4-H members in Santa Clara County will work with Google employees to develop computer science technical skills, digital fluency, creativity and problem solving skills in a new 10-week program made possible with a donation from the Silicon Valley internet search giant.
Youth participants, teen leaders and adult volunteers are now being recruited to take part in the 4-H Computer Science Career Pathway, a weekly series that begins Sept. 27. The pathway will translate abstract concepts into practical experiences the participants can use to explore the field of computer science. Fill out an online interest form to get more information.
“We are thrilled to begin our partnership with Google and prepare our youth for successful careers in any field they choose through this innovative program,” said Fe Moncloa, the UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development advisor in Santa Clara County.
The outreach will go beyond the 10 weekly sessions. During the first year, an estimated 700 youth in traditional 4-H community clubs, in after-school programs, and in programs offered by partnering community organizations will be touched by 4-H computer science. Booths will be set up at festivals and fairs to reach still more young people.
“There are many different opportunities for our youth to explore computer science,” Moncloa said.
The Santa Clara program is one of dozens funded through the National 4-H Council, which received a $1.5 million grant from Google to build skills youth need for the future. Santa Clara is the only California county involved.
“We don't know what the jobs of tomorrow will look like,” said Charlotte Smith of Google.org when the grant was announced. “Some of them might require computer science skills, but it's much more than that – problem solving, collaboration. We want to give kids as many kinds of tools as we can so they can succeed in any discipline and in any field.”
To reach underserved youth in Santa Clara County, 4-H will partner with two well-established community organizations. Youth Alliance, based in Hollister, provides innovative and culturally relevant services to local youth and families. Youth Alliance offers after-school programs for elementary and junior high school youth to give children a safe place to spend afternoons, get homework help and participate in cultural arts programs.
A second community partner is Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose, which assists families with a wide variety of needs, including after-school programs, housing, food, nutrition education, citizenship classes and English-as-a-second-language training.
Santa Clara County UC Cooperative Extension 4-H has formed a team to launch the 4-H Computer Science Career Pathway.
UCCE 4-H program representative Claudia Damiani will train college students to offer the computer science curriculum to young people in Youth Alliance and Sacred Heart Community Service programs.
Google employee and 4-H volunteer Curtis Ullerich will teach the computer science curriculum to other volunteers in Santa Clara County.
“Some people think computer science is limited to coding,” Moncloa said. “Curtis, the way he teaches, he presents computer science in a different way. Sure, coding is one element, but there is so much more.”
Fiona Reyes and Santiago Piva are 4-H Teen Leaders in this project. They will teach and mentor youth, and collaborate with Ullerich to extend the curricula to 4-H volunteers.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
It's a soft, flannel blanket or cover-up that provides privacy to breast-feeding mothers and their newborns, but it's much more than that.
It's a 4-H project launched in 2013 by longtime Dixon 4-H leader Audrey Ritchey, an x-ray technician at the North Bay Medical Center, Fairfield. It helps promote breast-feeding and its many health and bonding benefits.
To date, Solano County 4-H'ers, under Ritchey's direction, have sewn 1,000 one-yard blankets for the new moms at North Bay.
“I was told that one mom started to cry when she got the cover-up,” Ritchey said. “She stated that it was the only thing she had for her baby.”
Ritchey, a co-community leader of the Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, and vice president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council, recalled that “three years ago I thought that 4-H was missing an opportunity to share the 4-H program with new moms at North Bay.”
She contacted a director at North Bay and learned about “a baby friendly program that encourages new moms to breast feed and have skin-to-skin contact with their newborns.”
So, Ritchey, along with a group of 4-H youth and their parents, gave birth, so to speak, to the “Cuddle Me Close” cover-up project. It is her pattern and her sewing machines.
Ritchey applied for and received a 4-H Revolution of Responsibility grant. They've toured the North Bay Medical Center. They've given presentations at the hospital and at club and community events. Two years ago, a Girl Scout troop donated $250 from their cookie sales and many nurses have donated their Christmas gift cards to the project.
