4-H STEM program receives grants to reach more students
CLEMSON — Numerous foundations and partners across the state have signed on to support South Carolina 4-H Science on the Move, a statewide Clemson University Cooperative Extension program that fosters young peoples’ interest in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
4-H Science on the Move works with schools, after-school programs and community organizations, traveling the state with educational materials and activities to teach students to build air-powered paper rockets, for example, or electrical circuits, among other activities. A Youth Science Team of trained high school students, as well as educators and volunteers, teach kindergarten through eighth-grade students how to perform the activities at events. Groups can rent hands-on kits, schedule programming or request 4-H Science on the Move exhibits at events.
Chester High School senior James Commodore said the program changed his life by exposing him to new career opportunities and professionals in the field who could offer advice. A four-year member of the 4-H Youth Science Team, Commodore just received his acceptance letter to attend Clemson University. He plans to study chemical engineering.
“Being on the Youth Science Team I have traveled all over the state, so I’ve been able to teach different students these skills also,” Commodore said. “If it wasn’t for 4-H, I wouldn’t be able to do any of that.”
Fellow Chester High senior Rae’L Jackson said the program changed her view of science.
“I hated science,” she said. “I actually love my science class now. I am just in love with class. They’re making it fun.”
Since it launched in 2013, 4-H Science on the Move has reached 30,000 South Carolina students. This year, it supports 17 4-H clubs and programs in 10 schools.
To help the program reach even more students, The Clarence H. and Anna Elizabeth Lutz Foundation committed $19,000 for the current school year, continuing a three-year partnership with 4-H Science on the Move. The J. Marion Sims Foundation committed $30,000 for the current school year, marking the second year the foundation has supported the program. The Lutz Foundation and the J. Marion Sims Foundation funding supports STEM programming in Chester and Lancaster counties through county 4-H programs.
“This year, the funding has allowed us to support STEM in six 4-H Clubs, three fifth-grade classrooms at Great Falls Elementary and Chester Middle School science classes preparing for the 2016 SC 4-H Engineering Challenge in April,” said 4-H Science on the Move coordinator Katie Rishebarger. “Nearly 200 students were able to participate in the 4-H National Youth Science Day Experiment from nine youth organizations in Chester County. This summer, we will be able to host five summer day camps for local students. The funding will also be used to send local high school 4-H Youth Science Team members to Clemson University for the 4-H Summer Science Retreat where they will experience Clemson through the eyes of a college student, meet professors, work in college labs and tour several STEM departments.”
4-H Science on the Move partners with organizations across the state, as well, including South Carolina’s Coalition for Math and Science, The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Upstate, United Way of Greenville County, the College of Charleston and others.
“These partnerships allow us to maximize resources across the state and target our programming for the specific needs of different audiences,” Rishebarger said.
Students at Kershaw Elementary School in Lancaster became so interested in STEM through 4-H Science on the Move they met with teachers and administrators to help spark the launch of STEM classrooms, said Branten Blair, afterschool program coordinator.
“Our students not only learned and participated in hands on science and technology activities but had tons of fun in the process,” he said.
South Carolina 4-H is the youth-development program of the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service. More than 84,000 young people in South Carolina participate in 4-H. Programs cover animal science, agriculture, science, engineering, natural resources, healthy living, leadership and much more.
Here is what some other partners had to say about 4-H Science on the Move:
“With the help of our 4-H partnership, our children have been able to grasp difficult concepts and apply them to everyday life,” said Shenae Robbs, Boys and Girls Club of the Upstate unit director at Luther Vaughan Elementary School in Cherokee.
“Science on the Move became an exercise in perseverance and character building. By emphasizing the fun of the process and even laughing at the designs that failed, the students forgot that they were hard-working scientists,” said Teresa Mattison, executive director of T-Motion Dance & Fitness, which operates an after-school program in Greenville County. “Our students learned to think differently and that many times fun activities can be the roots of new technology and innovative change. More importantly, for some science may not be their chosen field of interest, but lessons learned during this process can be applied to most fields of interest whether scientific or artistic.”
“Thanks to 4-H Science On the Move, students gained confidence in their innovative abilities and are excited about STEM,” said Kamilah Staggers, BOOST quality adviser, United Way of Greenville County.
“We could not be more pleased with the enthusiasm and interest generated for our library’s participants. The hands-on aspect of the activities provided allowed them to learn valuable STEM lessons while having fun. We are always looking for innovative and interesting ways to retain, as well as attract, children to our library programs in addition to providing programming that is educational and appealing to a wide variety of ages. Fortunately, Science on the Move ha proven to fulfill all these criteria.” Beth Harris, children’s coordinator at the Chester County Library.