-3500 or email mmm62@psu.edu). Participants will work together in small teams where, using Lego systems, they build, program, and ‘wrestle’ sumo robots.

To find out more about 4-H and volunteer opportunities please contact Toni Stuetz by email at TStuetz@psu.edu or by phone at 610-696-3500.

About 4-H

4-H is a non-formal educational youth development program of the Cooperative Extension System. It is the only youth organization based at land grant universities and often the first experience many young people have with higher education. Every state has a land grant university. Penn State is Pennsylvania’s land grant university. Penn State’s 4-H Youth Development Division of Cooperative Extension is responsible for planning, organizing and supervising 4-H work throughout Pennsylvania. County Cooperative Extension educators supervise 4-H in the individual counties.

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