By Bev Durgan, Dean, University of Minnesota Extension
With 35,000 youth in 4H clubs and more than 125,000 youth involved in Extension programs, Extension is the largest out-of-school youth serving organization in Minnesota.
That's good news for Minnesota counties, because youth who participate in 4-H are more than twice as likely to be civically active and contribute to their communities and 47% less likely to have risky or problem behaviors. They get better grades and are more emotionally engaged in school, and they are more likely to see themselves going to college.
In August, members of the AMC-Extension committee had an opportunity to learn more about 4-H's effort to get kids interested in math and science. Getting youth involved in sciences is vital to our future:
- Currently, in the US, 4th graders test well in math and science compared to other countries world wide. But by 12th grade they fall to the bottom of the list.
- Less than 11 percent of 8th graders express an interest in a math, science or technology career.
- Only 18 percent of high school seniors are proficient in science.
- A mere 5 percent of current US college graduates earn science, engineering or technology degrees, compared to Japan's 66 percent and China's 59 percent.
In 4-H, youth design and participate in their own education and activities. In addition to science and engineering, 4-H youth may do projects ranging from raising animals to writing musical plays. This unique, learn-by-doing model teaches kids essential skills needed to succeed in life, such as problem-solving, decision-making, coping, communicating and responding to the needs of others.
Extension and Minnesota counties have a 100 year history of preparing youth to be active, productive citizens through their involvement in 4-H. Along with the 12,000 adult volunteers who work in every Minnesota county, we make a difference in the lives of today's youth, our future leaders.