The National 4-H Council visits Baltimore County

by: Bidemi Oladiran (AmeriCorps VISTA)

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Members from National 4-H Council visited the Baltimore County 4-H office on April 20th. Nia Imani Fields and Dwayne Murphy took members of council on a site tour of two esteemed 4-H programs and partnerships. The first was a visit to Old Court Middle School where 4-H has implemented a Bay Stewards program since 2014 led by Krisztian Varsa, Dwayne Murphy, Anna Glenn and Nia Imani Fields.

4-H also partners with these Watershed Restoration and Urban Horticulture educators to facilitate an in-school enrichment program centered on the Junior Master Gardener curricula.  Ms. Bass, one of Old Court’s esteemed teachers, is engaged with both the Saturday Bay Stewards program and in-school AVID class. Members of the tour were excited to get engaged in the experiential lesson about hydrogels; which also happened to be a previous National 4-H Science Experiment lesson. Students learned that using hydrogels in plant soil would help plants retain more water. This tactic could allow people to conserve water, which could be useful is regions that experience drought.

The tour of Old Court continued as we were led by two youth members of the Bay Stewards program who served as our guide. Being a part of the program and same grade wasn’t all they had in common; they also had very similar names— Camren and Camiryn.

The students took us on a tour of their native garden that they helped plant and told us about the importance of using plants native to Maryland. Both students answered various questions from 4-H Council about their experiences in the program. They expressed their joy for having had the opportunity to better understand their environment and how litter and pollution isn’t just a problem for someone else to solve but a problem for everyone. The students also conveyed their dismay from the previous year, when they first planted their trees only to have it uprooted. However, they displayed their dedication to the program and community while having a second chance to plant replacement trees this year!

After the tour, Council had a chance to sit down with Ms. White, one of the teachers who also works with the Saturday Bay Stewards program, and Ms. Shipman who is the assistant principal of Old Court Middle school. Both relayed their positive experience and the students’ excitement for the lessons that 4-H provides and how 4-H has always been able to meet whatever needs the school has.

The second site visited was Sweet Potato Kids. The group was led on a tour by the founder and director, Mrs. Michelle Hall-Davis. Mrs. Hall-Davis was a former Extension Advisory Committee (EAC) member and was also the Maryland 4-H partner of the year in 2013. In 2014 she also won the Baltimore County 4-H after school program of the year award. Her partnership with 4-H has been on-going for over 10 years and the Council was pleased to be able to see a long term partnership in the works. Mrs. Hall-Davis was able to inform the Council of how her upbringing in being able to raise plants with her father as this influenced her love of agriculture and gardening. She explained how she “loves to play in dirt” and how planting and working in the soil with her hands gives her a sense of peace. She also explained that many students interested in STEM focus on the technology aspect, but often forgets things like healthy living, and agriculture and how that too is a part of STEM. This is something Sweet Potato Kids offers to their youth. The Sweet Potato Kids 4-H club goes beyond just doing experiments, it helps to foster tomorrow’s leaders by teaching them hard and soft skills like better communication and closer comradery among their peers.

SPK group picture

All in all, the site tours concluded with the members of the 4-H council receiving a better understanding of what 4-H faculty and University of Maryland Extension staff are doing here at Baltimore County and worldwide.

Bay Stewards

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The Old Court Middle School Bay Stewards Program began in 2014 from a partial grant provided by BG&E. The program fosters a partnership between UME and Old Court middle school with a goal to teach students how their environment is impacted by our actions and how to be environmental stewards. The Saturday program encourages youth to learn more about their environment and how they can make a positive impact. During the past two years that the program has been implemented, students have built a native plant garden on school grounds, as well as planted several trees.

Recently on February 20, 2016 students painted rain barrels and learned how it can positively impact the environment by helping to conserve water during the summer months. Students learned that rain barrels can be used to store water during rainfalls. The collected water can be used to water plants during the summer months thus allowing people to conserve more water. The themes for the rain barrels focused on nature and under sea creatures. During the Saturday programs they learned that impervious surfaces like concrete pavement causes water quality degradation while pervious surfaces like soil helps to reduce pollution and replenish ground water. The students were able complete their rain barrel decorations with a variety of under sea creatures (mostly fictional) and plants found in nature.

In addition, students recently went to Gwynn Oak Park on April 9th where they picked up over 300 pounds of trash! Led by Krisztian Varsa and Dwayne Murphy from Baltimore County Extension, the students braved rain and snow on a cold Saturday morning to collect car tires, glass bottles, and Styrofoam from the banks of the Gwynns Falls. The students’ effort will keep over 300 pounds of trash from entering the Baltimore Harbor and Chesapeake Bay. Aiding the students were Old Court Middle School teachers Pamela Bass and Rosalie White.

