By Travis West, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Vinton County
This month we’ve highlighted dozens of science challenges, teaching resources, and science projects, events, and learning opportunities to connect your hobbies, interests, and curiosities to hands-on activities or to a citizen science project!
Citizen Science is engaging adults and children in advancing science, technology, and innovation on the local, state, and national levels. According to scistarter.org, there are four common features to a citizen science opportunity, they’re:
Open to everyone that has an interest
Use a standard process and protocol for collect data so data sets can be easily compiled
Data helps real scientists develop real conclusions
Scientists and volunteers are working together to share data with the public
Citizen science experiences are flexible, some take a few minutes, some a couple of months, others longer, so find the right science opportunity that fits your schedule. The fields that citizen science advances are diverse as well, such as ecology, astronomy, medicine, computer science, statistics, psychology, genetics, engineering, and many more.
Citizen science (also known as community science, crowd science, crowd-sourced science, civic science, or volunteer monitoring) is scientific research conducted, in whole or in part, by amateur scientists. Citizen science is sometimes described as “public participation in scientific research,” participatory monitoring, and participatory action research whose outcomes are often advancements in scientific research by improving the scientific community capacity, as well as increasing the public’s understanding of science.
TAKE ACTION TODAY: Explore the “ISeeChange” project in SciStarter.com to see how 5 minutes a week can help document our changing climate here on Earth.
By: Demetria Woods, OSU Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Miami County
Although the creepy crawly critters benefit our world in many ways, insects often get a bad reputation because people are afraid of them. How do we help dispel those fears and create future insect ambassadors? One way is by educating people about the beneficial characteristics of insects at a young age by planning family fun buggy activities.
Insects Aid People and Our Environment
Did you know insects help pollinate most flowering plants and crops? They clean up waste products such as dead animals, plants, and dung. Some insects serve as pest control by eating pests that devour crops. They also serve as food for many animals and some people (Source: Benefits of Insects). Scroll through this selection of bug-friendly books.
Learn About Insects in Your Area
There are more than 925,000 different identified insect species. Check out insectidentification.org to find out more about bugs in your state.
Discuss Bug Safety
Sometimes we must be careful around stinging insects like wasps, bees, or yellow jackets. Screaming and flailing arms may cause them to go into defense mode and strikeout. Exemplify bug positivity. Most are harmless. Remind children to remain calm or observe from a distance.
Do a Backyard Bug Count
Gather paper, a pencil, and a clipboard. Go to your backyard or a park. Write down the insects you expect to find. Leave a few spaces blank for insects that you may encounter that you did not discuss. Place a mark beside the name of each insect you find. With this activity, you will observe and count – not pick up any insects. How many did you find?
Make a Nature Bug
Gather natural items from your backyard or a park such as leaves, twigs, pinecones, flowers, acorns, and seed pods. You will also need cardboard pieces, tacky glue, and a marker. Layout natural materials on the cardboard in the shape of an insect. Glue the nature bug onto a piece of cardboard. Write the name of your insect on the cardboard.
Visit a Zoo, Museum, or Nature Center with a Live Bug Exhibit
Observe these fascinating creatures up close. Learn more about their unique qualities in an educational environment. The Ohio State University’s Department of Entomology has two locations for the Bug Zoo. One is located on the Columbus Campus and the other is on the Wooster campus.
New bug zoom on the Wooster Campus
Design a Bug Bingo Game
Repurpose old bingo cards by placing insect stickers over the numbers, using cardstock, designing new cards, and drawing your favorite insects in the squares. Write down the name of each insect featured on the cards on small pieces of paper. Place the papers in a bowl for the caller to choose them at random. For a more challenging twist, instead of names, write down fun facts about each insect for the caller to use. Participants must call out the name of the insect before covering the bingo square.
Remember, “Insects are a great way to teach children about science and respect for the natural world” (Source: Six-Legged Creatures Make Great Teachers! 8 Ideas for Buggy Fun). Have fun as a family raising the next generation of insect ambassadors.
TAKE ACTION TODAY: Raise awareness and appreciation of insects by telling others of the innumerable ways insects benefit the world.
