- (Public Value) UCANR: Developing a qualified workforce for California
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
As many students continue online learning due to COVID-19, 4-H hands-on learning activities are keeping them excited and engaged in education. The University of California's 4-H Youth Development Program has created several learning activities that allow children to interact within COVID-19 guidelines.
“Despite constraints imposed by the pandemic, 4-H has adapted to continue engaging young people in hands-on STEM learning,” said Steven Worker, Ph.D., UC Cooperative Extension 4-H advisor for Marin, Napa and Sonoma counties.
Students build motorboats for Engineers Week
During Engineers Week, Feb. 21-27, 4-H is challenging kids age 5 to 18 to design, build and test a motorboat.
The activity is intended to spark students' interest in engineering and technology and to exercise their creativity. The boat kit is basic, allowing children to use their imagination, repurposing things around the house to customize their boats.
Starting with a rectangular foam block (2"x2"x8"), youths carve out the body of their toy boats, then install the motor, power switch, propeller and battery holder.
Fifth-grader Sarp Akalin assembled his battery-powered motorboat, which featured a colorful column of white, blue, yellow orange and purple beads, then tested its water worthiness in an outdoor, large stone fountain in Mountain View.
Sarp, who assembled a 4-H Mars rover for a STEM project last year, said the boat was more challenging because the rover kit included all the pieces required to operate the vehicle. To build a functional boat, he had to figure out how to mount the batteries and motor and balance the center of gravity, connect them with electrical wires, then make sure the propeller had the right amount of space spinning freely the right direction to thrust the boat forward.
He learned a few adjustments were needed to float the boat. For example, whenSarp first placed the boat in the water, he let out a yelp as the weight of the battery pack sank the back end. With some guidance from his fatherEmre,Sarp balanced the weight by strapping two batteries to the front end and placed it back in the water. After the boat listed to one side, he converted the boat to a trimaran – a type of sailboat which is mostly used for racing – which stabilized the vessel.
“The best part was seeing it go,” Sarp said of watching his boat propel itself around the large rocks in the turbulent water in the fountain.
On Saturday, Feb. 27, nearly 150 4-H youths from 22 California counties will gather online to show their completed boats, maybe demonstrate them in a bathtub or pool, and describe their design experience.
Participating counties include Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Imperial, Kern, Kings, Madera, Monterey, Napa, Riverside, San Diego, San Luis Obispo, San Mateo, Santa Barbara, Santa Clara, Shasta, Solano, Sonoma, Stanislaus, Tulare, Tuolumne, Ventura and Yolo.
“While meeting virtually is not the same as meeting in person, thankfully we have technology to connect us by sight and sound over long distances,” Worker said. “On Saturday, I am eager to see the creativity, ingenuity and persistence young people display in their completed motorboats.”
More information about the boat challenge is at https://ucanr.edu/boat.
Drive-through animal science presentations
In Petaluma, 4-H members learned about animal science at the Sonoma-Marin Fairgrounds on Feb. 20. More than 130 participants drove to presentation stations within the fairgrounds. From the safety of their cars, the youths learned about livestock production. Poultry, beef cattle, dairy cattle, sheep and goat experts from UC Cooperative Extension and local organizations gave presentations.
Randi Black, UCCE dairy advisor, and Amy Housman of Santa Rosa Junior College provided tips for biosecurity to keep animals healthy. Maurice Pitesky, UC Cooperative Extension poultry specialist, and 4-H members Carson Hay, Frances Marshall, Jessica Waterman and Zoey Haines shared information about raising chickens, egg production and broiler production. Sonoma-Marin Cattlewomen and North Bay Dairy Women discussed raising beef and dairy cattle, cattle byproducts, the use of cattle grazing to help reduce wildfire fuel. Sheep and goat production were covered by Erin Monahan of Two Willow Club Lambs, Riggs Lokka and Emily Dulany of Top of the Hill Boer Goats, and Janet and Rebecca Kracker, Sonoma County 4-H leaders.
Members of the Sonoma-Marin Young Farmers and Ranchers and Napa County Young Farmers and Ranchers discussed animals' nutrition needs. “They showed the kids different feedstuffs, broke down the different ingredients that animal feeds contain, and explained what the different feedstuffs do for the animals,” said Suzanne Amaral, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H program coordinator for Napa County.
Julie Atwood of the Halter Project gave suggestions for planning for evacuating livestock in the event of a wildfire.
Join Discovery Day on March 13
Children, teens and families are invited to join 4-H and other Bay Area organizations for North Bay Science Discovery Day on Saturday, March 13. Events are scheduled between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Pacific time.