The project is closely linked to the 4-H Pledge:
“I pledge my head to clearer thinking
My heart to greater loyalty
My hands to larger service, and
My health to better living
For my club, my community, my country and my world.”
Ritchey says the youngsters in her project not only learn how to sew, but learn to connect with one another, learn to budget, and fulfill a public service need. Studies show that breast milk contains antibodies that help babies fight off viruses and bacteria and lowers the risk of allergies, ear infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhea. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of childhood obesity.
Ritchey said the project “promotes mother-baby bonding through skin-to-skin contact, supports positive and physical and mental development, is healthier for mother and child and is inexpensive in comparison to formula."
“As long as I have youth that want to do this I will keep making them,” Ritchey vows.
In addition to the sewing project, Ritchey teaches a number of countywide 4-H projects, including poultry, rabbits and cavies (guinea pigs).
The 4-H Youth Development Program is a non-profit youth educational program administered through the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension. In 4-H, youths from ages 5 to 19 learn skills through hands-on learning and have fun doing it, said Valerie Williams, Solano County 4-H program representative. The international organization draws youth from all ethnic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds who live in rural, suburban, and urban communities. The four H's in 4-H stand for head, heart, hands, and health. Its motto is “To make the best better.”
The heart of 4-H's hands-on learning are age-appropriate projects within each club. 4-H is more than “cows and chickens.” Each project focuses on a topic, anything from A (art) to Z (zoology). Among the many projects: animal sciences, bicycling, camping, computers, drama, entomology, leadership, music, photography, quilting, rocketry, textile arts, and woodworking.
For information on the Solano County 4-H Program, access http://cesolano.ucanr.edu or contact Valerie Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 784-1319. For donations of fabric or funds to the “Cuddle Me Close” 4-H project, contact Audrey Ritchey at email@example.com.
Butler was city-raised back East and became enamored by the local food movement, urban agriculture and farmers markets in California's Bay Area. She first ventured to a county fair at the age of 31. When she did, she was enchanted by girls in the livestock barn dressed in snow-white uniforms tending goats.
“When I first learned about 4-H, I thought I had found a genuine American relic, a throwback to a simpler time,” Butler wrote. “I couldn't have been more wrong.”
Butler forged relationships with a handful of suburban California 4-H members raising livestock, though she noted in the book that animal husbandry is just one aspect of today's 4-H program.
Butler visited the homes of 4-H members and attended their meetings. She trailed 4-H'ers as they fed, watered, and walked goats, sheep and pigs. She sat through long, hot competitions and auctions at county fairs. She befriended the parents who were cheering their children from the sidelines.
“The kids were fascinating individuals,” Butler said. “They were regular teenagers in addition to being experts in showing goats, sheep or pigs. I wanted to get their personalities across, how they looked and what motivated them, rather than just their participation in a club.”
Allison Keaney, 4-H program representative for UC Cooperative Extension in Marin County, said she enjoyed the book.
“I appreciate that she (Butler) has gotten into the essence of our program, all the wonderful things that come out of 4-H: communication skills, interpersonal skills, managerial skills,” Keaney said. “She touches on what 4-H is providing to young people that they are not getting at school.”
In the book, Butler recounted the stories of two 4-H'ers who were excelling in their 4-H projects, but not doing as well in their structured school settings. One is Anthony, who is struggling with math class, but managing quite well when calculating the amount of food his animals need based on their weight.
“But that version of Allison is hard to reconcile with the one that I am getting to know – the confident, knowledgeable and outgoing 4-H Allison,” Butler wrote.
Keaney said she recommends the book for 4-H leaders, classroom teachers and after-school program facilitators.
The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources program representative for 4-H animal science education, Sarah Watkins, was quoted several times in the book. Watkins said when she spoke to Butler, she didn't know her comments would be published in a book, but she is pleased with the result.
