Steven Worker is the 4-H Youth Development Advisor for Sonoma, Marin and Napa counties.
4-H uses a variety of volunteers for it's programs. Steven conducted a study of volunteer educators, with a "diverse experiences, abilities and values" to teach STEM projects to students using 4-H curriculum at three sites using three different methods.
To describe volunteers' pedagogical practices, I conducted a qualitative case study at three sites where volunteer educators were implementing a design-based 4-H curriculum. The curriculum advanced youth scientific literacy by supporting scientific inquiry in conjunction with planning, designing and making shareable artifacts. Through detailed observations, videos and focus groups, I identified six common pedagogical practices, though educators differed widely in which ones they used. Pragmatic and structural constraints shaped their choices, as did their professional identification as engineers, or not, and their relative comfort with engineering.
To support volunteer educators in implementing a learner-centered educational program, curricula designers might be more specific in recommending and explaining pedagogical practices, and program managers might better train volunteer educators in those preferred practices.
Read this research article is in California Agriculture, volume 71, number 4.
Citation: Worker S. 2017. Volunteer educators bring their own ideas about effective teaching to a 4-H curriculum. Calif Agr 71(4):208-213. https://doi.org/10.3733/ca.2017a0021.
- Author: Diego Mariscal
- Editor: J. M.
4-H Outreach Summer Program
Summer of 2018
More than 100 youth, ages 5-12, participated in four weeks of summer camps in Santa Rosa and Windsor. The camps focused on team building, leadership, and civic services while also keeping youth active with sports clinics and non-competitive scrimmages to promote skill building.
Additionally, 4-H continued to grow its college preparation program – called JUNTOS - for Latino high school students. Four teens from Sonoma County were selected to attend the Juntos Summer Academy at UC Merced. The academy lasted 3 days and offered teens a weekend of college life along with college preparation workshops and mentoring.
As the new year begins, 4-H will continue to work with families, school districts and community partners to present more opportunities to engage in positive youth development programs.
- Editor: Jesenia Mendoza
Diego Mariscal, 4-H Community Education Specialist (position funded by Initiative)
Steven M. Worker, 4-H Youth Development Advisor
Stephanie Larson, County Director
County Portrait: There are over 92,000 youth in Sonoma County, with 37% identifying as Latino, 44% eligible for free and reduced-price meals, and 22% classified as English learners.
A particular strength were eight 4-H afterschool clubs, offering up to 75-hours of educational and athletic programs to youth at local elementary schools. Clubs focused on hands-on science, nutrition, leadership, and civics activities in addition to physical activity to promote healthy living. Programs included a strong teenagers-as-teachers component where teenagers were recruited and trained to facilitate activities. These long-term programs, particularly in comparison to short-term programs (e.g., less than 3 hours), supported tremendous outcomes and impacts. Youth increased their public speaking ability, science literacy, and reported healthier habits than before. Additionally, parents became much more invested in the 4-H program and began to lead expansion efforts. This will support long-term 4-H program sustainability.
Through our efforts, Sonoma 4-H increased the number of youth engaging in 4-H and developed new ways for youth to engage in 4-H programs. We strengthened our partnerships with local high schools and elementary schools, the Sonoma County Library, community centers, and the Boys and Girls Club.
The Sonoma County 4-H outreach approach focused more on long-term development of life skills for youth and volunteers, but while continuing short term experiences to improve brand awareness. We continued balancing this approach to recruit and cultivate more youth and adult volunteers to become invested in the 4-H program.
- Author: Lenya Quinn-Davidson
- Editor: J. M.
We all know that fire is one of the oldest and most powerful tools that humans have. For millennia, we have used fire to improve our home lives—food, winter warmth, etc.—but what we often forget is that most of the landscapes we know and love have also been shaped by fire, and in many cases, by fires that humans have started.
We both grew up in rural northern California, and if you talk to old timers in our communities, you'll hear stories of the deep connections between people and fire: of Native Americans lighting off of trails as they hiked out of their hunting grounds in the fall, and ranchers burning their fields to improve range and keep things open. Unfortunately, across much of California, these types of stories have become mere folklore—wistful anecdotes from a time with less regulation and more personal and cultural autonomy. In most parts of the state, landowners aren't using fire anymore; the fear of liability, the perceived complexity of permits and regulations, and the generational and cultural gaps in fire experience have virtually eliminated fire from the toolbox for most landowners. But that's about to change.
