4-H water projects are making a splash in Ohio, around nation

OSU, CFAES, 4-H, AG Innovators Experience

Ohio 4-H is leading efforts to help youths gain a deeper understanding of one of the most vital 21st century concerns: assuring access to fresh, clean water.

Water is rising in prominence in Ohio 4-H youth development activities.

In the Water Windmill Challenge, teams create mock-ups of wind-operated water supply systems.

“There are many possibilities of how to meet the challenge,” said creator Bob Horton, Ohio 4-H specialist. “If their structure fails, students quickly want to reinvent it. They don’t realize it, but this activity introduces them to engineering.”

 In Ways of Knowing Water, a project idea starter for individual 4-H members, activities help youths sharpen awareness about their local watershed and where their household water originates.
Meera Nadathur, 15, of Hamilton County, took the Ways of Knowing Water project and plans to study environmental sciences in college
“With 4-H, you get to actually experience what you’re learning
about,” she said. “You don’t just learn by reading about it. It really enhances the whole experience.”

In a new idea starter, Field to Faucet: Nutrients, Sediment and Water Quality, activities focus on preventing harmful algal blooms. Co-author and 4-H educator Jackie Krieger said, “For many around the world who have little access to fresh, clean water, we owe our best science and dedicated action to understanding this basic human need. Who knows what spark might be ignited in the minds of 4-H members by these activities?”


OSU Extension’s 4-H STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education program is making a mark regionally and nationally by developing projects including:

  • The Water Windmill Challenge. In 2015, nearly 10,000 youths in Ohio, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Missouri and Wisconsin participated in this challenge as part of the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, sponsored by the National 4-H Council and Monsanto.
  • The Fish Farm Challenge, which was named as the 2014 4-H Ag Innovators Experience. More than 8,000 youths engineered a system to evenly dispense soy-based fish food pellets in an aquaculture tank.
  • The 4-H National Youth Science Experiment, the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. Ohio 4-H created the activities used in this program in 2008 and 2012.

More: go.osu.edu/oh4hsci

‘I want to be a scientist,’ thanks to 4-H Agri-science in the City

Not a teacher. Not a fireman.

When he grows up, 8-year-old Jamir Green wants to be a scientist.

“It seems fun,” he said. “You can make chemicals and medicines.”

As a second-grader at George Washington Carver STEM Elementary School on Cleveland’s East Side, Green was inspired by Rob Isner, who has led the school’s 4-H Agri-science in the City program since it began in 2014.

In Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine neighborhood, Tony Staubach offers the same program at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy.

As 4-H staff members, Isner and Staubach integrate food- and farm-related science activities during school, in after-school programs, in 4-H clubs and at summer day camps.

Thanks to a new 4-H program, many students at George Washington Carver STEM Elementary School in Cleveland now say science is their favorite subject.

Thanks to a new 4-H program, many students at George Washington Carver STEM Elementary School in Cleveland now say science is their favorite subject.

“When I started the program, most students said science was their least favorite subject,” Isner said. “Now, more than half say it is their favorite. They only have the agri-science program once a week, but we’re having an impact.”

Annette DiGirolamo, a recently retired second-grade teacher at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy, said the program is “invaluable.”
“The students have watched chicks hatch, explored the properties of air, and conducted experiments with force and motion, sound and vibration,” she said. “The scientific process is continually reinforced, fostering skills of observation, critical thinking, accurate data collection and cooperation.”
Agri-science in the City programs provided by Ohio 4-H focus on students in kindergarten through sixth grade.
  • In Cincinnati, nearly 500 students participated from March 2014 through May 2015, when students who say they believe it is possible to farm in the city increased from 54 percent to 74 percent, and students indicating they want to work in food or farming increased from 15 percent to 31 percent.
  • In Cleveland, nearly 600 students participated during the 2014–15 school year. At the end of the year, 83 percent gave the program an “A;” 67 percent said they wanted to learn more about agriculture the next year; and 42 percent said it was “very likely” they would attend a career tech program in agri-science in high school.

Collegiate 4-H Group Puts ‘Heart’ in 4-H

IMG_4901COLUMBUS, Ohio — The heart of 4-H is loyalty. Literally.

In the second line of the 4-H Pledge, members vow to pledge “My Heart to greater loyalty.” And as Valentine’s Day approaches, Danielle Coleman, president of Collegiate 4-H at The Ohio State University, reflected on what that means to her.

