If all you think about when you hear 4-H is agriculture and farm animals, get ready to have your mind blown!
While they still take on the more traditional 4-H activities, Alabama 4-H offers programs that hone 21st century skills — skills like problem solving, creative thinking, and critical thinking — to build excitement for science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. STEAM education is explored with a practical, “learn-by-doing” mindset.
The Benefits of 4-H
4-H has been around for over 100 years as an organization that give kids hands-on learning experiences while working with adult mentors in a trusted environment. Kids learn important life skills and are afforded opportunities to use those new skills in community activities.
A longitudinal study by Tufts University and faculty at land-grant universities shows 4-H plays a vital role in helping participants achieve success. Some of the research found 4-H’ers are:
- Nearly 4 times more likely to make contributions to their communities
- About 2 times more likely to be civically active
- Nearly 2 times more likely to participate in Science, Engineering and Computer Technology programs during out-of-school time
While the local 4-H is part of the Madison County Cooperative Extension (which is associated with Alabama A & M University and Auburn University – two of three land-grant universities in the state), its charter is youth development through in-school and after-school programs, clubs, and camps.
Anyone can join 4-H and request a special interest group be started. Schools, churches, community clubs, independent groups – all have access to the wealth of resources offered by the Madison County Cooperative Extension Office.
For example, 4-H has a robotics club that meets at the Extension Office on Cook Avenue in Huntsville; 4-H has programs running in several local elementary schools; and they’ll do one-off classes. “We can build a class or club around just about anything – from cooking to rockets,” says Nikki Cornelison, Youth Development Agent for Madison and Jackson Counties. “We just need interest.”
4-H STEAM Curricula
Their STEM curricula offerings include topics such as aerospace, computers, computer science, electricity, food science, geospatial systems, kitchen chemistry, robotics, physics, small engines, wind energy, even a curriculum about STEM clothing. They also put the A in STEAM with creative arts programs like music, public speaking, photography, and visual arts as well as film making, Latino cultural arts, and theater. And this is just their STEM/STEAM stuff! Visit their website to see what all they offer. Chances are the local office has the curriculum you’re looking for, and if not, they can order it for you.
The best part is 4-H is no or low cost (except camp) as the office carries a wide variety of kits for learning different subjects. When there is a fee, it’s usually for disposable materials or materials you’ll be taking with you.
The opportunities are really endless when it comes to what Alabama 4-H can offer. If your child wants to learn something in one of their many STEAM-related topics, chances are 4-H has the curriculum and a mentor to meet your needs. If you’re interested in starting a 4-H club, contact Niki Cornelison at the Madison County Corporate Extension Office.
Karen Gann had a marketing communications career in high tech before taking a sharp turn into stay-at-home-momdom and homeschooling. She grew up in the Tennesse Valley, lives in Huntsville, and is wife to the wittiest man alive, mother to two head-strong and independent girls (they're adorable, really), and human caregiver to Gomez the dog. Addictions include Facebook, Pinterest, NYC's Radio Lab, coffee, and politics (not necessarily in that order but sometimes all at the same time). She's a foodie, too.