15th annual youth-led initiative provides hands-on learning opportunities during 4-H STEM Month and throughout the year
October is 4-H STEM Month. Rutgers Cooperative Extension has teamed up with Cooperative Extension at Cornell University in New York to bring educators from across two states to the New York Aquarium for an immersive full-day professional development experience. They will be introduced to the 4-H Stem Challenge Explorers of the Deep through a hands-on activity demonstration of the Ocean Explorers Augmented Reality (AR) board game and Ocean Communicator activity.
This is an opportunity for educators to not only learn how to use the kit in their communities, but a chance to apply the Ocean concepts to real world applications in content and displays experienced throughout the aquarium.
Following the training, educators here in New Jersey, and from across the country will roll out the 4-H STEM Challenge to their students. Youth will apply their knowledge, creativity, and innovation to learn about science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) topics through this year’s theme, which focuses on ocean exploration, marine science, and the impact of climate change on our oceans.
A recent survey commissioned by National 4-H Council showed that 84 percent of teens would like to be involved with shaping the future of our environment. Ocean exploration and research help scientists, policy makers, communities, and individuals prepare for and adapt to changing ocean conditions, many of which are resulting from climate change – making this a perfect theme to teach youth how they can get involved, no matter where they live.
Developed in partnership with New Jersey Cooperative Extension and the Department of Marine & Coastal Sciences at Rutgers University, Explorers of the Deep is a collection of three unique, hands-on activities that help youth develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and communications skills across a broad range of topics including ocean science, data interpretation, physics, and aquaculture.
The Explorers of the Deep kit activities include:
- An Ocean Robot Test Tank where youth investigate data collected by ocean robots and learn about the value of ocean exploration.
- An Ocean Expedition board game where players navigate their ocean robot around the world while learning key ocean concepts.
- An Ocean Communicator trivia card set for young minds to investigate challenges that ocean scientists, engineers, and technologists are currently exploring.
The kit is designed to help youth develop observational and critical thinking skills while exploring the interconnections between the ocean and humans, regardless of where they live. The activities are based on the long-standing Ocean Literacy Principles and Fundamental Concepts, developed by ocean scientists and K–12 educators in 2005.
“We’re thrilled to focus this year’s STEM Challenge on research associated with the Center for Ocean Observing Leadership (COOL) at Rutgers University including the innovative ocean robot technology developed by Teledyne to remotely study the global ocean,” said Janice McDonnell STEM agent, in the Department of 4-H Youth Development. “The data the ocean robots collect is invaluable in helping us understand ocean circulation, the effects of a changing climate, and how to mitigate the impacts. We hope that young people across the country will have fun, learn, and ultimately communicate, share, and take action to shape a positive future for our planet.”
Created in 2008, the annual STEM Challenge uses 4-H’s hallmark “Teens as Teachers” model, where youth learn the skills to teach younger children, expanding the program’s reach to approximately 350,000 young people each year. STEM Challenge introduces STEM concepts related to real-world issues in a fun and accessible way, empowering young people to tackle the same types of scientific and engineering problems that today’s top STEM professionals are working to solve. 4-H STEM Challenge kits are used throughout the year in 4‑H clubs, classrooms, camps, and after-school settings nationwide to inspire kids everywhere to take an interest in STEM topics through hands-on learning.
“For 15 years, 4-H has engaged young people in science and engineering education through our 4-H STEM Challenge initiative, because we know that creating interest in STEM at an early age is critical in setting youth up for future success, both academically and professionally,” said Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4-H Council. “As we celebrate STEM Month in October, this year’s challenge will help young people learn about the Earth’s oceans and how they connect with our climate. We are proud to provide youth with essential STEM skills and excited to open them up to a new world of possibilities with this year’s theme of ocean exploration.”
The 2022 4‑H STEM Challenge is supported by national partners—Bayer, Corteva, and Nickelodeon.
For information about how to get involved, visit https://4-h.org/parents/4-h-stem-challenge/.
4-H, the nation’s largest youth development organization, grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for careers tomorrow. 4-H programs empower nearly six million young people across the U.S. through experiences that develop critical life skills. 4-H is the youth development program of our nation’s Cooperative Extension System and USDA and serves every county and parish in the U.S. through a network of 110 public universities and more than 3000 local Extension offices. Globally, 4-H collaborates with independent programs to empower one million youth in 50 countries. The research-backed 4-H experience grows young people who are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs. Learn more about 4‑H at 4-H.org and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.