The community outside the Hardin County OSU Extension office is not the only population benefitting from an innovative maker space. One of the greatest achievements of the Spark Lab is its ability to innovate the extension educators that work inside the space! The Spark Lab certainly fuels innovative thinking for those within, but the innovation behind its design stimulates Hardin County OSU Extension to take our innovations on the GO!
Sewing machines and fit bits traveled to 4-H Camp this year. Many young campers sought out a scarf making session with our Spark Lab sewing machines where they explored fundamental sewing skills beyond a mere needle and thread! Our Spark Lab fit bits motivated Family and Consumer Sciences Extension educator, Jami Dellifield, to promote overall 4-H camp health by seeking a grant that provided water bottles for each camper. Healthy Hydration – It’s in Your Hands was the movement that swept across 4-H Camp Ohio 2016, which resulted in a significant decrease of headaches, nausea, and other dehydration side effects commonly experienced at 4-H camp.
Electric grills have been on the GO across county lines for a ‘Chopped Challenge’ with teens from Hardin, Allen, and Putnam Counties. Paired with a lesson on food safety, these grills motivated six adolescent teams to prepare a safe and healthy meal in and hour or less, in a competition to cook the best dish of the day. The Spark Lab’s electric grills are currently on the GO at numerous locations around the county to stimulate healthy eating habits for Hardin County employees.
Nearly all of the Spark Lab’s devices travel to county schools during the academic year to fuel activities for Tech Wizards, an after school program that promote technology literacy for elementary aged youth in grades 3-5. Additionally, drones are gaining popularity with local farmers to scout fields from a bird’s eye view.
Even when a Hardin County OSU Extension program does not require the use of Spark Lab technology, extension educators and interns try to bring Spark Lab like innovation to their daily thinking. Family and Consumer Sciences intern, Demi Snider, has incorporated technology into several lessons for Hardin County’s Little Sparks – Goo Crew, a weekly program for parents and pre-school aged children! Girls’ Group, a leadership and friendship-building program for Hardin County ladies in grades 4-6 has traveled to Table 1 for a lesson on poise and dinner etiquette. 4-H and Youth Development intern, Tina Hiller, has utilized Spark Lab equipment on base and on the GO in each of her 4-H workshops! Whether 4-H’ers are traveling to local parks to practice photography skills, or a forgotten nature preserve to unearth knowledge about insects, birds, and trees, the innovative concept behind the Spark Lab has been fueling extension educators and interns to take their programming on the GO all summer long!
An internship, out of county, without anyone I knew… Could I do this? My name is Taylor McNamara, a soon to be Business Management graduate from Ohio State Agricultural Technical Institute (ATI) with a specialization in Agriculture. My last step before graduation was the completion of a summer internship. After a few months of looking for an internship, Annie Mead, Logan County’s 4-H and Youth Development Extension Educator, gave me the contact for Hardin County’s Extension office. I began contacting Mark Light and next thing I knew I was meeting him to discuss a potential internship. After meeting with him I was thrilled about all the different opportunities I could experience in one summer.
Coming from Logan County to Hardin County, I did not know what to expect from their extension program. All I had every known was the way that Logan County ran things. I asked myself if I could do an internship out of county, daily, worried that I could not succeed at a job where I knew no one. I am definitely shy when meeting new people, and I am afraid to go out and do things alone. A week before my internship I panicked; I almost decided I would much rather not graduate than to have to face my fears. Looking back, I do not know why I was so worried; the people at Hardin County Extension’s office are so friendly and helpful.
On the night before my first day, I did not know what to wear. Do I wear a dress or skirt? Are dress pants okay? What about a nice shirt? I chose what I was comfortable in, dress pants and a nice shirt. I showed up for my internship ten minutes early the next morning and sat in my car telling myself I just had to get through the 450 hour requirement for my class. I could do this! 8 o’clock hit and it was time to head in. I walked in the door and was greeted right away, then shown around. A little later I began my first task, a 4-H camp letter mailing. Before I knew it, the day was over and I was more than ready for the next.
A day in extension is never the same. One day I was out in the field counting soybeans and the next I was facilitating a cake decorating workshop. There is never a dull moment. Throughout the summer I have learned about the differences between Hardin and Logan County’s extension programs, which gives me a greater perspective on OSU extension as a whole. The large amount of programming and staffing in Hardin County has been a new experience, and I have enjoyed banding together Logan and Hardin County ideas. Every day I am able to do something new and meet new people. I am so grateful for the experiences I have been given and for being pushed out of my comfort zone. Here I am today, with 430 hours completed. This internship has been a huge stepping stone to finding my ideal career path.
“It never hurts to ask.” My name is Tina Hiller, a senior year English education student at The Ohio State University, and “It never hurts to ask” is the mentality I assumed when asking Hardin County OSU Extension if they needed summer assistance. I was a 4-H’er in Hardin County for 10 years of my youth, and after a particularly heavy semester of coursework at OSU, I sought a job shadowing experience with Mark Light, Hardin County’s 4-H and Youth Development Extension Educator, to assess extension education as a possible career path. During winter break of my sophomore year, I job shadowed Light and other Hardin Co. extension educators in hopes that I would either be comforted that I chose the correct major or firmly directed toward a new route of study.
In one eight hour work day, I assisted a morning preschool class, built robots with middle and high school classroom students, and aided an elementary after school program. In between working around the county with these three different age groups, I interviewed extension educators about their daily duties. The fulfillment I felt at the end of that day drove me to inquire about the need for summer workers. To my knowledge, the extension office had not previously utilized college student summer help, but Light and I had a good relationship from my previous 4-H years, so it did not phase me to simply ask. I expected a “We’ll see” or an “I’ll call you when I find out more”, but a couple of months later, I was pleasantly surprised to receive a job application.
That winter, Light was applying for a grant to fund Hardin Co. Extension’s Spark Lab, a new and innovative educational space for community use. When the grant was approved, partial funding went toward payment for two summer interns. Bailey Wagner, an agriscience education student at Ohio State, and I were official summer interns for summer 2015 and were able to increase office productivity, create new extension programming, and help design the Spark Lab. This summer, the Spark Lab grant provided employment for three interns, who have expanded Hardin Co. Extension’s reach even more!
Now I work as a second year 4-H and youth development intern. I absolutely love that this career path promotes applicable learning for all ages. While I consider the teen population my specialty, and plan to seek my first postgraduate position in a high school, the work I have conducted within Hardin Co.’s extension office has given me an invaluable foundation in experiential learning. I value learning at all stages of life, and hope my future position allows me to bring collaborative, community education to the classroom environment.
A spark is defined as small fiery particle of burning substance thrown out by a body in combustion. In some cases the spark starts another fire nearby. Spark is also defined as anything that activates or stimulates; inspiration or catalyst (www.dictionary.com).
The goal of the Hardin County Ohio Spark Lab is to instill that inspiration or “spark” that youth and adults need to discover, learn, and grow in a creative environment. This setting is more than just a futuristic classroom or makerspace. It is center of innovation in a rural county framed through the education lens of a land grant university system.
The Spark Lab is located in Hardin County, Kenton, Ohio. This project was funded in part by an Innovation grant from eXtension foundation. We were one of nine grants awarded nationally focused on new ideas within Extension. We have also received funding from the Columbus Foundation. Locally the space is provided to us by the Hardin County Commissioners.
Explore with us as this space develops.