AgCenter Farm Tour Series!

Vernelle Mitchell HawkinsSpring is trying hard to come to Baltimore County.  We have seen weather that is sometimes hot and balmy or cold and blistery in the same week. These weather issues have not stopped the AgCenter Farm Tour Series! The AgCenter Farm Tour Series is a partnership program between University of Maryland Extension/4-H and Maryland Agricultural Resource Center (MARC). Groups from local schools and community organizations visit the AgCenter for a customized agricultural experience. I am pretty excited about this new program series and will be sharing highlights. Tell a friend, neighbor or co-worker that the AgCenter Farm Tour Series is well underway!

Pine Grove Visit

We started the season with a group of Pre-K students who came to visit from Pine Grove Elementary School. During their visit we learned about the importance of bees, visited the children’s garden to see how plants “wake up” from winter, and said “Hello” to the resident sheep and goats on campus. The students collected nature samples during the hike (while singing a catchy hiking tune) that they used to make rubbings. We even stopped at the beautiful Maple tree grove and discussed how yummy syrup comes from trees.  Quote of the Day – “The chicks look so fluffy!”

Thank you for coming Pine Grove!

4-H Winter Wonder Lab

On a cold winter morning, the youth of Baltimore County engaged in hands-on experiments to explore more about how agriculture and science are interconnected. Investigations were conducted to determine how advances in agriculture can help solve human issues surrounding food security and health. There were four stations for each group to rotate to perform a new experiment.

Leading the youth on the question of how does DNA look and can it be removed from foods was Vernelle Mitchell-Hawkins, 4-H Educator. At this station, youth were given a banana to mash and to filter to extract the DNA from the fruit.

Lynne Thomas, a senior 4-H’er with the Baldwin 4-H Club in Baltimore County, taught the class on flower dissection at the Winter Wonder Lab workshop. At this station, Lynne showed the students how to dissect flowers and identify the different parts. They discussed the process of pollination and why pollinators, such as bees and butterflies, are so crucial for food production.

Lynne said she volunteered to help with this workshop because she plans to major in agriculture education in college. “I enjoy teaching people about where their food comes from and dispelling misinformation about the agriculture industry,” says Lynne.

At another table was Santana Mays, 4-H alumni and the college student studying to become a teacher. Santana lead workshop on how to judge meats. She had a station of four cuts of pork and beef. The youth were taught about what makes a good cut of meat. Next, they each had an opportunity to judge which was the best. Many of the kids commented that they didn’t know that there was a competition for meat judging and that it was something they could participate in through 4-H.

At Dwayne Murphy’s station, the youth had the opportunity to use a refractometer to determine the concentrations of liquid solutions. Each person tested the amount of sugar in fresh fruit as compared to a fruit drink. Which do you think had more sugar? You guessed it; the fruit drink had a higher concentration of sugar than the fresh fruits. The youth also explored the benefits of eating a healthy diet.

 

In the closing project, each of the participants made butter from scratch and got to eat their production on pretzels. Yum.

As a result of this workshop, youth were interested in pursuing a career in science because they thought it was cool, interesting and you can solve problems. Many of the kids never thought about how agriculture and science were connected and had never heard of jobs that involve agriculture and science too.

Hispanic Heritage Month

September 15 – October 15, 2017

Vernelle Mitchell HawkinsBy Vernelle Mitchell-Hawkins

Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate the many contributions of Hispanic and Latin people to the world.  This is true in 4-H as well since the organization seeks to provide a “supportive and inclusive setting for all youth to reach their fullest potential in a diverse society”.  Many Hispanic scientists have added to the body of knowledge that we now enjoy.  Did you know Dr. Mario Molina is a chemist who received the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995?  He was recognized for his work in helping to identify the man made compounds that contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer?  Dr. Luis Federico Leloir also won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1970.  He is known for his discovery that sugar nucleotides help the body turn some sugars into energy.  We salute these and all Hispanic scientists this month and every month because in Baltimore County 4-H Grows Here!

 

 

Source:
https://www.biography.com/
people/groups/hispanic-
scientists-and-educators

Robotic employment: hidden values and benefits

By Rishi Biswas, former member of the Hunt Valley Robotics 4-H Club, currently in the 4-H Teen Council Club, 4-H Camp Counselor

 

This a copy of the prepared speech Rishi gave at this year’s Public Speaking competition. 

