4-H Programs-Empowering Young People to Lead for a Lifetime Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

— Written By and last updated by 4-H Science logo image

4-H programs are grounded in the belief that kids learn best by doing. Through hands-on learning, youth gain not only confidence, creativity, and curiosity, but also life skills such as leadership and resiliency that will help them thrive today and tomorrow.

4-H programming consists of hands-on projects and education in three core areas: Healthy Living, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math), and Citizenship. These programs and activities are conducted in a positive environment, under the guidance of adult mentors, and promote and encourage participating youth to take on proactive leadership roles. Furthermore, they are backed by a network of 100 public universities, such as NC State University, and a robust and diverse community of 4‑H volunteers and professionals. Youth can concentrate on one focus area or they can try a variety of programs throughout their 4‑H experience.

Science programming in North Carolina 4-H is divided into three focus areas: Environmental Science and Alternative Energy; Engineering and Technology; and Plant and Animal Science. Providing developmentally appropriate, high-quality learning opportunities, 4-H Science Programs foster quality science learning, promote science literacy, and generate interest in science-related education and careers. By working through youth to reach their families, we engage youth as change agents in their communities.

NC 4-H offers a multitude of opportunities for youth to engage in STEM programs and activities:

Environmental Science & Alternative Energy projects and activities provide youth first-hand experiences in conserving energy, how alternative energy sources can be effectively used, and understanding the relationships between people and nature. Forestry, wildlife, bugs and bees, solar and wind energy, and fisheries and marine aquatics are just some of the projects available. Youth can also participate in District, State and even National level contests like the Wildlife Habitat Education Program (WHEP) or the Forestry Management Contest.

Engineering and Technology projects and activities include robotics, aerospace and aeronautics, electricity, computer science, coding, rocketry and much more. Youth can wire a lamp, build a rocket, engineer and code a new computer program, build a drone or build a solar-powered boat. Regardless of the topic area, 4-H engineering and technology projects encourage youth to make observations, ask questions, design solutions to problems, test ideas, and discover answers while exploring and learning about their world.

Plant and Animal Science programs provide youth the opportunity for experiential (hands-on) learning in animal and horticulture sciences. Many think that 4-H is about living on a farm and raising a cow or a pig, taking it to a fair, winning a blue ribbon, and maybe selling the animal to earn money for college. For some youth, that’s true, although there’s a lot more to it than that! Thousands of kids in 4-H work with animals and have never set foot on a farm. They’re working with dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, birds, fish, snakes, turtles—you name it. Youth learn that animals make great companions; learn about what to feed them, how to train them and how to enhance their environment.

Plant sciences programs introduce young people to the world of agriculture, horticulture and life sciences. Youth explore the broad scope of plant and soil sciences and the impact that they have on our world through hands-on, educational opportunities in areas of fruits and vegetables, horticulture, pest control, agronomy and equipment, and gardening practices. Plant a garden-indoors or outdoors, visit an arboretum or farm, learn about the thousands of plant-based products used in our world today while discovering the various ways in which agriculture interacts with their daily lives.

The importance of science, engineering, and technology programs for youth cannot be overstated. Eighty percent of the fastest growing occupations in the U.S. require science, engineering, and technology adequacy, and science and technology jobs are projected to grow by 21 percent annually. Research strongly suggests that STEM educational initiatives are not just creating scientists and engineers, but producing STEM-literate persons with the necessary workforce skills that promote success- now and in the future.

For more information about these program areas and upcoming programs and events check the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Currituck County website or contact the 4-H staff at 252-232-2262.

4-H is North Carolina’s largest youth development organization, equipping more than 263,000 young people each year with the skills to succeed and improve the world around them. 4-H programs and camps encourage young people to “learn by doing,” helping them to develop into active, contributing citizens. NC State Extension and the Cooperative Extension Program at N.C. A&T State University coordinate 4-H programs statewide.