As a child, I remember going to “feed the birds,” with my Grandma. She would drive to a parking lot and throw out breadcrumbs and what seemed like hundreds of birds would come flocking around us. To this day, I still have a fear of birds. However, I think her real intent was to immerse us in nature and help us gain an appreciation for being in the moment, doing nothing but watching the birds. At the time, I did not understand the benefits of “feeding the birds.” While I do not recommend my Grandma’s particular method, several studies have shown that feeding our backyard birds can improve our mental health.
According to a study conducted by Cox and Gaston (2016), “the act of maintaining and watching a bird feeder increased self-reported feeling of relaxation, so contributing towards reduced levels of stress.” Stress reduction is not the only benefit of bird watching; it is a great way to recover after virtual meetings or school as it provides an opportunity for quiet reflection and can create a sense of belonging and connectedness to nature. For many birders, bird watching becomes a life-long hobby and even leads to new hobbies such as photography.
Participate in Ohio 4-H Spring into STEM: Maker Monday by creating your own Upcycled Backyard Perch Birdfeeder (lesson.) Then, sit quietly admiring your work, watching the birds, and observing the sights and sounds around you. Here is an observation sheet if you want to document the birds that visit your feeder. Hopefully, this activity will leave you feeling calmer and refreshed.
If you want to learn more about birds, youth can enroll in their local 4-H program and take the Ohio Birds project. The project book is currently available free of charge as part of our effort to keeps kids engaged while staying at home. You can check with your local park district for bird-watching programs and opportunities.
TAKE ACTION TODAY: Contribute to sharing your observations with eBrid or Project FeederWater, citizen science projects designed to help scientists with the understanding and conservation of birds.
The official Ohio checklist stands at 443 species and a species pair as of March 2021. The checklist follows the nomenclature and taxonomic sequence of the American Ornithologists’ Union Check-List of North and Middle American Birds through the Sixty-first Supplement (July 2020).
Did you know the Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center at the Ohio State University is home to the United States Polar Rock Repository, a massive collection of rock samples from Antarctica, Australia, South America and Africa? Teachers can borrow a rock box with samples, fossils, magnifiers and all the supplies needed to examine the samples. The Byrd Center also has an online video gallery and downloadable activities and lessons about climate and the polar region. Find out more at https://byrd.osu.edu/about
Learn more about the rare ice core samples and the challenges faced by the Byrd Polar Center in preserving this important collection.
Ohio State scientists seek funds to preserve rare ice core collection
Ice core samples secured from remote tropical glaciers
By: Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator, Community Development & STEM, Pickaway County
Are you interested in learning more about STEM careers in business? Take advantage of this free virtual networking opportunity with Pickaway County businesswomen leaders and explore local career pathways with a live Q&A session. Build connections for your future! Register now for the live panel discussion with local businesswomen leaders working in Pickaway County, Sept. 22, 2020, @ 10 AM. #NationalBusinessWomensDay
Program image created by Meghan Thoreau in Adobe Spark.
Registration required: go.osu.edu/businesswomen. After you register, a unique Zoom Webinar link will be emailed to you, please do not share this meeting link as it will affect your ability to participate in this virtual event.
Our Businesswomen Panelists Include
STACEY SARK is Co-owner and VP of Operations of Mid-Ohio Water Management, LLC, a family-owned excavation and drainage company that she manages with her husband Ryan. As vice president of operations, she works in the field as well as manages the office and finances. Prior to that, Stacey worked at P3 (Pickaway Progress Partnership), our county’s economic development agency for over 7 years and continues to work with them as a consultant maintaining their financials. Stacey earned a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business from Wilmington College. She serves on the Pickaway County Planning Commission, is the chair for Pickaway County Community Foundation’s PCN Agriculture Committee, serves on the advisory board of Pickaway WORKS, and is a member of the Teays Valley Golden Sound band boosters. She also works with her daughter Delaney, raising and selling 4-H show steers. Stacey is a long-time resident of Pickaway County and a Westfall High School graduate. She and her husband Ryan have three children and live on their farm in Scioto Township. For more information contact Stacey, firstname.lastname@example.org.
