PRAIRIE VIEW, Texas — The two worlds of Agriculture and Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM, had a group of 4-H students shooting for the stars in a recent Youth Lab.
The out-of-this-world lesson was part of the National 4-H Science mission mandate, which is designed to address the following: unsolved worldwide social problems, a shortage of scientists and people understanding science in the United States, underrepresentation of women and minorities in science careers, a need for a more diverse pool of trained scientists to frame and solve problems and educate others. The general population in the U.S. (and worldwide) lacks a basic understanding of scientific methods and content (“science literacy”) (4-H Science Logic Model, 2010).
According to the United States Department of Agriculture, 27 percent of agriculture employment opportunities will be in science, technology, engineering and math by 2020. To address this concern, the Cooperative Extension 4-H & Youth Development Program hosted Youth Leadership Laboratory, a 4-day/3-night pre-college outreach summer program on the campus of Prairie View A & M University.
This year’s theme was “Soaring Beyond the Stars,” and it focused on space science and the STEM careers aligned with space exploration. The program began with Vanessa Wyche, the first African-American Deputy Director at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, who gave a presentation on her career path in the STEM discipline. During the program, participants also had educational field lessons at Space Center Houston and Texas A & M University.
The program concluded with the SALE scholarship recipients’ ceremony and an arousing presentation by Horace Hodge, USDA/1890 Program Liaison, on available USDA Scholarships. YLL addressed the youth participants’ multiple learning modalities by creating flexible programming aimed to focus their reduced attention spans.
As a result of this program, there was an increase in the percentage of youth participants exposed to careers in space science and STEM careers, as well as an awareness of STEM college majors and career pathways. Youth participants who were made aware of space science careers increased from 49 percent to 95 percent. Also, the youth participants who were made aware of careers in STEM increased from 88 percent to 92 percent.
Furthermore, participants being aware of STEM college majors and career pathways increased from 90 percent to 97 percent. YLL contributes to the development of human capital by providing college and career awareness which creates a long-term economic impact on historically underrepresented and underserved youth.
Since the conclusion of the program, BlackEngineer.com has highlighted YLL, and the camp’s planning process will be featured in the future as a model to provide additional training to university staff.
This work was supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, 1890 Extension Formula Program project under Section 1444.
— Prairie View A & M University