Discovery Day is a designed to spark curiosity and excitement about science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). A Kaiser Permanente physician will describe how the COVID-19 vaccination works. Kids can learn how rockets launch and make their own at home. They can learn about wildlife conservation from the Petaluma Wildlife Museum. They can design, build and test a 4-H scribbling machine that will make drawings on paper. These and many other activities are planned. For more information and to register, visit https://www.northbayscience.org/2021.
The virtual public science festival is free and open to youth of all ages across California.
- Author: Pamela Kan-Rice
The Perseverance rover will land on Mars on Feb. 18. As part of a science lesson, sixth-grade students at Avery Middle School in Calaveras County explored Mars recently. The other worldly experience was made possible with Mars Base Camp 4-H STEM Challenge kits donated by the University of California's 4-H Youth Development Program in Calaveras County.
Ali Heermance, Avery Middle School sixth-grade teacher, helped her students assemble their Mars rovers for their space lesson, then drive the vehicles over rough terrain created with boxes and books to explore a map of Mars. The 4-H kit includes parts to build the yellow, plastic battery-powered rover.
Along with the rover, the kit includes four activities for students: Landing Zone Surveyor, Crop Curiosity, Red Planet Odyssey and Insight from Mars. Three of the activities don't require internet service, but Insight from Mars requires a computer, laptop or tablet and internet for the coding activity.
“A generous donation to 4-H in Calaveras County made it possible to buy 450 of the Mars Base Camp 4-H STEM Challenge family kits for local school children,” said JoLynn Miller, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H advisor. The kits retail for $17.95 at https://shop4-h.org.
“I was able to buy enough of the 4-H STEM kits for every sixth-grader in Calaveras County and, with the help of Calaveras County Office of Education, send them to their teachers,” said Miller,
“I hope the 4-H activities spark an interest in science, technology, engineering and math in the students,” Miller said. “The activities show kids how STEM skills can be applied to the world around them and because the family kits can be used by three or four people, they can share the experience with their parents and siblings.”
Sixth-grade math hybrid and 100% distance-learning students at Toyon Middle School have also used the kits.
“The kids enjoyed the activities and were very engaged,” said Michelle Olivarria, science teacher at Toyon Middle School.
For the Red Planet Odyssey, each kit contains a vinyl map of Mars and parts for the students to build a rover to explore the planet.
Crop Curiosity is a card game that has students growing plants on Mars in an artificial environment, where they may encounter natural disasters and sabotage. Participants can win items such as soil, containers and grow lights to grow plants.
“One student told me that his family played it and it was fun,” Olivarria said.
Using the program Scratch, students can program their own animated interactive games and stories for Insight from Mars.
“Another one of my students is still using the website to code,” Olivarria said. “He shows me a new coding clip every week. It was wonderful to get the students engaged in hands-on learning and so nice that all of the students had their own supplies.”
Miller hopes the Mars project raises parents' awareness of 4-H in their community and the variety of projects the UC ANR youth development program offers.
Will Heryford of KCRA visited Avery Middle School and interviewed the students about the hands-on exercise https://www.kcra.com/article/sixth-graders-calaveras-county-get-hands-experience-building-mars-rovers/35220966.
- Author: Ricardo Vela
"I love it when they say, ‘You've taught me something new.'” When Lisa Blecker hears these words from workshop participants, she says it is one of the greatest satisfactions in her role as a pesticide safety education coordinator with the UC Integrated Pest Management Program. She enjoys teaching people how to see their surroundings differently when it comes to working with pesticides.
"Participants who have spent years in the profession often say, 'I've been doing this forever, and I had no idea that my gloves had to be 14 mils thick,'" Blecker said.
At the end of their workshops, webinars, or in-person training, all the participants fill out a survey and the results are positive: 93 percent of last year's participants indicated plans to make a change in workplace safety as a result of attending the workshops. The results also indicate that as many as 62,901 fieldworkers and 12,071 pesticide handlers will be trained in pesticide safety by participants from these workshops.
Training keeps Blecker busy. Half the year, she and her team travel across California to conduct workshops that provide pesticide safety training for commercial and private pesticide applicators. She works closely with the California Department of Pesticide Regulation to promote, through testing, the basic competency requirements for applicators.
“We write the study material that helps them pass the test. We help people through our study guides to get occupational certifications or, in some cases, a license," Blecker said.
What also makes Blecker proud is the fact that she delivers her pesticide safety workshops in Spanish in addition to English.
