Far Out Food Science

By Cheryl Goodrich, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Monroe County

In April 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human in space. His spacecraft made one orbit around Earth in a flight that lasted 108 minutes. Over the years, the amount of time that astronauts were able to stay in space increased from hours, to days, to weeks, to months and eventually to more than a year. Valeri Polyakov currently holds the record for the longest consecutive stay in space at 437 days, from January of 1994 to March of 1995.

Staying in space for such a long time would not be possible without food scientists and nutritionists who have found ways to supply food for astronauts on these long missions. Many people think that astronauts only eat freeze-dried rations that come in foil packages. While that may have been the case at one time, food science has come a long way over the years.

Check out this video of a former astronaut explaining what it’s like to eat in space:

Are you interested in food science? There are a wide variety of careers in food science and technology. Food scientists solve problems like how to preserve foods by freezing, drying, or canning and still have them taste good. They might look for ways to make milk and other dairy products last longer. Some food scientists study the types of foods preferred by consumers to help companies develop and market new products.

Ready to try a food experiment of your own? Use this recipe to make a single-serving chocolate cake in just one minute.

World’s Best Minute Chocolate Cake

If your cake is a success, maybe your next project could be developing a better ice cream for the astronauts!



Yuri Gagarin: First Man in Space

One Year in Space: A History of Ultra-Long Missions Off Planet Earth

What is Food Science?

The Coding Force is with YOU

By: Margo Long, OSU Extension Education, 4-H Youth Development, Marion County

may the force be with you

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a galaxy far, far away with your own trusty droid like BB-8, C-3PO or R2-D2? Well, here’s your chance!

Thanks to Code.org, the Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code program allows learners of all ages get an introductory experience with coding and computer science in a safe, supportive environment.

With the opportunity learning two computer languages, youth will work with Rey and Princess Leia to guide BB-8 through simple missions, and build a game featuring C-3PO and R2-D2.


What is block-based coding?

Block coding screenshotUtilizing a drag-and-drop learning environment, youth use blocks which are described as “chunks” or “pieces” of instructions a user puts together to tell their creation what to do.

This is definitely an entry-level form of computing to allow youth to gain a foundation in computational thinking through visuals, rather than text.

The first option uses drag-drop blocks. This version works best for:

  • Students on mobile devices without keyboards
  • Younger students (6+ because the tutorial requires reading)
  • International students

Click here to build your own Star Wars game using block coding.


What is JavaScript?

JavaScript coding screenshotAs one of the most popular forms of programming languages and known as the “programming language of the web,” it is used by computer programmers in combination with HTML and CSS to make up core components of web technology; however, it can always be used for app and game development.

This option teaches the same basic concepts, but because it uses both drag-drop blocks and JavaScript, the students need to be able to type on a keyboard. For older students on computers, learning JavaScript can be fun and provide an additional challenge. This version of the tutorial is also great if you have some students in your class who have already learned some coding. It is recommended for ages 11+.

Ready for another challenge? Click here to build your own Star Wars game using JavaScript.

Looking for more computer science opportunities? Contact your local OSU Extension Office to learn about programs offered in your area!


Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://code.org/starwars

Peer-reviewed by Danielle Combs, OSU Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Highland County



April’s Citizen Science Series: final thoughts

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!

April’s Citizen Science Series: What’s Citizen Science Anyways?

Simple, Authentic, and Impactful

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:

  1. Open to everyone that has an interest
  2. Use a standard process and protocol for collect data so data sets can be easily compiled
  3. Data helps real scientists develop real conclusions
  4. Scientists and volunteers are working together to share data with the public

Photo source: https://www.wxxi.org/education/citizenscience/get-involved-citizen-science-projects

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. 



Sciestarter Project Finder

The Field Guide to Citizen Science

National Geographics Citizen Science Projects

Anecdata Citizen Science Platform

Society for Science, Research at Home: Citizen Science

Citizen Science Month

Peer-reviewed by: Christy Millhouse, OSU Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Preble County, and Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator, Community Development & STEM, Pickaway County.

Eco April’s: Insect Detectives, Family Fun with Insects

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.

Have an Insect Movie Night

Watch a movie featuring insect characters. Did you know there is an insect that looks like popcorn? Check out this video of the Planthopper Nymph from Ecuador.

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.


Spring into STEM: Insect Detectives Lesson Plan


Investigating Energy: Keep it Cool Design Challenge

By Jason Cervenec, Education & Outreach Director, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center

Image source: https://www.flocabulary.com/lesson/heat-transfer/

Have you ever wondered about the science of thermal energy transfer? Especially, why putting on layers in winter keeps you warm, or how a cooler keeps your food cool? Or how an insulated coffee mug keeps liquid hot? Many devices are designed to maintain the temperature of an object without being plugged into an electrical outlet. However, even plugged-in systems, such as refrigerators, use engineered designs and certain materials to reduce the effort needed to maintain a set temperature.

