For many years, Rutgers Cooperative Extension of Mercer County has delivered numerous summer camp programs for youth throughout the Trenton area. When the pandemic hit, and the 4-H staff was unable to provide in-person summer programming, Mercer County 4-H had to creatively design new offerings to reach these underserved youth. Through partnerships with Mercer County SNAP-Ed, Mercer Street Friends, and the Center for Child and Family Achievement (CCFA), the team created a program called “Find Out Fridays.”
For six weeks, from July to August, 100 families in Trenton received free 4-H activity kits focused on STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math). The kits were distributed each Friday at Gregory School in Trenton as families came to pick up summer meal bags provided by Mercer Street Friends. With great anticipation, children looked forward to learning about and completing each week’s new project.
Two service interns with CCFA helped distribute the 4-H activity kits each week along with other community volunteers. One of them, Niegel Lightner, is a 12th grade student at Ewing High School and has been involved with 4-H as a STEM Ambassador for the past four years. Niegel stated, “students wanted to know more about how to participate in 4-H. It was great to see some parents and the kids come back the next week and request kits.” One parent commented, “my kids ask me each time about these kits – they are having fun; it gives them something to do!” Niegel said that he was very excited to have a chance to help with this community project and that it was a great learning experience for him as well.
Each week’s activity used basic materials to illustrate one simple science concept. They were put together with the 4-H slogan in mind, Learn by Doing. Each activity was for families with children in grades K-6 and was designed for the family to complete and discuss together. The participants were encouraged to share photos of their finished projects to showcase their efforts and summer learning.
Sharon Gore, 4-H Program Associate who delivered each week’s kits to the summer meals site, summarized the effort, “The pandemic may have changed our delivery modes, but it has also strengthened our community partnerships and our commitment to Making the Best Better.”
4-H appreciates the help of Mercer County’s SNAP-Ed program, which was instrumental in connecting us with Mercer Street Friends and the Center for Child and Family Achievement.