Say YES to science

Dec 20, 2019

Science literacy and youths' interest in science and science-related careers has been a focus in youth development. There has been a recent push by the California Department of Education to promote science literacy and engagement in youth, especially among girls. There has been interest in Mendocino County youth for more engagement in science activities but opportunities are lacking in a rural underserved county.

Through a partnership with schools and local youth organizations, Mendocino County 4-H program engaged in efforts to promote science literacy through the implementation of the Youth Experiences in Science (YES) program in afterschool sites. The Mendocino County 4-H program collaborated with the Developing Virtue Girls Secondary School and the Ukiah Boys and Girls Club to implement an afterschool teens-as-teachers program utilizing the YES curriculum. This is the second year for the implementation of this YES program.

Eleven teen teachers (a growth from five teen teachers the previous year) delivered the curriculum to 30 elementary-aged students at the Boys and Girls Club once a week, with each session lasting an hour. The teen teachers rotated the weeks in which they delivered programming. They also worked with an adult coach who took them to and from the Boys and Girls Club each week. All teen teachers attended a training conducted by the Mendocino County 4-H staff before they started teaching youth.

The program ran from September 2018 to May 2019, and will be continuing in the new 2019-2020 school year. The program also connected the school to the local community. The school is a Buddhist school located in an area called the City of Ten Thousand Buddhas and housed many international students. The school was interested in being more connected to the local community. Being engaged in this program allowed them to establish relationships with the community through service learning and community service.

The Boys and Girls Club program director reported that the teens were responsible and the students were excited for the program each week. He observed the students being engaged and having fun. This program was able to provide youth with engaging, hands-on science activities in an afterschool setting.

Youth reported that they learned about different things like blowing bubbles, making ‘oobleck' (slime), and learning about recycling. Youth reported that they enjoyed the activities and had fun learning new things. The adult coach and school principal were pleased with this opportunity for the teens and are excited to have this program continue next year.

The teen teachers reported learning about teamwork and leadership, and they enjoyed working with youth. They found it to be a valuable experience. This program has expanded the reach of the 4-H program to new and diverse youth in Mendocino County while promoting science literacy and service learning. The YES program also created community awareness about 4-H's engagement in STEM education. The intended long-term goal of this program is to increase youths' interest and knowledge in scientific fields.

By Car Mun Kok
Author - 4-H Youth Development Program Advisor