Rishi

During the 19th century, a group of self-employed textile workers rebelled against and destroyed efficient textile-producing technologies which they feared would end their business. The group, known today as the Luddites, represents the contemporary fear that automation, due to its efficiency, will replace people in the workforce and cause worldwide unemployment. At the vanguard of this concern are the concepts of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, and robotics, which are replacing people in a variety of fields, due to their cost effectiveness, efficiency, and even their ability to learn. While robots and AI do indeed present this threat, they offer a heap of benefits towards improving human lives, which include providing initiative for education and supplementing the workforce.

ROADMAP: To begin with, we will explore how robots do not already take away all jobs available on the market. Furthermore, we will talk about how robots can augment human ability in some jobs and carry out jobs that are hazardous to people. Finally, we will discuss how the robotic “invasion” of jobs can actually be beneficial to members of the workforce and people everywhere.

Trans 1: Now, before we discuss the advantages of the use of robotics in the workforce, let us take a look at some of the disadvantages.

Due to their lack of emotion, robots will not take away jobs in the market that involve interaction with people, and certain things that people are proficient at. Without emotive capabilities, robots cannot do jobs which involve the human experience. Take sports, for instance. The very essence of sports includes athleticism and winning, which are both hugely integral to the human experience. As proof of this, millions upon millions of fans will flock to their nearest stadium, golf course, or race track to watch their team win (or lose if so be the case), in a nerve-wracking match of grit, muscles, and strategy. And if robots were used as sports announcers, then they would have the capability to detail the events of a game, but they would lack the passion and emotion that make the events so memorable, as their monotone, boring voices are not nearly on par with the adrenaline-filled expression of a sports announcer. In other words, robots would not understand the human joy expressed in a sport. This lack of emotion also limits robots’ ability to have meaningful human interaction. In specific fields such as healthcare, patients might prefer the care of a human, who has empathy. Some fields are also inaccessible because robots do not have human intuition. According to the online technology guide, makeuseof, written on July 2014, Robots can never be repairmen, because they will always have problems which require human intuition to spot, and since robots are incapable of this intuition, they would find it difficult to repair their counterparts. Also stated in the same makeuseof article, robots can never be lawmakers in a society of humans, because their use of pure logic cannot calculate the dispute over fields such as gay marriage or rampant crime. Therefore, robots do not pose such a big threat to people, because they will not take all human jobs available on the market.

Trans 2: While there are jobs that robots cannot do, there are many jobs that now require robots, and for a multitude of reasons.

Robots can augment human jobs in some ways and can do some jobs that are hazardous to human beings, therefore decreasing the danger present to those in that line of work. Through their precision, robots can improve both the quality and efficiency of human work in several fields. One example of such a field is surgery. In robotic surgery, a surgeon would use a computer console to move the instruments attached to robotic arms. Mount Carmel hospital’s own website tells us that robots such as the da Vinci surgical system will enable surgeons to perform remote surgeries from far away, and carry out such surgeries with greater precision and smaller cuts, leading to less pain and decreased blood loss. There are multiple online resources, such as forbes, which tell us that robots can also perform and help people to do dangerous jobs, such as crime fighting. Robots such as those from the company Robotex can help police find criminals without endangering the lives of officers. And robots equipped with certain tools and hardware can perform other hazardous tasks, such as the cleaning of ducts and sewers or the investigation of hazardous environments such as oil spills or nuclear power plants. But the use of robots is most prominent in the military, where they are often used to deactivate bombs or dispose of those that have already exploded, and can be used as aerial reconnaissance vehicles, saving the lives of both pilots and bomb technicians.

Trans 3: While robots are often used to supplement human performance, there are nonetheless some jobs that robots take over entirely.