BETHANY REID is the Vice President of Administration & Marketing for Health Care Logistics, Inc. Health Care Logistics (HCL) is a 40+ year family owned and operated business with world headquarters tucked under the famous Pumpkin Tower in Circleville. HCL specializes in distributing over 8,000 unique and hard to find medical supply items as well as limitless innovation solutions and manufacturing processes centered around the healthcare industry. Bethany is very involved in Pickaway County and serves on a multitude of committees and boards such as Trinity Lutheran Preschool, P3, and the Pickaway Ag & Event Center Leadership Team. She is also an extremely passionate 4H advisor for an 83 member 4-H club, and the Washington Hill Climbers. Bethany is a 1994 graduate of Logan Elm High School and a 1998 graduate of Capital University. She currently holds an inactive CPA license in addition to her bachelor’s degree in accounting. Bethany is married to her high school sweetheart, Brian Reid, and have four beautiful children: Brittany, BJ, Blayton, and Bailey. She and her family reside on a small 5-acre farm southeast of Circleville, with a variety of animals and enjoy camping, shooting sports, traveling, and renovating their 159-year-old farmhouse. For more information contact Bethany, email@example.com.
HEIDI WHITE has been employed by Kingston National Bank since 1998 in a variety of positions and currently serving as Vice President and Branch and Sales Manager of the newest branch in Circleville. Heidi grew up in Ross County and has been a resident of the Logan Elm School district since 2001. Heidi is a graduate of Zane Trace High School and has a Bachelor of Science in Human & Consumer Sciences from Ohio University. In the community, Heidi is a member of the Circleville Noon Rotary, a 2018 Pickaway Fellow, serves on the Pickaway County YMCA Advisory Board and the PCN Leadership for Tomorrow committee. She is also serving her first term as a member of the Logan Elm Board of Education. For more information contact Heidi, firstname.lastname@example.org.
JESSICA MULLINS is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of The Savings Bank in Circleville. She oversees the deposit operations of all branches, facilitates vendor relations, and manages operational reporting, conversions, and risk management. Jessica is a graduate of The Ohio State University achieving a B.S. degree in Business Administration with majors in Finance and Marketing. She has worked for The Savings Bank for 17 years and previously worked for Bank One (Chase) as a financial analyst. Jessica also serves the community by residing on various boards and being involved in community events. She currently serves on the Pickaway County Community Foundation Board, the Brooks Yates Housing Opportunities Board, Circleville Noon Rotary, and is a 4-H advisor for the Westfall Livestock 4-H Club. She is a graduate of the Pickaway Fellows program. She has previously served as board president for the Pickaway County Board of Developmental Disabilities, a board member for the Pickaway County Chamber, board member of Wayne Township Zoning Board, and others. Jessica resides in Circleville with her two children who attend Circleville High School and Middle School. For more information contact Jessica, email@example.com.
KATIE LOGAN HEDGES is the Director of Operations for a family-owned business, FORJAK Industrial, a commercial media blasting and coating facility. She graduated from Otterbein University in 2008 with a degree in Public Relations. Katie is responsible for all operations relating to 75 employees and over $14M in yearly revenue. She also consults for a conglomerate of not-for-profit public charter schools where she has worked since 2008. Currently, Katie served in many leadership roles, e.g. chairwomen of the Pickaway Metropolitan Housing Authority, chair of the Leadership for Tomorrow fund for the Pickaway County Fellows, secretary of the Pickaway County Welcome Center & Visitors Bureau, Circleville City Councilperson, Board Member of Circleville City School Foundation, member of Pickaway County 100+ Women Who Care, member of the Pickaway County Homeless Coalition, lector at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and member of the Strategic Planning Committee for the Pickaway County Community Foundation. In her free time, Katie enjoys traveling abroad, reading, and writing a book. Leadership and a deep-rooted sense of community have been instilled in Katie since she was a young girl. She believes it’s the responsibility of every citizen to play a role in the community in which they live – whether that’s giving of their time, treasure, or talents. For more information contact Katie, firstname.lastname@example.org.
JOY EWING is the Director of Pickaway County Job and Family Services. She is a graduate of Allen East High School, near Lima, Ohio. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Work from Wilmington College and her Master’s in Public Administration from Walden University. Joy has worked at Pickaway County Job and Family Services for 25 years. She has been in several departments and positions during her time at the Agency. Joy started in Customer Service, then moved to various Caseworker positions. She joined the management team as an Administrator in 2006. In 2011, Joy was appointed as the Director of the Agency. Joy has served on several Boards and Community organizations. Currently, she is a member of Circleville Noon Rotary. Joy is a Board member for Pickaway County Community Foundation, Pickaway County Chamber of Commerce, and Pickaway County Family Children First Council. For more information contact Joy, email@example.com.
