Last week the HAREC Youth, Family and Community (YFC) education team participated in community summer programs.
Science Camp at Rio del Mar Elementary School, Oxnard, is an all-day, four week commitment. Rio School District Superintendent, John Puglisi, feels so strongly about STEM education that he offers this opportunity to district students, grades 2nd-5th, at no cost. HAREC educators were invited to participate in a pollination themed day. Over 70 third graders happily engaged in hands-on pollination activities. Time lapse videos allowed students to see pollinators in action and discussions about bees and their importance in our food system rounded out the experience.
Likewise, the team participated in Kids Day at the Club for Boys & Girls Club of Santa Clara Valley. Over 300 youth joined in STEM education that included plant science, entomology, robotics, physics and much more. The HAREC table overflowed with youth excited about planting butternut squash seeds and learning about other nutritious winter squashes.
It's time to reflect on another highly successful education season at the UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center (HAREC). The 4-H Youth Development Programs at HAREC consisting of Farm Field Trips, Classroom Outreach, Student Farm, and Sustainable You! Summer Camp served well over 5000 Ventura County youth in the past year. The triumph of these programs is due to dedicated UC volunteers, staff and the many educators throughout the county that support these efforts. As demand for agriculture literacy, nutrition, food systems, and sustainability education increases, the education team is busy forming partnerships in the community that will help further extend our reach.
One such collaboration is with Ventura Unified School District (VUSD). With the leadership of a Food Corps member assigned to the district and a near quarter acre of land at the HAREC, the 4H Student Farm was established and has now completed its second year. The afterschool program meets weekly during fall and spring quarters. This year both Balboa and De Anza Middle school students learned plant science and the nuts and bolts of farming. From seed to plate they participated in many aspects of the food system-planting, harvesting, cooking, tasting, and composting as well as transporting produce back to the school cafeteria and giving back to the community by donating to Food Share. The student farm produced over 900 pounds of food.
Additionally, VUSD Farm to School nutrition educators teamed with HAREC staff this spring to give fifth and sixth graders the opportunity to spend a full day of food systems education at the Center. The district facilitated transportation using California Department of Education funds for 475 students. The field trips enabled youth to see where food comes from, specifically some of the produce grown for their school salad bars. Students toured the 4-H Student Farm as well as Join the Farm, an operation that leases land at HAREC and supplies carrots and lettuce for the district's nutrition services. They participated in a variety of hands-on activities ranging from harvesting vegetables, Harvest of the Month cooking lesson, plant part scavenger hunt in the education gardens and a lesson on local and global food systems. For many, the highlight was observing food growing in various stages of development and tasting farm fresh fruits and vegetables. “Wait, what? That's not what broccoli looks like in the grocery store.” stated Justice, a sixth grader from Anacapa Middle School, in awe of how different and beautiful food looks before it hits the grocery store.
HAREC will again host Sustainable You! Summer Camp, a program that teaches youth, ages 9-12, what it means to be sustainable through fun hands-on activities. Each day of camp revolves around one of the five major sustainability themes: land, water, food, air, and energy. However, this year, the education team partners with the City of Ventura Sustainability Division. The city's environmental educators will share their expertise and educational resources to help extend camp activities at the Center. This teamwork will no doubt help strengthen an already enlightening program.
Preparation for fall programming has already begun and the education team looks forward to building more partnerships in the coming year.
Although the weather says summer, fall education outreach at HAREC is in full swing. Both 4-H Farm Field Trips and Classroom Outreach programs are full and the farm is once again filled with the sound of children. The big question is….. What is that new structure in the garden?
Over the summer, UC volunteers Judy and John Ascheman designed and constructed a Monarch Waystation. An ample supply of Milkweed was propagated on site to accommodate the many hungry monarch caterpillars that have taken up residence. The Waystation is a welcomed addition to the garden and compliments pollination lessons. Youth and adults alike are fascinated by watching caterpillars munch and observing the various stages the Monarch life cycle.
Many thanks to John , Judy, and gardeners that propagate milkweed and monitor the Waystation plants, caterpillars, and butterflies.
Spring Education & Outreach season is coming to a close. It's time to reflect on all the accomplishments:
- Be a Scientist-over 1200 visitors, youth to adult, joined UC HAREC & CE staff for a fun filled day celebrating 100 years of science and service. The May 8th activities geared for youth were also a big hit with adults. Presentations on topics such as bees, soils, gardening, and water were provided by Master Gardeners and CE Advisors. Kudos to Program Representative, Gwyn Vanoni for leading this amazing event.
- Sustainable You! Two train-the-trainers workshops were completed. HAREC and Desert REC staff as well as community partners were trained on this pertinent curriculum created by Dr. Roslyn Brain, University of Utah. A week long Sustainable You! summer camp scheduled for June will be delivered by UC intern, Chris Massa.
- Student Farm-a successful first year ended with a celebration attended by parents, siblings, school administrators, and Hansen Advisory Board members. Bonnie Weigel, Food Share, CEO presented the Center and students with a certificate of appreciation for the near 800 pounds of produce grown, harvested and donated to the food bank which serves hundreds of individuals and families in need county-wide.
- From Watersheds to Planter Beds-a Water Education Program-developed by REC sponsored intern summer 2013, this timely themed new field trip kicked off to the delight of our young visitors. Individual components of the program will go on the road as 4-H Classroom Outreach offerings in the fall.
- 4-H Field Trip, Classroom & Afterschool Outreach-with the help of our treasured volunteers, Food Corps service member and staff, spring youth outreach soared to 1999 and ages reached ranged from Preschool to 8th grade.
The season is just ending but field staff are already busy preparing the farm for new fall crops and displays. Stay tuned for posts about exciting new research projects beginning over the summer.