By Cheyenne Reuff
Founded in 1902 in Clark County, Ohio, the 4-H program sought to educate young people about new agricultural developments, practices and technologies through hands on experiences. Early 4-Hers participated in corn clubs and competed in sponsored corn-growing contests.
As the program spread, more contests such as livestock judging, gardening and cooking were introduced. Eventually, 4-H grew to be the international club people know today.
Times have changed. The agricultural field has greatly advanced and expanded, causing 4-H to advance as well.
In recent years, 4-H program leaders have worked to include Science, Technology, Engineering and Math curriculum. The STEM program was developed to enhance and promote education in those areas, and is both the buzz term and main focus for educational funding today.
Tony Carrell, a former 4-H Extension educator for Boone County and current 4-H Youth Development Program Specialist at Purdue University, has experience in the application of STEM curriculum into Indiana 4-H programs.
Carrell said 4-H was already doing the concept through its programs long before STEM existed. Now the goal is to build on what 4-H has been doing and enhance the experience for participating youth.
Part of his work is helping promote and introduce the new curriculum into 4-H programs like the foods program. The new curriculum will expand on the scientific aspect of cooking.
"Kids will learn not only how to bake cookies, but the science that goes behind it," Carrell said.
Another part of his work is promoting the STEM curriculum to 4-H volunteers and providing them with the material and resources to augment learning. He said that volunteers were initially nervous, but after they learned more about it, they were very enthusiastic and eager.
The introduction of STEM curriculum into 4-H programs will ultimately be beneficial for members of 4-H as it will continue to focus on science and career preparation.
Meanwhile, curriculum isn't the only thing changing this year. To be in 4-H in 2015, you must enroll by January 15, 2015. Previously, there were about 30 different county enrollment deadlines, and no state enrollment deadline. The new deadline applies statewide.
You must also sign up online, or visit your Extension office and see if they can help you while you are there. Enrollment is now online. All livestock enrollment later on in 2015 will be online as well.
Reuff is a senior in Purdue University Ag Communications