By Sarah Morton, Project Director, and Kathleen Jamison, Principal Investigator, Growing 4-H Science
There is a need to address soaring dropout rates, truancy, and unhealthy habits that disproportionately affect youths in urban areas. With this in mind, Growing 4-H Science (G4HS) developed an innovative, sustainable, urban agriculture program to engage, educate, and empower marginalized youths in Richmond.
The G4HS training team established a collaborative program that fosters strengths of young leaders and interested partners to help K-12 youths to learn, change, and take action in their communities. The program, based on 4-H Positive Youth Development, emphasized hands-on experiences in areas including textiles, animal science, woodworking, maker education, environmental science, food science, and digital media. Through these content areas, youths were inspired to link key concepts, prior knowledge,
and real-life experiences while keeping an eye toward career exploration.
Additionally, the G4HS education team provided professional development training to educators from both public and private schools as well as volunteers and community partners. This training integrated formal and nonformal teaching strategies and helped develop cross-discipline connections that are expected to lead to new ideas in areas such as out-of-school-time learning initiatives or career and technical education.
G4HS served as a state and national model for urban 4-H programming with an emphasis on urban agriculture. The model focused on building community capacity in order to ensure program replication and sustainability.
The initial program was implemented in 2012 at the Solar House at the Science Museum of Virginia. Core instruction reached 300 youth, each receiving 50 programming hours. The program was delivered in a nontraditional learning environment where hands-on, experiential learning took place in an outdoor environmental learning lab.
Over the last two years, the summer G4HS Integrative STEM Institute was launched, STEM programming during and outside of school hours in fall and spring was provided, and a weeklong agricultural commodities tour was established. 6400 youth benefitted across 20 hours of programming for each youth.