Scientists often use portable thermo-containers to transport materials to a lab site. Ice core samples are a great example of a substance that needs to remain frozen during transport. In order to successfully transport ice cores samples to an electric freezer, they need to be contained in a device that is lightweight, easy to carry in a backpack, and can keep an ice core below freezing for days. The device has to be designed to reduce the transfer of thermal energy from the exterior (which can be warm as it travels on trucks and airplanes) to the interior. The device also needs to limit the transformation of light energy to thermal energy by reflecting light energy instead of absorbing its heat energy.

Here is an example of the mechanics inside a simple thermos to keep liquid hot or cold:

Image source: https://cnx.org/contents/6EiQTxeh@2/Mechanisms-of-Heat-Transfer

Lesson Plan Summary

Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center (BPCRC) Education and Outreach team created a comprehensive lesson plan which challenges students to utilize their understanding of thermal energy transfer and transformation to develop a simple, lightweight, and efficient method for storing and transporting ice cores. Included in the lesson plan resources are supplemental photos and instructions on how to make a miniature ice core tube. Here is the lesson plan for designing, building, and testing a device to keep an ice core frozen. This activity/lesson can be used when teaching engineering principles or methods for transferring thermal energy.


Lesson Plan, Student Handout

Teacher Notes

Peer-reviewed by: Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator, Community Development & STEM, Pickaway County.

Exploring Mars with Ingenuity

By Travis West, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Vinton County

Mars Base Camp 4-H STEM Challenge is in full swing this week with the activities in the challenge kit. The kit is still available to order, but in the meantime, you can still explore Mars with activities listed on the Ohio 4-H page at http://go.osu.edu/marsbasecamp.

We have heard a lot about the Mars Rover Perseverance that was launched on July 30, 2020, and is set to land on Mars on February 18, 2021. You can follow the trek of Perseverance in real-time at https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/.

Scientists attached a helicopter to the belly of Perseverance to collect information once it lands on Mars. This helicopter is named Ingenuity and is another way to provide pictures, videos, and a sampling of Mars’ atmosphere and landscape. Once it arrives with Perseverance, Ingenuity will be the first powered flight to occur on Mars.

We can engineer our own helicopter with a few simple supplies:

  • 1 large marshmallow
  • 4 small marshmallows
  • 5 toothpicks
  • scissors
  • 1 piece of cardstock (copier paper might work but the thicker paper is ideal. Paper is for printing the last page of the lesson plan from the link below.)

Follow the step-by-step instructions in the lesson plan, keeping in mind a few goals for your helicopter design. These are the same goals the designers of Ingenuity had to keep in mind.

Activity Tips

  • The structure must be light, yet strong
  • Should fly for 90 seconds to provide valuable data
  • Drop your helicopter from 6-8 ft above the floor and see how long it stays in the air!

Remember, engineers made thousands of designs before they achieved the final design that is now on its way to Mars! Once you have that first successful design, think about items that have different weights and how you decrease the weight or increase the time in the air. Redesigning is the name of the game when you are searching for the most effective design in engineering.

Perseverance and Ingenuity are just two efforts to explore Mars and prepare for NASA’s future goal of human exploration on Mars. These efforts are providing valuable information to another human exploration goal, returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024.

Lesson Plan:

Build your own Mars Helicopter

Peer-Reviewed: Sally McClaskey, OSU Extension Program Manager, Education & Marketing. She develops and directs educational programs at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.

Colored Milk! And we are not just talking chocolate!

By Travis West, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Vinton County

Youth engaging in a milk science experiment. Source: https://static.ozobot.com/assets/3e0f1c38-featured_800x400-1.jpg

Milk is produced by all mammals to raise their young, but we also consume it as an animal product coming from cattle, sheep, or goats. Milk is mostly water but also contained vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fat. You don’t just add water to dilute your whole milk to skim milk. You need a way to remove those fat molecules to change whole milk to skim milk (sometimes call fat-free). We have a way to see these fat molecules in motion – it will convince you they exist!

Magic Colored Milk Science Project

If you add food coloring to milk, not much happens, but it only takes one simple ingredient to turn the milk into a swirling color wheel. Here is what you do:

Magic Milk Materials

  • 2% or whole milk
  • food coloring
  • dishwashing liquid
  • cotton swab
  • plate

Magic Milk Instructions

  1. Pour enough milk onto a plate to cover the bottom.
  2. Drop food coloring onto the milk.
  3. Dip a cotton swab in dishwashing detergent liquid.
  4. Touch the coated swab to the milk in the center of the plate.
  5. Don’t stir the milk; it isn’t necessary. The colors will swirl on their own as soon as the detergent contacts the liquid.

How It Works

Milk consists of many different molecules, including fat, protein, sugars, vitamins, and minerals. If you just touch a clean cotton swab to the milk (try it!), not much will happen. The cotton is absorbent, so you create a current in the milk, but you don’t see anything dramatic happen.

When you introduce detergent to the milk, several things happen at once. The detergent lowers the surface tension of the liquid, so the food coloring is free to flow throughout the milk. The detergent binds with the fat molecules in the milk, altering the shape of those molecules and setting them in motion. The reaction between the detergent and the fat forms micelles, which is how detergent helps lift grease off of dirty dishes. As the micelles form, pigments in the food coloring get pushed around. Eventually, equilibrium is reached, but the swirling of the colors continues for quite a while before stopping.

