Youth engage in hands-on science on nine California military installations

The Issue

California is home to nearly 200,000 youth with at least one parent in the military. Military-connected youth are at risk for developmental, emotional, social, physical, and mental difficulties as a result of stresses from family relocations and deployment of a parent. Attention is needed to encourage the healthy development of military children while reducing negative impacts of frequent relocations and deployments. There is also a need for greater science literacy among California’s youth as a whole. Science literacy is essential for personal decision making, civic engagement, and our country’s economic productivity and security.

What Has ANR Done?

To help meet the needs of military-connected youth, California 4-H partnered with the U.S. Departments of Defense and Agriculture to charter 4-H Clubs in after-school youth centers on 20 active military installations. These 4-H Clubs provide a constant, familiar resource for military-connected youth as they relocate from base to base.

A special science project focused on improving science literacy was implemented and evaluated during the summer, 2014. The project focused on preparing after-school staff to use experiential and inquiry-based teaching practices to improve youth interest in science. In San Diego, 42 after-school staff delivered the Youth Experiences in Science program to 206 youth on eight U.S. Navy installations. In Los Angeles County, 10 afterschool staff delivered 4-H Junk Drawer Robotics to 18 youth at an Air Force installation.

The Payoff

Improved staff capacity to deliver hands-on science education

Educators indicated that both the training workshop and subsequent experience in the program strengthened their ability to deliver experiential and inquiry-based learning activities (all six questions were statistically significant using a paired t-test). In addition, 95% were “absolutely” or “very” sure that the workshop improved their confidence in facilitating experiential and inquiry-based science.

Youth had a high level of enthusiasm and interest for science and had opportunities to engage in science process skills. When asked to rate the statement “I like science,” 70% marked “agree,” 20% marked “neutral,” and 10% marked “disagree.” We consider this a positive result, particularly when compared with responses to the same question on the standardized National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2005 (California, Grade 4: 61% “agree,” 23% “not sure,” 16% “disagree”). Further, youth response to the statement “I am good at science” was 62% “agree,” 26% “neutral,” and 12% “disagree” (NAEP results: 32% “agree,” 53% “not sure,” 15% “disagree”).

Clientele Testimonial

Delivering the program “improved my confidence by providing new and fun ideas to implement science; I feel more competent in science after the summer program.” - participant


Supporting Unit: Youth, Families & Communities - 4-H

Sue Manglallan, 4-H Youth Development Advisor, San Diego,
Keith Nathaniel, County Director & 4-H Youth Development Advisor, Los Angeles,
Steven Worker, 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology Coordinator, State 4-H Office,