In recent history, CAL FIRE has been the leader in private lands burning. In the 1980s, their Vegetation Management Program (VMP) was responsible for 30,000-65,000 acres of prescribed burning every year, but in recent decades, those numbers have consistently fallen short of 10,000 acres a year—a drop in the bucket given the habitat and fuels issues that we face in California. CAL FIRE is currently revamping and reinvesting in the VMP, which is great news, but it's become clear that other pathways are needed for landowners to reclaim fire as the important tool that it is.
Last year, we started looking into prescribed fire models from other parts of the country. We know that other regions have impressive burn programs that blow California out of the water, and in most of those places, they've been successful because landowners are doing the burning themselves—something that's almost unheard of in California. We were curious how those efforts are structured, and what it would take to do something similar here.
One of the most promising models of landowner-led burning is the prescribed burn association (PBA) model, through which landowners and other interested partners can work together to burn each other's properties. In many regions, these PBAs are spearheaded by the ranching community, in collaboration with conservation organizations like the National Wild Turkey Federation, Pheasants Forever, and others that see direct benefits for wildlife. In 2015, there were 62 PBAs in the United States, almost all of which were in the Great Plains and Texas. The PBA model has spread into parts of the Southeast, too, but these types of efforts have been noticeably absent in the West.
In March of 2017, we traveled to Nebraska to burn with and learn from two well-established PBAs. Our Californian convoy included the two of us from UCCE, a colleague from the Natural Resources Conservation Service, and Dean Hunt, one of our key ranching partners here in Humboldt County. During our five-day visit, we spent two days burning with the PBAs and learning about their organizational structure. In both cases, the PBAs have local leaders who are not traditional fire practitioners; rather, they are local landowners—one a corn farmer and the other a cattle rancher—who have a vested interest in healthy rangelands and habitats. Throughout the year, these PBA leaders work with other local landowners to develop burn plans and prep units, and when optimal weather windows present themselves, the group gets together and conducts the burns. The PBA is mostly volunteer, and members contribute tools and equipment to help make the burns happen. On the two days that we burned with them, an email was sent out to the PBA mailing list, and within hours, more than forty people arrived on site with trucks, UTVs equipped with small water tanks, and hand tools. The PBA leaders also have burn trailers, which were funded by various conservation groups and are fully equipped with hand tools, radios, drip torches, and other key items.
PBA members typically volunteer on two or more burns before their projects make it onto the group's priority list. In this way, there is clear incentive to help each other out, and everyone benefits in the long term. Because of PBAs, burning has become a viable and effective treatment—one that provides unprecedented training opportunities to landowners, encourages community-wide collaboration, and is reversing trends of habitat and rangeland losses throughout the middle of the country. So why aren't we doing this in California?
When we got back from Nebraska, we hit the ground running. We organized a training burn on Dean Hunt's ranch that June, and we've completed another eight burns since then. Burns have targeted a wide range of objectives, including invasive species control, oak woodland restoration, coyote brush management, and fuels reduction.
In March of this year, we held a meeting and officially formed the Humboldt County Prescribed Burn Association—the first of its kind in the West. At that meeting, we easily brainstormed 17 different projects that we'd like to complete in the coming year or two, and we formed an 11-person Board of Directors that includes a wide array of ranchers and other community members. Since then, we've applied for two grants and continued to build out our burn trailer, which was funded by the California Deer Association last year and is full of drip torches, hand tools, and other equipment for burning.
On August 1, we hosted a workshop with Stephanie Larson and other partners. The workshop covered some of the nuts and bolts of prescribed fire on private lands in California, and it gave us a chance to share more information about prescribed burn associations. For more information on prescribed burning, please send us an email: Lenya Quinn-Davidson, Area Fire Advisor, UCCE, email@example.com, and Jeffery Stackhouse, Livestock and Natural Resources Advisor, UCCE, firstname.lastname@example.org.
