Albuquerque Public Schools principals are turning to the 4-H Youth Development program to spark students’ success. Eight schools are implementing programs to help students.
Collet Park Elementary School principal Stephani Treadwell was looking for a way to provide experiential learning opportunities for her school’s students when she contacted New Mexico State University’s College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences’ 4-H Youth Development program in Bernalillo County.
The first-in-the-nation “4-H in the School” program is helping to improve the school’s performance.
The result has been a decrease in behavioral issues, an increase in school attendance, improvement in student subject proficiency and an increase in school-wide scores.
“Our students were not retaining the information they had been proficient in the prior week,” Treadwell said. “We realized new information is retained when it is connected to knowledge that is already gained through an experience. The majority of our students live in poverty and have not had a wide variety of experiences to link classroom learning to.”
When Treadwell did an Internet search on experience and learning, the first item listed was 4-H and experimental learning.
The educational administrator contacted NMSU’s Cooperative Extension Service office in Albuquerque and a successful collaboration began.
4-H agents Brittany Sonntag and Nicole Jacobs helped Treadwell develop a plan to integrate 4-H curriculum into her school.
“We believe Collet Park Elementary is the first school in the nation to implement the 4-H club model and curriculum during the school day,” Sonntag said. “The results are amazing.”
“We dove into the 4-H curriculum and we love it,” Treadwell said. “We implemented school-wide 4-H clubs in 2016, with the addition of teachers using subject kits in their class curriculum the following year.”
Each Friday afternoon, during the last hour of the school week, the students attend 4-H clubs that they chose featuring a variety of projects ranging from art, woodworking, and crafts, to weaving, knitting, cooking and gardening.
“The classroom teachers are the project leader. They have picked a subject they enjoy and want to share with the students,” Treadwell said. “Each club has officers and they begin each Friday with the 4-H Pledge and business meeting, then work on the project activity.”
Besides doing hands-on projects, the students are learning to be responsible for their homework assignments.
“The students have to complete all of their homework for the week before they can participate in the 4-H Club activities,” Treadwell said. “So sometimes you will see a student in the back of the classroom working diligently to get their assignments done.”
The teachers are seeing the benefit of the program during their regular class activities.
“The kids are experiencing things, then thinking about what it is that they have experienced and how they have grown through the process by going back and analyzing the activity,” said Nancy Zulic, fourth grade teacher. “They are also becoming more verbal. They are able to talk about what they are learning. I think it has improved their overall performance as students and problem solvers.”
The success of “4-H in the School” is evident in the students’ performance on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers testing during the 2017-18 school year.
“The second year we began seeing a huge growth on our monitored month-by-month testing,” Treadwell said. “The kids had a 16 percent proficient in language arts at the end of the year and the next year they were 47 percent proficient.”
Collet Park Elementary chronic absenteeism has also decreased, from 23 percent to 7 percent. “We have seen students tell their parents, they don’t want to miss school, especially leaving early on Friday afternoon, because they want to participate in the 4-H club activities,” Treadwell said.
The before starting the program, Treadwell averaged a couple of suspensions a month, this year she has had no suspensions.
The school’s school-wide score has increased by 6.33 points, and is .75 points away from increasing to a “B” school.
Three years after Treadwell contacted the Bernalillo County 4-H agents, there are now eight school in Albuquerque developing ways to use 4-H to spark their students’ success.
“We have also been working with school districts from surrounding counties in New Mexico to implement this program,” Sonntag said. “We are actually working with some other states as well so they can find a way to integrate 4-H into the school day.”
Looking to the future, Sonntag and Jaynes are taking the current national 4-H curriculum and aligning it with common core.
“That way teachers will be able to teach directly from the kits without concern that it does not align with the required common core,” Sonntag said.
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