MANHATTAN, Kan. — A group of Kansas 4-H members have not been slowed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, instead launching science and engineering projects that they hope will help improve their local communities.
Since April, they’ve been part of the Science of Agriculture challenge offered by Kansas 4-H, a nearly year-long project that tasks them with solving an agriculture issue in their community, state or nation.
“Agriculture is everywhere, and we want to make sure we’re growing the next generation of science practitioners,” said Anissa Jepsen, a 4-H youth development specialist at the state office in Manhattan.
Listen to an interview by Jeff Wichman with Anissa Jepsen during the Oct. 11 4-H segment on Agriculture Today
Jepsen noted that the youth have spent the past six months researching a project and developing ideas for solving a challenge related to agriculture. While she’s not yet willing to give away all of the details of the youth’s work, she said a couple of the projects relate to animal welfare and chiropractic work; and solutions to food waste.
The project is available to teams of 3-5 youth in grades 6-12. “They learn to use science and engineering practices along with coaches and mentors to develop a solution to a problem,” Jepsen said.
“The youth are directing the project, which we often see in the results. When the youth are so involved, the project really takes on a life of its own because they are so focused on what they’re doing. But they couldn’t do that without the support and involvement of the coaches and mentors.”
Each teams’ final presentation is due Nov. 14 when the Kansas 4-H Youth Development program hosts the state competition in Manhattan. Normally, the youth would have given an initial presentation at the Kansas State Fair, but with pandemic restrictions in place this year, they pivoted to giving presentations to a group of evaluators from Kansas 4-H and the Kansas 4-H Foundation.
“It’s important for youth to get feedback,” Jepsen said. “The evaluators are able to help them fill in the gaps. The youth are usually excited about their projects and they know so much about them, but there may be parts that (those on the outside) may not understand. The evaluators help the teams understand the parts of their presentation that they need to fill in.”
The Science of Agriculture state competition is co-sponsored by Cargill – which has supported the program since 2018 – and Corteva Agriscience, which joined the effort this year.
More information about the Science of Agriculture challenge and other programs offered by the Kansas 4-H Youth Development program is available online, or contact your local Kansas extension agent.
— Pat Melgares, K-State Research and Extension
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