“She puts 4-H in a very nice light and was able to connect it back to UC,” Watkins said. “Even people who are involved in 4-H at the club level don't always understand that connection.”
Watkins recommends the book for young parents, so they will learn about opportunities for their children.
“It's a great read for anybody to fully understand the depth of modern 4-H,” Watkins said.
UCCE 4-H Youth Development advisor Marcel Horowitz saw Butler's book mentioned in Sunset Magazine. She read the book and found it to be an excellent introduction to the animal side of 4-H. She was also intrigued with the chapter about 4-H in Ghana, Africa.
Butler said she received a grant to travel to Africa, where she met 4-H leaders and members, including a young man in a small community who received hybrid maize seed from DuPont. The superiority of the crop amazed local subsistence farmers, but gave rise to new problems. The seed cost 10 times more than their traditional seed, and, because it is a hybrid, cannot be collected and held over to plant the following year.
“Please tell DuPoint to give us more seeds; we don't have wigs to fly,” Butler quoted a small town science teacher in Ghana. “We are praying that DuPoint will continue to provide for us.”
Horowitz said she was interested in the ethical dilemma.
“How do you fund 4-H projects without the conflict or bias of the fund source?” Horowitz said.
The Ghana chapter is a short departure for the book, which is firmly rooted in Northern California 4-H animal programs and Butler's discovery that 4-H isn't just for children growing up on farms. 4-H is a way to learn-by-doing in the areas of science, citizenship and healthy living.
“When I try to imagine my original ideal 4-H'er now, I find that I can't do it,” Butler concluded in the book's Afterword. “She has been replaced by all the actual 4-H'ers I know. Luckily for me, they're much more interesting.”
The book is available from University of California Press, Amazon.com and other outlets.
An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
Since adopting the stretch along Sausal Creek in Dimond Park in 2012, 20 4-H members ranging from 5 to 12 years old have been pulling out the invasive plants and replacing them with native plants.
“Friends of Sausal Creek provides us with all the plants and gives us guidance on what should go where,” said Genesta Zarehbin, the 4-H adult volunteer leading the project.
“We planted lots of native plants, such as strawberries, bee plant, ninebark, iris-leaf rush, wood rush, and thimbleberry, that look really cool — but it still gives the appearance of more ivy and spiderwort,” said Zarehbin, who lives in Oakland.
“They have field journals and do research to complete a plant page,” Zarehbin said. “The younger kids do observation -- how many leaves does it have? What color is it? How tall is it? It's a natural discussion when you're out there.”
After removing the invasive, nonnative plants, the 4-Hers had the opportunity to redesign the stretch of trail by choosing and planting natives. At monthly meetings held at the creek, the members regularly weed, water and mulch the plants and pick up trash.
“My kids really get into it,” said Zarehbin, whose children include 9- and 11-year-old sons and twin 6-year-old daughters. “They recognize cow parsnip and soaproot when we go out on hikes. In some areas they'll say, ‘This looks like people are taking care of it.' It gives them a sense of place and how humans shape the environment.”
“The first year, everything died,” said Zarehbin. “The second year, we supplemented the water, and we have a number of plants that survived.”
The creek project is educating the 4-H members, and the 4-H members, in turn, are educating park visitors about the vital work of protecting our natural resources.
“Since our work site is in a very visible location, our 4-H members have been able to enlist the assistance of community members and they frequently have the opportunity to share information with curious onlookers,” said the 4-H project leader.
Zarehbin appreciates the autonomy that Friends of Sausal Creek has allowed, something that enables the kids to develop a sense of ownership. “They let the kids control how they want things to look,” she explained. “The Friends of Sausal Creek are willing to work with young kids and let them work hands-on and contribute in a meaningful way.”
The organization often leads middle school and high school students on field trips, but 4-H is one the few long-term relationships they have with younger children.
Friends of Sausal Creek, which manages a 2600-acre watershed with two permanent full-time staff members, depends on the help of others to preserve and protect the creek.
