As a former 4-H advisor, I’m not the least bit surprised that a university study says 4-H youth excel beyond their peers. It’s amazing to watch these kids taking on project, contest, and program challenges headon and succeed, gaining experience, confidence, and lessons that prove invaluable in their adult years. Last week, the 4-H challenge across the country focused on biofuels.
On Oct. 7, hundreds of thousands of young people across the nation simultaneously created biofuel. As part of 4-H National Youth Science Day, middle school-aged youth participated in “Biofuel Blast,” the 2009 National Science Experiment. According to a 4-H press release, this project teaches how cellulose and sugars in plants — such as switchgrass, sorghum corn, and algae — can be converted into fuel. Following the experiment, the young participants led local discussions about alternative energy, joining their voices with those involved in the national energy debate.
This science day seeks to spark an early interest and leadership in science, aiming to increase the number of American students pursuing science college majors and careers. “Currently, more than five million young people across the nation participate in 4-H science, engineering, and technology programming in topics as varied as robotics, rocketry, wind power, GPS mapping, agricultural science, film making, water quality, and water conservation,” according to the National 4-H Council.
“Through the ‘One Million New Scientists, One Million New Ideas’ campaign, 4-H has undertaken a bold goal of engaging one million additional young people in science, engineering, and technology programming by 2013,” according to the press release.
“It has been shown that engaging youth in scientific exploration early sparks a lasting interest in the sciences,” says Donald T. Floyd, Jr., National 4-H Council president and CEO. “Whether it’s 4-H youth in Michigan creating biodiesel to power their school buses, 4-H’ers in Indiana building robots for their local police station, or in California where 4-H youth are increasing the health of local streams, rivers and the ocean through water testing and conservation projects – when young people are given the opportunity to learn and take a leadership role in their community, it inspires confidence and a lifetime of achievement.”
In fact, now there’s proof of 4-H’s positive impact on youth. Dr. Richard Lerner, a youth development scholar, worked with researchers at the Institute for Applied Research in Youth Development at Tufts University to conduct “The 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development.” The longitudinal study found that, when compared to other youth, young people involved in 4-H are:
- Nearly two times more likely to get better grades in school.
- Nearly two times more likely to plan to go to college.
- 41 percent less likely to engage in risky behaviors.
- 25 percent more likely to positively contribute to their families and communities.
Overall, the study found that the advantages of 4-H participation include higher educational achievement and higher motivation for future education. In addition, youth in 4-H are more civically active and make more community and civic contributions than youth in other out-of-school activities, according to the 4-H Council news release.
I’m a huge proponent of the 4-H program, I’ve seen the results first-hand. I highly recommend it for students, but also for adults as club advisors. If you’d like to learn more about 4-H, I hope you’ll take time to visit the following Web sites:
Click here for more information on “4-H National Youth Science Day,” visit www.4-H.org/NYSD.
Click here for more information on the “4-H Study of Positive Youth Development” or to download a PDF copy.
Click here to learn more about 4-H.