“I joined in third grade, when someone from 4-H came to our school and talked about it,” Coleman said. “I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. My mom was in 4-H when she was growing up, and so were a bunch of other family members, so I got involved and was a member for 10 years.”

Coleman, a senior majoring in animal science in Ohio State’s College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences (CFAES), grew up near Tiffin in rural Seneca County. Although her uncles are in agriculture, her immediate family isn’t.

“I wanted to take a cow project, but my parents wouldn’t let me because we didn’t have a farm. So, I settled on rabbits and really developed a love for them. I showed rabbits all 10 years I was in 4-H.”

Coleman also attended 4-H camp, became a camp counselor, and participated in junior fair board and other leadership activities.

“I’ve always loved 4-H and the sense of community that it creates,” Coleman said. “You get to know a bunch of people who have similar interests. Coming down here to Ohio State, I knew I wanted to stay involved somehow.”

Ohio 4-H is the youth development program of Ohio State University Extension, the outreach arm of CFAES. In 2014, more than 216,000 young Ohioans participated in traditional 4-H clubs, camps and school enrichment programs, and in other Extension youth groups and educational activities.

At the collegiate level, 4-H focuses on service and outreach, said Coleman.

Ohio State’s group sponsors “Carving New Ideas,” a team-building camp for younger 4-H leaders, and hosts “Plowboy Prom,” a square dance after the annual Ohio 4-H leadership conference in Columbus each year. The collegiate members, numbering about three dozen, have also been involved in Habitat for Humanity, 4-H counselor training, and the university’s BuckeyeThon, a dance marathon that raises funds for the Children’s Miracle Network and Nationwide Children’s Hospital.

Coleman says the values that 4-H promotes, starting with its motto “To make the best better,” inspires loyalty that often lasts far beyond the final day of 4-H camp.

“Four-H offers so many opportunities with projects to get involved in. It’s a lot of fun. You develop leadership skills, life skills, responsibility, and it instills good values. And it’s a great way to meet new people — you create some lifelong friends.”

For more about Ohio 4-H, see ohio4h.org.

‘It blows their minds’: Challenges inspire youth to seek STEM careers

The Ohio State University is a partner of Global Impact STEM Academy, which offers hands-on learning in agbioscience fields, including food science, environmental sustainability, and biobased energy and products.

The Ohio State University is a partner of Global Impact STEM Academy, which offers hands-on learning in agbioscience fields, including food science, environmental sustainability, and biobased energy and products.

In 2012, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology predicted that over the next decade, U.S. industries will need one million more STEM graduates than the nation will have.

In 2013, Ohio State University Extension created the STEM Pathways signature program to spark enthusiasm in young people about science, technology, engineering and math. “STEM isn’t dry and boring. It’s fun, it’s exciting,” said Patty House, 4-H youth development educator and program leader. “You can use it to help solve real-world problems.” In its first year, STEM Pathways developed a dozen 30- to 60-minute challenges and attracted an estimated 8,500 participants across Ohio. Challenges were piloted at the Global Impact STEM Academy in Springfield, where director Josh Jennings is a huge proponent. “There’s no real prescribed step-by-step procedure they follow, because that’s the important thing: The students have to solve the problem on their own,” Jennings said. “When something happens they don’t expect, it kind of blows their minds.”


STEM Pathways Challenge topics include diabetes, ergonomics, animal behavior, chemical spills, mining and bioproducts. One, the Fish Farm Challenge, was selected by the National 4-H Council and Monsanto to be the 2014 4-H Ag Innovators Experience for eight midwestern states. Leaders estimate 10,000 youth will participate in the challenge, designed to explore how to boost food production through aquaculture.

Here are some other 4-H initiatives:

  • Nearly 5,000 children and teens in Cleveland learn a lifelong appreciation of nature and understanding of natural resources through Youth Outdoors, a unique collaboration between Ohio 4-H, the City of Cleveland Division of Recreation, and Cleveland Metroparks: go.osu.edu/youthoutdoors.
  • Two urban schools, one each in Cleveland and in Cincinnati, host “4-H Agri-science in the City,” which provides hands-on classroom instruction as a complement to regular coursework, as well as afterschool and summer programs: go.osu.edu/cityagriscience.

“The whole idea of STEM is not just taking a rigorous engineering or mathematics course,” Jennings said. “STEM is a whole different process of looking at things. You present students with a problem, and they use their creativity and critical thinking skills to figure it out.”

More: ohio4h.org/STEM-Pathways