For more information contact Travis West, west.222@osu.edu.

Peer-Reviewed: Sally McClaskey, OSU Extension Program Manager, Education & Marketing. She develops and directs educational programs at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.


The UnThunkable: Teaching Middle School and High School Girls Programming During a Pandemic

By: Margo Long, OSU Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Marion County

During COVID-19 and the time of ultimate screen time fatigue, why would anyone want to add another virtual experience to the calendar? Because the mission to close the gender gap in technology and change the image of what a programmer looks like and does daily, doesn’t stop.

I recognized the need after receiving much positive feedback from a five-week series designed to introduce youth to both the 4-H program and coding. By creating a connection with women who incorporated technology into their everyday work and including unplugged activities, I realized I could contribute to “cracking the gender code.”

According to Girls Who Code, in 1995 only 37% of computer scientists were women. The percentage will continue to decline to 22% by 2022, if not addressed. It has been recognized girls lose interest in computer science between the ages of 13 and 17.

Program Overview

Incorporating the Girls Who Code educator guide, activities, and researching other online resources and video, 4-H World Changers was a five-week series featuring live instruction customized with hands-on, interactive learning opportunities for participants. Each session included custom presentations that walked participants through visual design, variables, conditionals, and functions –all components necessary to create a user-friendly mobile application.

Selecting the Technology

With hundreds of different coding languages in the world, each can be used to create something powerful. A simple Google search leads to an overwhelming number of computer science curricula. So, how do you choose? The goal was to keep in mind my own personal experience level (more HTML and CSS), as well as that of program participants. It’s easier to start with the basics before diving into text-based languages.

This series utilized a web-based program that allows apps to be created for both Android and iOS devices, which eliminates the compatibility barrier. Thunkable allows novice users the ability to build apps by utilizing the “drag and drop” method of components to connect them together with block coding.

A wireframe created by a participant to plan their mobile application.

Creating the Connection

One of the most important components of the series is to ensure youth realize women exist in the technology industry. Many times, women not highlighted in the media or mentioned in textbooks. Each week showcased women from diverse backgrounds: some who grew up coding and are now successful leaders in their field and others who have found success in business, in teaching, or as entrepreneurs learning to code as adults. The goal was to empower and inspire girls to understand how their passions for something can be transformed into a career within technology. Each woman introduced the relationship between their career exploration to the correlation between one of the program’s values and the coding lesson.

Fran Kalal was featured in the second session of 4-H World Changers to help emphasize the importance of visual design for mobile applications.

Value of Virtual Programs
In this time of uncertainty, there was no better opportunity to continue the 4-H program mission. By providing experiences to bring out youth’s potential, their passions and drive helped empower them to exhibit bravery, activism, and resilience by establishing connections with similar youth, all from behind a computer. At the conclusion of the program, the aim was for participants to gain a better understanding of the following:

  • Bravery – In an unprecedented situation, youth and adults are adapting to a new way of living almost daily, so it is important to stay brave in the face of uncertainty.
  • Connection – Keeping with a set routine can be impactful and meeting with others helps combat the challenge of social isolation.
  • Activism – Sharing the world of technology with girls has a powerful and potential positive impact within their communities. This program empowered girls to learn something new and use code to create tools that provide support and build connections during a challenge.
  • Resilience – Learning virtually requires flexibility and perseverance. Becoming frustrated or not understanding something is acceptable, but teaching problem-solving skills is vital.

For more information contact Margo Long, long.1632@osu.edu.

Peer-Reviewed: Sally McClaskey, OSU Extension Program Manager, Education & Marketing. She develops and directs educational programs at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.


littleBits: Hands-on Prototyping and Learning with Modular Electronics

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

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, thoreau.1@osu.edu.

A student explains how he broke science in a short clip from littleBit program. Recorded by Trent Roberts.


Brown, Stacy. (2018). Chapter 6. Big Impact with littleBits, Vol. 54, No. 4. Retrieved from https://journals.ala.org/index.php/ltr/article/view/6673/8953.

Dochshanov, Alden and Tramonti, M. (Janurary 2017). A Multidisciplinary Approach in STEM Education. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317491980_A_Multidisciplinary_Approach_in_STEM_Education.

LittleBits. (n.d.). littleBits Classroom. LittleBits Classroom. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://www.littlebits.cc/welcome.

LittleBits. (n.d.). LittleBits: Select Your Kit. Https://Www.Littlebits.Cc/Getting-Started. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://www.littlebits.cc/getting-started.

Spencer, John and Juliani, A. J. (2017)Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning, IMPress, 84.

Peer-Reviewed: Sally McClaskey, OSU Extension Program Manager, Education & Marketing. She develops and directs educational programs at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.

4-H Camp Tech

4-H Camp Tech is a three-day, two-night camp, located on the campus of The Ohio State University, that introduces youth in grades six-eight to a variety of activities that include: coding, robotics, engineering design, electricity and more. Camp Tech is based at the Ohio 4-H Center with overnight accommodations in an OSU dorm.

4-H Camp Tech is set for June 2021. Registration will open in March.