by Mitch Mason, 4-H Youth Educator
other project staff: Kristy Ouellette, Sarah Sparks, Trent Schrieffer, Laura Wilson
4-H Teen Leaders in Portland, Maine experiment with the principles of flight by constructing and testing their own airplanes. These 4-H Teens will teach at Summer Food Sites in Portland.
What makes an airplane fly? How do rockets get into space? These are questions being asked of hundreds of young people in southern Maine this summer. The young people are part of a 4-H aerospace project called 4-H Summer of Science:Flight Command which takes place at 15 Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) sites in southern Maine. The goals of the program are to increase science literacy, decrease summer learning loss and to encourage youth to eat healthy meals during the summer.
There are six weekly lessons in the 4-H Summer of Science:Flight Command project. Even though it is summer time, it is really important for students to keep learning. Many students forget their school lessons during the long summer days. It is documented that 4-H participation during elementary school increases the likelihood of taking elective science classes in high school so involving youth in 4-H science at an early age is important. In Maine, only 50% of 8th grade students and 51% of 5th graders were proficient in science in 2012.
The science lessons are quick (25-30 minutes) and are conducted at SFSP sites so that children can do a simple, fun science lesson after lunch. The SFSP program is a national USDA program and provides children ages 18 and under a healthy meal five days a week during summer. In Maine, community partners (such as schools and non-profits) prepare and deliver the healthy meals. The number of youth at each SFSP site can range from 8-75 (the teens usually work with small groups of 8-12 youth).
4-H’ers get ready to test their hand made gliders as part of 4-H Summer of Science. They are led by 4-H Teen Leader Zimzim, 17 (facing camera).
One unique aspect of the 4-H Summer of Science is that the lessons are given by 15 4-H Teen Leaders, who attended 1 ½ days of training given by 4-H staff and who receive a small stipend for their work. Teens often relate better to younger students than adult staff and they know that science is important. Sahra, 17, says, “science is a part of everything we do on a daily basis” and Naumu, 15, states that “science is important for kids to learn because it help them to understand about the environment and oceans.” The teens also appreciate that they are part of a healthy lifestyle for young kids; “People often take the habits they learn in childhood with them to adulthood. If we can teach children to eat well and to exercise then they are more likely to continue to do those things as they grow older”, says Brad, 16.
Fadumo, a 4-H Teen Leader in Maine, teaches youth at an SFSP site how aerodynamics works with hand made gliders.
Since 2011, more than 1,400 kids have participated in a 4-H Summer of Science weekly series. Past themes have included Bubble Science, Properties, and Food Science. The program has also led to new partnerships; in 2014 UMaine 4-H helped to recruit and train three 4-H teens to assist with a summer reading program at SFSP sites conducted by the city of Portland. The program is paid for by funding from Maine 4-H Foundation, the John T. Gorman Foundation and the 4-H Youth Voices, Youth Choices program.