The Awareness of STEM in 4-H

Brian McNeill, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development

June 2016

America faces a future of intense global competition with a startling shortage of scientists. In 2005, only 18% of U.S. high school seniors were proficient in science (National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP); 2005) and a mere 5% of current U.S. college graduates earned degrees in science, engineering, or technology, as compared to 66% in Japan, and 59% in China. By 2011, the NAEP reported an increase in science literacy; however, the United States still lags behind its global partners. Literacy in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) is a prerequisite for young people who face the challenges of our complex world.

4-H STEMThe 4-H Youth Development program is helping to grow and strengthen the next generation of inventors, entrepreneurs, researchers, engineers, and problem-solvers. Recognizing that youth in the U.S. are falling behind in these areas, National 4-H has made its Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) program a top priority.

For more than a century, 4-H has engaged youth in STEM. This has traditionally meant a solid focus on agricultural science, electricity, mechanics, entrepreneurship, and natural sciences. Today, 4-H also has resources and support in rocketry, robotics, aquatic robotics, bio-fuels, renewable energy, computer science, environmental sciences, and more. 4-H STEM provides hands-on learning experiences to encourage learning about the world around you in partnership with adults that care about your learning and are crazy about STEM.

The goals of 4-H STEM are:

  • Increase awareness of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
  • Increase understanding and appreciation for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics
  • Develop knowledge, skills, and abilities in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics

4-H STEM4-H STEM allows youth to work on questions, design their own tests, models, building understanding, and sharing their work with others. That's what science and engineering are, trying to understand the natural universe and develop solutions to the problems faced in our world today.

Science is inquiry that uses a specific approaches and skills. But all learning is an inquiry process so working with science helps develop learning muscles.

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