American Business Women’s Day is an American holiday, nationally recognized on September 22. The day of celebration marks the 1949 founding date of the American Business Women’s Association, the mission of which is, “to bring together businesswomen of diverse occupations and to provide opportunities for them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership; education, networking support and national recognition.”
This holiday was recognized in 1983 and 1986 by Congressional resolution and a proclamation issued by President Ronald Reagan. It commemorates the important legacy and contributions of the more than 68 million American working women and 7.7 million women business owners. Moreover, it provides an opportunity for ABWA chapters and individual businesswomen to celebrate their accomplishments within the American and global marketplace.
By: Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator in Community Development programmatic focus on STEM Education and Career Exploration.
Program photos showing youth grouped into workstations listening to Educator’s lesson overview. Photographed by Trent Roberts.
Teaming up with K-12 educators is essential to keeping Extension programs dynamic and relevant to what students are currently learning and accessing in their school districts. Partnering with local schools also gives my programs the advantage of utilizing new school-owned technologies.
For example, this past year I partnered with Trent Roberts, Media Specialist in the Circleville City Schools District. I utilized the district’s Little Bits classroom kit to teach in their Extra Mile program to a group of 6th graders and a group of 7th-8th graders. The four-day electronics series spanned over a month and engaged the students in the engineering design process and prototyping.
Program Video Highlight
Circleville Middle School’s Extra Mile Program: littleBits series program highlight video, produced by Meghan Thoreau in iMovies.
Four Day Lesson Plan
LittleBits has easily accessible lesson plans, educator guides, activities, troubleshooting tips, and customizable handouts for different grades, subjects, and learning pathways. I developed my program by researching and filtering their online resources and videos, then customizing the materials to fit my programming needs. Three of the four days included custom presentations that walked students through the basics of electronics, differentiating modular Bits, connecting the challenges to real-world applications, building terminology, and highlighting each day’s challenges.
Day 1: Little Bits overview (60+ minutes)
Focused on the following topics: What are Little Bits? How do they work? How Little Bits connect to real-world applications? What is the design thinking/engineering design process? Students into small groups offering them two-challenge options: 1) Invent an Art Machine and 2) Invent Electric Car. Allowed students time to remix their prototypes.
Teaching Presentation of littleBits Day 1, created by Meghan Thoreau in Prezi.
STEM education is supposed to mirror the problem-solving mindset required in the real world. Real problems are solved with a multidisciplinary approach, rather than applying one subject at a time. LittleBit electronics provide the perfect overlay tools to teach simultaneous subjects such as biology, math, physics, electronics, music, art, and more through prototyping solutions. For example, day-two lessons used electronics to prototype and simulate biology and environmental concepts. (Several add-on components were customized ahead of time for the students due to time constraints, such as already cut and laminated animals’ parts for easy assembly, dismantle, and reuse for back-to-back programming.)
Day 2: Little Bits Reactive Organisms Challenge (60+ minutes)
Focused on the following topics: creature connections, animal senses, and animal food web. All of the design challenges incorporate the design thinking process. Students again divided into small groups, offering three-challenge options: reactive organisms’ challenges. Students had time to remixing prototype designs.
Middle school students work through a reactive organism design challenge. Photographed by Meghan Thoreau.
Teaching Presentation of littleBits Day 2, created by Meghan Thoreau in Prezi.
Day 3: Security Device Challenge (60+ minutes)
Focused on alarm system designs using the design thinking process. Students divided into small groups, offering three-challenge options: invent a security device with time allowed for students to remix their prototypes.
The student is working through an alarm system design challenge using littleBits electronics. Photographed by Meghan Thoreau.
Teaching Presentation of littleBits Day 3, created by Meghan Thoreau in Prezi.
Day 4: Final Challenge (60+ minutes)
Focused on the following topics: break into small groups, three-challenge option: 1) Create something useful for your classroom, 2) Invent something for good, or 3) Create a moving piece of art. Students had to try to remix their prototype designs.
The student shows off his bike design solution with turn signal and horn solutions, joined by Trent Roberts, Media Specialist of Circleville City Schools. Photographed by Meghan Thoreau.
