K-12 summer education programs at Rutgers are in full swing this year on the George H. Cook Campus following years of disruption and uncertainty. Rutgers 4-H Youth Development has partnered with several academic departments to offer engaging and creative learning in-person experiences that support learning and development. In these programs, Rutgers faculty have worked together to prioritize social, emotional, and academic development to young people across New Jersey. Here are some highlights:
4-H STEM Ambassadors Program
Since 2009, the 4-H STEM Ambassadors program has engaged Rutgers scientists and engineers from all campuses each year to participate in mentorship and educational activities focused on supporting the development of STEM identity in underrepresented youth from Atlantic, Essex, Hudson, Mercer, Middlesex, Passaic, and Union Counties.
These youth then act as ambassadors in their communities, teaching and mentoring younger children at local YMCA and Boys and Girls Clubs, reaching thousands of youth over the course of the year. This summer, a record-breaking 38 scientists mentored 48 rising 8th and 9th graders from New Jersey’s urban centers such as Trenton, Newark, Passaic, New Brunswick, Union and Atlantic City.
4-H Partners with Millhill for STEM Explorers
STEM Explorers is an intensive summer program for middle school youth from Trenton – it is a partnership between 4-H and Millhill Child & Family Development. The program seeks to expose youth who might not otherwise have access in their community to the many fields within STEM. Students learn about STEM throughout the six-week program through experiments, visiting labs and sites, hearing from professionals and taking part in an innovation challenge. The mission of the program is to empower the youth who participate to see themselves in a STEM career and choose a STEM career path following their secondary education.
Vik Nanda, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology and the Center for Advanced Biotechnology & Medicine, and Yana Bromberg, professor in the Department of Biochemistry and Microbiology, worked with 4-H to support exciting on-campus visits, complete with hands-on learning and exploration for the STEM Explorer program participants. Youth were able to learn about the ENIGMA project.
There is growing evidence that suggests Out-of-School Time and summer learning programs can have a positive influence on young people. Educator-scientist partnerships, like the examples highlighed, facilitate three key learning objectives:
- STEM Interest: I like to do this.. helping youth be exposed to the myriad of opportunities
- STEM Skill Building: I can do this… a sense of agency, ability to think and act on opportunities
- STEM Pathways: This is important… helping youth forge a career in STEM, hopefully through an education at Rutgers University.
Rutgers 4-H Youth Development program is committed to continuing its efforts to implement and improve a model program for underserved youth that supports a pathway to STEM disciplines. The program also continues to build strong partnerships with K–12 schools in urban areas to connect STEM learning both in and out of school.