Rishi glow blur 3

Through their efficiency and cost effectiveness, robots and AI can provide numerous advantages for people utilizing robotics. The first advantage of having robots in the workforce are that they can improve the prosperity of companies by doing work more resourcefully than human beings. Robots, being unemotional and mechanical, as previously discussed, can do tedious tasks without the setbacks that humans face, such as distraction or boredom, and without any distractions, robots will never take breaks, never go on strike, and never ask for a raise. Factory work, consisting of such tedious jobs, is one of the great opportunities for robots. According to the website how stuff works, the robot known as Unimate has already taken a big role on the automobile production line in the General Motors factories. Amazon fulfillment centers are also testing robots that quickly move entire shelves of products, delivering them to employees who package the items for shipment, while outmatching their human counterparts, and optimizing the delivery process, as discussed in an article for the Chicago tribune. The concept of AI is also making its way into the workforce. As stated by Vivian Giang on the website fastcompany, in 2014 the University of Birmingham built the first ever Robot security guard, named Bob. While not up to standards with human guards, Bob can ask for directions when lost, or recharge his battery when it is low. This means that Bob can learn from other humans without direct programmer input. And the infamous AI machine from jeopardy, known as Watson, is also making his mark on the workforce. Watson is a supercomputer made by the tech giant IBM that can be used for various jobs. For example, according to the 60 minutes episode titled Artificial Intelligence, Watson recently worked on a case of cancer and provided the correct treatment for the patient, after a team of doctors failed to do so. That same team of doctors, now working with Watson’s attentive eye, could successfully diagnose the patient’s form of cancer and provide the correct treatment. And all of these examples clearly demonstrate how robots and AI can do some jobs better than humans. And that leaves most people asking: “Well, what is going to happen to us?” First, before we panic, we should consider that robotics is only an innovation, and in the past, innovations have been beneficial to people as well as the economy. For example, the printing press was a very big innovation in the literature industry, and without it, modern publishing companies would not exist; also literature would not be as widespread or popular as it is now. Another prominent example is agriculture. In 1870, statistics from the website tech crunch shows that agriculture employed 80-90% of the population, but with today’s advancements, employs only 1%, freeing up space for people to do other things. Similarly, with robotics, there will certainly be displacement, but like before, it will free up space for other jobs which will accommodate to the robot workforce, such as engineers or repairmen. However, these jobs require higher education, and those who are replaced, such as factory workers or hotel attendants, may not have advanced degrees. But this is where economical intelligence comes in. Companies and firms that no longer have to pay their employees can allocate money towards training programs, which can teach those replaced employees how to repair robots that are working for the company. Another proactive measure would be to improve children’s education to cover more STEM related subjects to prepare them for the ever-evolving workforce. In short, robots will not eliminate the workforce, but rather change and specialize it.

We have discussed the disadvantages of robots, like how they do not show emotion or how they cannot comprehend the human mind. We have have covered how robots can complement human performance, and how, with the full implementation of robotics, that we can ensure the safety of others. And finally, we have noted how the additional revenue gained by a company can be used to retrain employees to ensure proper operation of the robot workforce. We should not fear robots, but instead, appreciate and value the innovations that come from their use.

Baltimore County 4-H… “It’s not just cows and cooking.”

By Jennifer Coroneos

I grew up in 4-H, my parents grew up in 4-H, and even my grandparents were in 4-H and were active 4-H volunteers for almost 70 years. Needless to say, I am a third generation 4-her. While growing up, I would hear stories of how things used to be when my parents were in 4-H. It is always interesting to hear how things have changed since they were kids. Over the years many parts of 4-H have changed and developed as time goes on. Change is good though, over the years 4-H has expanded to cover new areas and increased programs.

But, I am getting ahead of myself. First, let me share with you a brief history of 4-H. (If you read my blog post last month and just want to know my thoughts on the way 4-H has expanded just skip to the section called “Good Part” now.)

HISTORY OF 4-H

In the late 1800’s, researchers discovered that adults in the farming community did not readily accept new agricultural developments on university campuses, but found that young people were open to new thinking and would experiment with new ideas and share their experiences with adults. In this way, rural youth programs introduced new agriculture technology to communities. Building community clubs to help solve agricultural challenges was the first step toward children learning about the industries in their community. A. B. Graham started a youth program in Clark County, Ohio, in 1902, which is considered the birth of 4-H in the United States. The first club was called “The Tomato Club” or the “Corn Growing Club.” T.A. Erickson of Douglas County, Minnesota, started local agricultural afterschool clubs and fairs that same year. Jessie Field Shambaugh then developed the clover pin with an H on each leaf in 1910, and by 1912 they were called 4-H clubs.

The passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914 created the Cooperative Extension System at USDA and nationalized 4-H. By 1924, 4- H clubs were formed, and the clover emblem was adopted. The Cooperative Extension System is a partnership of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the 109 land-grant universities, and more than 3,000 county offices across the nation.

So what does all that mean? Well, 4-H was originally designed as a way for kids who grew up on farms to get agriculture information from the universities to share with their parents. This concept of 4-H, an information tunnel from universities to families is still the key component of the 4-H program. However, today, 4-H has expanded to include many more project areas outside of agriculture.

THE GOOD PART!