The benefits of incorporating littleBits technology into your programs and classrooms are substantial and multiskilled, honing and strengthening collaboration, creativity, and the application of higher-order thinking skills. Students become problem-solvers, designers, engineers, editors, and team players in working on a design project. The adaptability and instruction of this technology can be modified to accommodate a variety of age groups and skill levels. LittleBits can easily challenge older students as well. Students gain self-management skills as they break down tasks to accomplish a larger task, solving a larger problem. LittleBits allows students to cultivate skills that will serve them well in today’s workforce. Merging the learning with littleBits with the core curriculum is another value-added benefit.
“I Broke Science, Foil on Foil!”
Please enjoy the short snippet of a young STEMist that just broke science! For more information contact Meghan Thoreau, firstname.lastname@example.org.
A student explains how he broke science in a short clip from littleBit program. Recorded by Trent Roberts.
By: Trevor Tom, an OSU Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, in Muskingum County
Taking career exploration to a new level and bringing the professionals to your desk, Muskingum County Extension Educators, Trevor Tom, and Jamie McConnell have developed a new program that allows students to experience up-and-coming careers and investigate workplace technology without leaving the classroom. Teachers registering for this innovative program can connect live with local career professionals giving students from kindergarten to high school the advantage of learning directly from those who are working in the selected career fields.
Throughout the trip, students can learn about the education and training needed to enter the career field as well as hear firsthand advice for preparing for a successful career. Students have seen firefighters lifted on a ladder truck, a cat undergo a bladder ultrasound and explored the various equipment used on physical therapy patients. Dr. Rachel Elliot Hodge, Animal Clinic at Cambridge, explained to students that the number of veterinarian schools in the United States is limited, and she shared the importance of maintaining relationships with peers during her collegiate experience.
Trips are offered using Zoom giving students the chance to speak directly with career professionals. Video is shot using an iPhone making the production of the trips easier for the extension professionals. The virtual trips are recorded and can be found on the Ohio State University Extension- Muskingum County website.
This innovative career exploration program opens the door for new experiences for youth of all ages, and it fills the gaps in career exploration for the local school systems. With schools moving to virtual platforms or blended learning environments due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this is an exciting time to offer such a fitting program. There are many virtual STEM learning opportunities available that can provide incredible learning experiences for youth such as Discovery Education or the Ohio Beef Council. For more information on virtual field trips through Ohio State University Extension- Muskingum County contact, Trevor Tom at 740-454-0144 or email at email@example.com.
Peer-Reviewed by: Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator in Community Development programmatic focus in STEM Education and Career Exploration.
The world’s population is expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 and that’s 2 billion more people than we currently have to feed. Reducing harvest loss is one way to address the problem. Harvesters will need to operate efficiently at higher speeds, with customizable and durable attachments for site-specific operations.
Here is the challenge: engineer a device that harvests the most grain in the least time for your site-specific operation.
Or, what about…
A friend of yours has diabetes, which means their blood contains abnormal levels of glucose, a simple sugar. If they experience low blood sugar, they need to eat or drink something with a high level of glucose immediately, so they do not pass-out.
The challenge: help your friend identify items they should consume containing the highest level of glucose.
Where do you begin?
Ohio 4-H discovered a gap in providing youth applicable experiences to connect science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) concepts to related careers. In order to bridge the gap, 4-H professionals created twelve challenges focused on real-world problems centered on issues including food security, water quality, health and wellness, energy, and the environment.
STEM Pathways allows youth to work in teams to find a plausible solution using the engineering design process or the scientific method. Each STEM Pathway challenges youth to:
ASK – What are some possible ideas (the hypothesis)?
PLAN – Identify variables to help solve the challenge through sketches or other means of brainstorming.
CREATE & TEST – Put ideas into action (conduct the experiment).
ANALYZE – Determine how well the design or experiment worked.
IMPROVE & COMMUNICATE – Make changes to improve the design and communicate experiment results.
Each challenge includes a detailed lesson and short informational video to prepare facilitators and engage youth through the experiential learning process. Each challenge also highlights a STEM-focused career, including the job outlook for the next 10 years, skills and high school course work recommendations, education and training required beyond high school graduation, and a sample of how the particular career contributes to plausible solutions, similar to the problem within the challenge.