"I think it's critical for a pesticide safety program, and many outreach programs in this state, to deliver the message in Spanish because so much of the agricultural and even the non-agricultural workforce around pesticides are native Spanish speakers," she said.
Blecker emphasizes the importance of the workshops in Spanish for on-farm applicators. Their education on safe pesticide use and decision-making has the potential to impact as many as 829,300 farm laborers across the state working in the vicinity of on-farm pesticide applications.
"Many of these laborers are Spanish-speakers, which further underscores the need for community education in Spanish; it is easier to deliver technical content in Spanish if you previously received that information in Spanish," Blecker said.
She learned Spanish many years ago in Panama during her time in the Peace Corps. There, she provided community outreach to regional farmers through agricultural education and has been proud ever since to utilize the skill that opened many doors in her profession. Her first experience educating the public on pesticides was in Idaho, where she learned the value of being bilingual.
"I had the privilege to work with the pesticide safety program in Idaho where there was a need for Spanish language delivery. I love speaking Spanish which helps me connect with the language even more because I also get to pair it with my love for education," Blecker said.
With workshops in communities near the border with Oregon to the border with Mexico, Blecker has a vast area to cover. And that is only one of the many services her department provides. Another service is offering courses in continuing education for those interested in maintaining a license to apply pesticides. The licenses must renew every two or three years.
In 2019 alone, Blecker taught 34 in-person continuing education programs to a total of 1,987 applicators across the state who already hold licenses. Some of the topics include proper selection and use of personal protective equipment, respiratory protection, and safe use of pesticides in the landscape. A pesticide safety educator on her team delivered 10 similar programs to an additional 1,275 applicators last year.
"We also provide statewide train-the-trainer workshops because the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the California Department of Pesticide Regulation require certain people to go through an approved train-the-trainer program, so they can, in turn, provide pesticide safety training to field workers and pesticide handlers.
“We are approved by both the US EPA and by the Department of Pesticide Regulation to provide this curriculum," Blecker said.
She attributes the success of her department to the passion and hard work of her staff.
"I am proud of my program, but I'm very well aware of the fact that I can't run this extensive program on my own and I depend on my valued and talented staff," Blecker said.
She and her team promote the economy and a better lifestyle for all Californians, embodying the true nature of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources public values.
Blecker envisions a new direction for her department, one that will benefit even more Californians.
"I would love to follow that model where we work with employers to create policies that contribute to a safe workplace because it's not enough to just train people to do their job or to train them to keep their licenses," she said.
Teens 13 to 19 years old and adults are invited to spend the weekend at beautiful Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria Nov. 1-3 developing their health and well-being at the 4-H annual Mindfulness Retreat. Participants will increase their personal skills in leading a healthy lifestyle, and gain skills needed to be health advocates in their communities. The retreat will focus on stress management, relationship building, nutrition, and a general understanding of mindfulness.
Activities include yoga, art, quiet listening, and time outside in nature.
The Mindfulness Retreat fee is $275 per person, including registration, lodging and meals. For more information and to register, visit the retreat calendar page. The registration deadline is Oct. 1.
Below are comments from teens who attended a previous 4-H Mindfulness Retreat.
Jada: The mindfulness retreat was refreshing for me to be able to worry about nothing but the present. I loved the morning yoga and and making collages. This weekend reminded me that I should stop and take a total break from everything more often, and that I don't have to constantly be accomplishing something. I learned that visualizing things, like the glitter in a moody jar, when I meditate or practice mindfulness helps me to focus.
TJ: Given the opportunity to focus on myself and the present for a weekend with no worries about the future was an amazing experience. I spent time learning more about myself, learning about others, and learning mindful tools to help me get through my everyday life. From meditating on the beach, tons of arts and crafts, hilarious skits, and meeting new friends, it was an experience I will remember for a very long time!
Rose: The mindfulness retreat was an enlightening experience that impacted me in so many ways. With all my college applications due, I've been extremely busy and extremely stressed. The retreat really opened my eyes to the impact that stress can make on my social, mental and emotional health. I was able to leave the retreat with mindfulness strategies that I now use to help me relieve stress, such as collaging, deep breathing, and journaling.
Addy: The mindfulness retreat was a great weekend for stressed teens and adults. It gave everyone some time to step back and live in the moment instead of being obsessed with future plans and responsibilities. The retreat provided everyone with helpful tools that will keep you on track, and keep your stress levels down. This retreat really opened my eyes to what meditation and mindful breathing is capable of and I now use these techniques as a daily stress reliever. This was an unforgettable experience that I would highly recommend people of all ages.