4-H: More than cows, cooking

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2010

You have probably heard that "4-H is more than cows and cookin'." It is!

Submitted Photo
Submitted Photo
A 4-H member participates in a biofuel experiment.

There is a major focus in 2010 on science, engineering and technology. The University of Alaska, through the Cooperative Extension Service 4-H program, has funded education outreach in science to youth around the state. With those funds, an AmeriCorps member brimming with energetic ideas and help from community organizations and businesses, 4-H is more involved in science than ever.

New after-school 4-H clubs were formed. Kid-friendly science activities were provided in the North Star Rocket Club, the Sterling Elementary Gardening Club, the North Peninsula GPS Club and the Tustumena ROV (short for remote oceanic vehicles) Club. Other clubs and events have highlighted the science field. The Bang Up Boys Club, led by Trace Braxling, a high school student who is a junior 4-H leader, has helped 4-Hers build spaceships out of recycled materials. Bat houses and catapults have been some other club projects.

During the statewide Leader's Forum and the State Teen Forum, which were both held on the Kenai Peninsula this year, 4-H partnered with the Challenger Learning Center to teach science classes and take teens on a moon mission. To further promote science in our community, UAF and 4-H added a $400 award to the highest ranking 4-Her in the Caring for the Kenai Contest. Freya Chay, first-place winner, earned that honor.

Simone Owens, an AmeriCorps member who works with 4-H, has helped provide the community with several events that taught safety and science. Kicking off the new 4-H year in October, biofuel learning kits were distributed to clubs and schools. Youth were guided through discovery of alternative fuels and the production of ethanol. This was a program sponsored by National 4-H. The Kids Don't Float Program, held at the Nikiski pool, educated youth about water safety. GPS Day at the Kenai Wildlife Refuge acquainted many families with the GPS/geocaching world. There are now 4-H geocaches planted throughout the Kenai Peninsula. A presentation about wind power at the 100th Boy Scout Jamboree gave the history of using wind for power and explained how modern wind turbines function.

Scott Hamann with Metal Magic has instructed 4-Hers in casting and is planning to assist them in making steel platters. GLM provided a tour of its facilities so 4-Hers could witness the technology of machining.

Our annual 4-H events have been saturated with science projects. Educational displays, public presentations and Rally Day classes included presentations about wind power, animal science, rain forests, anatomy, wildlife, global warming, geology, taxidermy, GPS, aerodynamics, entomology, electricity and engines. Summer camp activities focused on many of these science topics.

Recently, Janice Chumley of Extension coordinated with 4-H, the Peninsula Garden Club, the North Peninsula Recreation Center and the Kenai Wildlife Refuge to bring John Hudson, author and nature photographer, and Robert Armstrong, entomologist and dragonfly expert, to the Kenai. For two days, the pair was out in field offering Alaska families a new appreciation for nature photography and entomology, specifically, Alaska's official state insect: a dragonfly, the four spotted skimmer.

If you are interested in joining 4-H come by the Cooperative Extension office on Kalifornsky Beach Road (underneath Fish and Game) or call Nancy Veal, Kenai Peninsula 4-H agent, at 262-5824. The 4-H year begins the first week of October. The enrollment fee is $11 per member. There are existing clubs to join or new ones can be formed.

Nancy Veal is the Kenai Peninsula 4-H agent for the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service.

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