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By: Bidemi Oladiran (AmeriCorps VISTA) & Krisztian Varsa (Watershed Restoration Specialist)

Pictures contributed by Daniel Pendick

Old Court Middle School STEM Fair

 

Old Court Middle School welcomed AmeriCorps VISTAs Bidemi Oladiran and Ashley Gibson, on behalf of University of Maryland Extension 4-H, to its STEM Expo this April, bringing hands-on, smoking and drug prevention activities to grades 6-8.

Before traveling to Old Court Middle school, the VISTAs attended training at the University of Maryland Extension 4-H center in College Park, in which they focused on engaging curriculum to educate youth on the consequences of smoking, tobacco, and illegal drug use. The 4-H “Health Rocks” curriculum encourages an active role for students in each lesson, instead of lecturing, and encourages observation and self-reflection.

The 4-H station at the STEM Expo featured two popular simulation activities. The first emphasized the extra stress and burden of smoking or drug addictions. After each student wrote their common causes of stress on their own balloons, they had the task of keeping each balloon off the ground and in the air. “Smoking/Drugs” balloons were added to the mix, and the students found themselves frantically diving after balloons, to keep up with all the stress in the air. They quickly decided that balancing their daily stress factors was enough – no need to add on the stress of addiction!

A breathing simulation, using different-sized straws, taught students what it feels like to have a diminished capacity to breathe. Through long, slow, difficult breaths, students struggled to breathe sufficiently through tiny, black coffee stirrers. Few could complete the entire 60 seconds, and all agreed that they would prefer healthy lungs.

Other stations included fire safety, surgical tools, a laparoscopic surgery simulation, toy car demonstration of Newton’s Laws of Motion, and a reptilian petting zoo, featuring a baby python, frogs, salamanders, geckos, as well as Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

By: Ashley Gibson (AmeriCorps VISTA with Veterans in Partnership)

Edited by: Bidemi Oladiran

For more details about STEM programs visit the BmoreSTEM ecosystem  website, Facebook and Twitter pages by another AmeriCorps VISTA Fellisha (Fe) Roman .

4-H Hunt valley robotics club

By: Bidemi Oladiran (AmeriCorps VISTA)

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 On February 22nd, 2016 the 4-H Hunt valley robotics club convened. The members who were present reintroduced themselves and then the President Amith proceeded to lead the club in the 4-H pledge. The members played an exciting game of 4 corners as a way to break the ice and put everyone at ease. Afterwards, Didier the reporter for the club recapped the clubs success during the FTC: FIRST Tech Challenge competition and places where improvements are needed.

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Later on, the students split up into younger and older age groups. The younger age group consisted of elementary age students who needed to improve on making their robots follow the line. To do this, they were advised to add a touch sensor to make the robot reverse, touch the wall and then find the line. The older students who were middle school age, were led by the officers Amith and Didier who were being mentored on how to attach channels to robots while also learning how to build a motor. As the meeting concluded the younger members which included the clubs Treasurer Cooper, were still having trouble adjusting their robots to perform the assigned task. They were able to get the robot to reverse but the wheels just kept spinning in reverse and didn’t go forward. The older members were also making progress in learning and building a motor for their robot. Their club leader Ms. Osias informed the parents that it’s best to give the children challenges and allow them to figure things out on their own before stepping in and offering assistance. All in all, the students all enjoyed their assigned task and if it wasn’t for the fact that time was up they would have continued well into the night.

Harford Hills Elementary students last STEM activity

By: Bidemi Oladiran (AmeriCorps VISTA)

The Harford Hills elementary after-school STEM program concluded on March 15th, 2016. The programs final lesson continued with topics on science and engineering taught by Ms. Nia Fields and I. The fourth and final lesson encouraged students to reduce their carbon footprint by doing an experiment. The first experiment involved using 0.04% Bromothymol blue (BTB) which is a chemical solution that detects if something is acidic or basic. In the first experiment students blew bubbles in a cup of water containing one drop of BTB which was originally light blue from the solution. The more the students blew bubbles, the more carbon dioxide (CO2) was produced which resulted in a yellow color change.  The second experiment consisted of filling a plastic bag with water after ensuring all the air was pressed out and adding ½ a tablet of antacid to the bag, along with 2 drops of BTB. The solution turned a darker yellow. The more CO2 there was the more acidic the solution became and the solution turned into darker yellow. The students were fascinated by this but their fascinating wouldn’t end there.