To promote the exchange and sharing of agricultural extension information, several U.S. Land Grant institutions have formed an alliance with 10 Chinese agricultural universities. From June 17 to 22, UC Agriculture & Natural Resources took a group of scientists from Chinese agricultural universities on a tour of agriculture in Northern California.
Extension in China
As Anne Megaro, director of governmental and community relations for UC Agriculture & Natural Resources explained “They have extension in China, but it is not like ours. They are looking to strengthen their advisor positions and develop a mechanism for career advancement, similar to what we have in the U.S.”
Visit to Sonoma County
On June 19 and 20, the delegation visited Sonoma County to learn about our Ombudsman, Master Gardener, 4-H and Rangeland programs in Sonoma County. Photos at end of the story.
The evening of June 19, Agriculture Ombudsman, Karen Giovannini, shared how she helps farmers and ranchers navigate permitting and regulations. She explained how, at their most refined, regulations are in place to protect resources, that is, people and the environment. China also has many ‘rules' as the delegates called them. Karen shared locally made sheep, goat and cow cheeses with the delegates as an example of how a dairy operation could expand their product offerings to help them stay viable. Although cheese is not a ‘traditional' product in China, Karen explained that it could be a way to help keep some of the younger generation in rural areas.
China is continuing to experience the largest migration in world history. The rural population is migrating into the urban areas for better pay and opportunities raising concerns about the negative impacts on their agriculture sector and food security. Fun fact, in 2013: “Roughly one out of every 25 people in the world was a resident of a Chinese city who arrived, or was born, since the current round of [Chinese] economic reforms began in 1978.” Like United States, labor shortages in agriculture in China are creating a need for more agriculture technology. By the way, of the delegates that tried the cheeses, their favorite was the goat cheese.
Master Gardener and Bayer Farm Programs
On morning of June 20, Master Gardener Food Gardening Specialists and Jonathan Bravo from Bayer Farm kindly hosted the Chinese delegation. Jonathan, the garden manager, showed the delegation the community garden at Bayer Farm and talked about the programs there and then the FGS team led the delegation through the demonstration garden and discussed the sustainable food gardening principles being shown in the garden, such as integrated pest management and square foot gardening, and discussed their educational outreach programs in the garden. Because so much of China's population lives in the cities, this example of urban farming is of interest to the delegates.
The delegates were also very interested in the bilingual interactions. In China, there are many dialects and it will be important for youth extension programs to reach out to the rural population in their native dialects. The delegation was also quite interested in 4-Hers selling market livestock at the fairs as they observed when visiting Shasta County fair earlier that week.
Final stop in Sonoma County was a visit to Taylor Mountain Regional Park. Dr Stephanie Larson shared the experiences she had with setting up grazing on public lands and the many benefits it provides, including exposing the non-farming community to livestock on working lands. They hiked to one of the educational signs along the trail that UCCE advisors developed, along with videos and fact sheets, to educate the public about the importance of maintaining proper livestock grazing and rancher stewardship on California's rangelands with public access.
Although China has the third largest population of cattle, they import most of their beef to meet the increasing demand due to increasing standard of living of the Chinese people. As recent as 2016, “small farms with 9 or fewer cattle slaughtered per year are responsible for a major portion of Chinese beef production.” Plus, their native cattle breeds far underperform when compared to fast growing beef cattle breeds in the United States and other countries. Developing grazing programs on public park lands in China will keep their heritage alive while producing the many benefits grazers provide. The delegates were fascinated to see the cattle enjoying the grasses.
The delegates loved their visit to Sonoma County. Next stop was UC Davis and the Russell Ranch Sustainable Agriculture Facility, UCD's living laboratory.
Glenda Humiston, VP of UC ANR summed up the visit best, “The Chinese face many of the same issues that we do here in the U.S. The Chinese universities want to improve rural economic development to lift up the quality of life for people in rural communities. They are also responding to global climate change, drought and pests while trying to improve food security and water use efficiency. They see UC Cooperative Extension as an effective research model; we hope that scientific collaborations will accelerate solutions and help maintain relations for California agriculture with China.”/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>/h3>