Groups typically work on an adopted site a few times a year, whereas the 4-H members tend to their site at least once a month. At the last 4-H work day, 30 people participated, said Zarehbin.
“Their recurring workdays enable them to maintain the site – weeding around the native plants and watering them until they are established,” said McAfee. “Their work helps to increase the biodiversity in these urban wildlands.”
McAfee hopes the kids' enthusiasm for nurturing the natural environment will spread to other people in the community.
Every year the 4-H club hosts an Earth Day event for a local public school to share what they're learning with other kids their age. Last year, 90 students from Sequoia Elementary School participated, making nature-based crafts and pulling invasive plants to widen the trail. This year the 4-H members have invited Glenville Elementary to join them at Dimond Park on March 12 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
To learn more about participating in 4-H in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, contact May McMann, 4-H program representative at firstname.lastname@example.org or (925) 646-6543. To find a UC Cooperative Extension 4-H club near you, visit http://4h.ucanr.edu/Get_Involved/County.
For more than 100 years, the University of California Cooperative Extension researchers and educators have been drawing on local expertise to conduct agricultural, environmental, economic, youth development and nutrition research that helps California thrive. UC Cooperative Extension is part of the University of California's systemwide Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources. Learn more at ucanr.edu.
Youth in California will know the thrill of the find as they search out and observe birds in their own communities. The children will be taking part in the UC Cooperative Extension 4-H program's pilot study of new birding curriculum developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.
Cornell has long offered “Bird Sleuth” materials for use in schools. Now they have branched out to informal educational settings by writing two new curricula, “Habitat Connections” and “Nature Detectives,” which are being pilot-tested in California, New York and Illinois.
“We'll be getting kids to start observing things in nature, making a record and sharing their data with the repository at the Lab of Ornithology,” Schmitt-McQuitty said. “As we go through the monthly meetings, we'll keep a running total of the species we see.”
The classes aren't just about spotting birds and identifying them. The curriculum weaves in a greater understanding of science and environment with sessions on habitat, the food web and bird survival. Each meeting begins with an optional one-hour bird hike, adding outdoor exercise and nature observation to the science activities.
Over the course of the program, the children will identify a habitat need for wildlife at Hollister Hills. At the final class, they will be out in the field addressing the need by placing nesting boxes, planting native plants, removing invasive species or some other habitat improvement.
Other California counties involved in the pilot study are Mendocino, Lake, Sonoma, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Monterey, San Luis Obispo, San Diego and Orange. Cornell received a grant from the Noyce Foundation to create and test the curriculum. Representatives from the Ithaca, N.Y., school traveled to California to offer train-the-trainer instruction to 4-H advisors, program representatives and volunteer project leaders.
The curriculum comes in two versions: Nature Detectives, the one to be implemented by Schmitt-McQuitty in San Benito County, and Habitat Connections, which is adapted for afterschool programs.
4-H community educator in Orange County, Jason Suppes, will coordinate the pilot study of Habitat Connections in an Anaheim affordable housing development, Pradera Apartment Homes. Unlike Nature Detectives, in which each monthly class builds on previous lessons, Habitat Connections lessons stand on their own. The format is ideal for the Pradera program, which doesn't attract all the same children to each meeting.
“I don't expect the kids to all become avid birdwatchers, but I'll be pleased if they are able to identify one or two birds in their community,” Suppes said. “They'll get a greater sense about the environment where they live and what they can do to have an impact on the environment.”
The majority Pradera residents are of Latino descent, and most have had few opportunities to learn about nature. Because of the shifting demographics in California to a population with Latinos representing the largest segment, the stewardship of the state's open spaces and public lands could be passed to people who haven't had access or developed an interest.
“Some of these kids never leave their city block,” Suppes said. “Everywhere in the county, we're within 15 miles of the mountains or the ocean. The majority have never seen either one. In 4-H, we're shaping a new generation of land stewards.”
An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Stratetic Vision 2025.