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The third experiment involved using various types of milk from low fat milk like skim, 1%, and 2% to high fat milk like whole milk and cream. The students used a cotton swab dipped in dish soap to show how chemical bonds are weakened. The various milk were poured in a small aluminum pan, a drop of each color yellow, green, red and blue were placed in different places on the milk. Afterwards, the students gently placed the tip of cotton swab covered in soap onto the surface of the milk creating a swirl of rainbow colors in the milk. In actuality, what happened was that the dish soap was bipolar and the polar/hydrophilic/water-loving end dissolved in water while the non-polar/hydroph
obic/water-fearing end attached to the fat portion of the milk, bending the fat molecules causing them to “roll, twist and contort in all directions” thus resulting in the various rainbow colors seen.

Sources:

www.georgia4h.org/set/4H20-julie.ppt

http://www.stevespanglerscience.com/lab/experiments/m

acanadianincambodia.wordpress.com

 

 

 

Old Court Middle School Watershed Bay Stewards program

By: Bidemi Oladiran (AmeriCorps VISTA)

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On February 20, 2016 the Old Court Middle School Bay stewards Watershed Saturday program convened. The students discussed how to properly create a timeline for the various due dates of their final Bay Stewards watershed projects. The Saturday program was made possible by a partial grant from BG&E. This program fosters a partnership between UME and Old Court middle school with a goal to teach students how their environment is impacted by our actions and how to be environmental stewards.

After the students discussed their projects they came together to decorate two rain barrels. Rain barrels can be used to store water during rainfalls. The collected water can be used to water plants during the summer months thus allowing people to conserve more water. The themes for the rain barrels focused on nature and under sea creatures. While the students were painting I interviewed them on what interesting things they learned, students Kendyl, Chelsea, Chaya and Tatiyana who were working on the nature theme rain barrel replied “pervious and impervious surfaces.” During the Saturday programs they learned that impervious surfaces like concrete pavement causes water quality degradation while pervious surfaces like soil helps to reduce pollution and replenish ground water.

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As the students continued with their artistic endeavor, I asked them what they liked most about the Saturday program, one of the students Camiryn replied “being creative, and learning more about my environment.” When I asked how they would get a friend to join the Bay stewards program another student with a similar sounding name Camren replied “entice them with food and tell them what we do, how just joining can make an impact in society.”

I also asked what type of things they learned that they can use every day, Frank replied “you can get water through grass which is better for the environment.” Since grass is a pervious surface the water that sip into the soil can help prevent soil erosion. The students were able complete their rain barrel decorations with a variety of under sea creatures (mostly fictional) and plants found in nature.

Harford Hills Elementary students engage in Rockets to the Rescue

By: Bidemi Oladiran (AmeriCorps VISTA)

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The Harford Hills elementary after-school STEM program continued on March 1st, 2016. The third lesson continued with topics on science and engineering taught by the 4-H team. The third lesson encouraged students to design their own rockets and accurately aim it at a target. The premise of the project was to provide food to an island that has been damaged by a storm. The students first went through what’s necessary to build a successful rocket and what rockets are sometimes used for. The students’ responses ranged from “sending people out to space” to “carrying different things.”  Not knowing a lot about rockets, I first thought rockets were mostly used to send people to space.  But the NASA website explains that rockets have more than purpose. NASA explains that a rocket isn’t just a “tall, thin, round vehicle that launches people to space, a rocket can mean a type of engine or it can mean a type of vehicle that uses that engine.”

In the Rockets to the Rescue lesson, students also went through the parts of a rocket. They learned that the parts consist of a tail, a body/fuselage and the nose, which is sometimes where people or packages would the placed. The students split up in teams of three and designed their own rockets by using various types of paper strengths and designing the rocket around a piece of PVC pipe. The students used various duct tape designs to decorate and keep their rockets intact. The PVC pipe was used mainly to get the body of the rocket accurate. The students also used various construction papers to build the tails of their rockets. After the students designed their rockets, they launched it hoping it would make it to the island, which was a plastic container. In order to launch the rockets, the fuel used was air, plastic bottles were attached to the PVC pipe and then the students got to stump on the plastic bottles releasing the air that would then launch the rockets.

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Most of the students were successful in getting their rockets to go the distance; however none of the students were able to get their rockets to land on the “island.” The students learned that designing rockets for the sake of accuracy can sometimes be difficult, but they still enjoyed their success in building their rockets.

Sources:

http://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/nasa-knows/what-is-a-rocket-k4.html