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4-H program aims to grow next generation of ag scientists

Members of the Meeker County Ag Squad

(May 2016, Seattle Times) One team is developing GPS ear tags so cattle farmers can track herds from afar. Another thinks drones can protect livestock from predators. Yet another is developing a rechargeable portable warmer to prevent vaccines from freezing when dairy producers inoculate their herds in the winter.

These aren’t corporate or university researchers, but teenagers in Minnesota’s 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge, which aims to nurture the next generation of agricultural scientists for a country facing a critical shortage. A study last year by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Purdue University found that nearly 60,000 high-skilled agriculture-related jobs open up annually, but there are only about 35,000 college graduates available to fill them.

University of Minnesota Extension is developing the challenge, which is now in its second year and already attracting interest from other 4-H programs, such as Michigan’s. Extension specialist Josh Rice says his team will present a workshop for national 4-H officials in October, and recently gave a presentation to youth development officials in Bangladesh.

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Which is better, quality or quantity?

(February 2016, Albert Lea Tribune)  Which is more desirable, quality or quantity? The Minnesota 4-H program has been researching this issue. Research has shown that a child who has a poor experience in a poorly designed or delivered program has more harm on that child than if they did not participate at all. Knowing this, Minnesota 4-H has been training and designing programming around quality.

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U debuts Agricultural Career Day

Girl feeding calves

(February 2016, Minnesota Daily) A career in agriculture doesn’t necessarily require previous farm experience. To address qualified worker shortages, youth groups and the University of Minnesota are working to educate students about the wide swath of careers in the agriculture industry. About 120 middle and high school 4-H program students came to the University’s St. Paul campus last week for the inaugural Exploring Agricultural Career Day, part of a University push to teach youth about agricultural jobs. Visitors filled surveys, joined an expert panel discussion and toured the campus.

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Youth teaching youth

girl talking to another girl

(December 2015) 4-H brings together kids of different ages, letting children learn from teens they look up to, and teens grow through mentoring others. Park High School senior Alex Pendar knew she wanted to be a teacher. When she heard about a way she could see what teaching was really like, she and her friend Julia Deshler signed up for 4-H Youth Teaching Youth. In Extension 4-H, having older youth mentor the younger ones is an integral part of the program.

The 4-H Youth Teaching Youth program takes this practice up a notch by training high-school age 4-H'ers to teach elementary and middle school youth in Anoka, Dakota, Scott and Washington county classrooms. 4-H teen teachers learn a curriculum that helps younger kids learn to make better choices and provides hands-on leadership experiences for teens that can lead to future study and careers.

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Woodbury 4-H, making the best better

girl holding project and ribbon

(October 2015) Eighth grade Woodbury 4-H'er Manashree Padiyath writes about her 4-H experience: "Every month I feel the excitement as we all loudly recite the 4-H pledge at the beginning of our Woodbury 4-H club meeting."

"4-H has been a great learning experience for me and I have made so many friends and memories. Per the 4-H motto, ‘Make the best better’, now as the Club’s Vice-president, I hope to motivate and inspire others to join. 4-H offers many learning opportunities to continue to grow and develop the head, heart, hands, and health of youth!"

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Join 4-H! There's something for everyone!

(October 2015) Want to have fun, make friends and learn new things? Minnesota 4-H is for you! Fall is the time when 4-H'ers choose the projects they want to explore in the coming months. From science to citizenship, agriculture to the arts, there's something for everyone! Youth in kindergarten through one year past high school can participate in 4-H everywhere in Minnesota. Watch the video to hear 4-H'ers talk about some of the fun things they've done in 4-H.

CYFAR gets 2015 Dean's Distinguished Award for Diversity & Inclusion

CYFAR team holding plaques

(October 2015) The CYFAR (Children, Youth and Families at Risk) team knows that, in order to keep young teens on track, learning needs to engage them regardless of the circumstances in their lives. The team is igniting middle-school youth interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). 4-H STEM Clubs reach culturally diverse teens in Minneapolis and St. Paul who experience education barriers, helping them form skills and habits that lead to success. The team designed and implemented a summer residential campus immersion experience, the first of its kind to focus on the middle grades, which is the time that youth begin to consider college and take steps to make it a reality. The CYFAR team worked with partners, youth and their families to make the program relevant to young teens while stretching their views of themselves and college life.

Team members: Jennifer Skuza, Joanna Tzenis, Jessica Russo, Grace Gbolo, Mohamed Farah, Abdimalik Mohamed, Daud Mohamed, Ka Joog, Hui-Hui Wang, Tim Sheldon, Krista Gustafson, Anthony Walker and Barbara Kapala.

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