I wrote a blog last month about our 4-H afterschool programs here in Baltimore County. Hopefully, you read it, if not I encourage you to do so. Anyway, like I already said 4-H has changed over the year especially in Baltimore County.  Now, don’t think of “change” with a negative connotation while you read this; rather think it of it as a positive.  Things have to change to keep up with times. That being said our traditional community clubs are still a critical part of the 4-H program. Our clubs meet about once or twice a month and are located all around the county. Clubs are a great way to get involved in the 4-H program and allow you to participate in County and State Fair, Champion Chow (a cooking competition), Public Speaking Contest, and so much more. However, our traditional clubs might not work for everyone’s busy schedules. Not to mention our traditional clubs have to compete with school and rec sports teams, video games, TV, the stigma that “4-H is just about agriculture”, and so much more.

That being said, How does 4-H stay relevant? Well, that’s why 4-H has had to develop and change over the years. 4-H can no longer be just about “Cows and Cooking” anymore. 4-H offers so much more. There are summer camps, after school programs, weekend workshops just to name a few. Baltimore County 4-H even partners with PAL centers and local Libraries to set up activities and workshops so that more 4-H curriculum can be taught to even more youth. That’s the other thing; there is so much 4-H curriculum out there, and it’s all homeschool certified. It allows parents, teachers, club leaders, and really anyone to bring 4-H into their homes. The curriculum covers every topic from aerospace to veterinarian science. I am telling you any subject you want 4-H has something for it. (A little secret we have lots of these curriculum books at our office, some are for sale so stop by and look)

In regards to 4-H, there is one last point I want to make. The 4-H Pledge, we say it before every meeting, at the start of workshops, and even every day at the onset of camp. “I pledge my Head to clearer thinking, my Heart to greater loyalty, my Hands to larger service, and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country, and my world.”  Nowhere in this pledge does it say anything about agriculture, cooking, or fair. The 4-H program is about teaching youth “To Make The Best Better.” Our program creates leaders who go out into their communities, their country, and their world to be a catalyst for change.

4-H is so much bigger than just a single 4-H program/event. It is the combination of programs and events that shape our 4-Hers into the wonderful, well-rounded, inclusive and world changing humans they are.

Yes, 4-H has changed with the times, but it has also stayed true to roots.

So if you haven’t figured it out yet…

WHY SHOULD YOUR CHILD BE IN 4-H?

4-H is the largest youth development organization in the United States with over 6 million participants!! The Maryland 4-H Youth Development Program provides a supportive setting for young people to reach their fullest potential. Children learn beneficial cognitive and life skills through community-focused, research-based, experiential educational programs. Participation is open to all youth ages 5-18. The Clover Program is open to youth ages 5-7 years, and the 4-H Program serves 8-18-year-old participants. 4-H has an over 100-year tradition of voluntary action through strong public-private partnerships at federal, state, and community levels. Local volunteer leaders and youth practitioners partner with county Extension staff from the University of Maryland to provide direct leadership and educational support to young people in urban, suburban, and rural communities. 4-H is more than just fun. 4-H can help your child grow in leadership, new skills, citizenship, friendship, and self-esteem! 4-H projects help children learn about things like animals, plants, science and nature. But, that’s not all! The project work and being part of a 4-H Club also helps a child learn life skills. Members learn to look at all sides of a problem or task, and they learn to decide on the best solution. 4-H helps reinforce what children learn in the classroom. 4-H uses more informal, hands-on teaching methods and enables children to excel in new areas and take new roles in a group.

I know my 4-H experience has molded me into the woman I am today. 4-H has opened so many doors I never would have even thought existed and it continues to guide my future.

The Importance of Afterschool Programs

By Jennifer Coroneos, Baltimore County 4-H Program Assistant

We all know that afterschool programs are important. It is without a doubt that afterschool programs can boost academic performance, reduce dangerous behaviors, and provide safe, structured environments for the children who participate in such programs.  There are scholarly journal articles that confirm the benefits of afterschool programs.

But I’ll let you in on a little secret.  There is something that is even better than just your ordinary afterschool program. “What is it?” You may ask… 4-H Afterschool Programs!

I know I know… Yes, there are 4-H Afterschool Programs. 4-H isn’t just this club program for farm kids, although I know that misconception is out there. Grant it, historically, 4-H was a youth program introduced to connect public school education to country life. Building community clubs to help solve agricultural problems was the first step. But, 4-H has evolved over time and changed. (Stay tuned for a blog next month all about my perception of the change in 4-H.)

Our Afterschool 4-H Programs provide a supportive setting for youth to reach their fullest potential and are designed around the eight Essential Elements and Experiential Learning. Without getting too much into it, the elements are categorized as belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. Experimental learning puts the focus on the learner and enables them to process through several stages.  Our programs are all about doing, reflecting, and applying.  By using these designs, our afterschool programs provide an opportunity for youth to engage in hands-on activities during after school hours.

In Baltimore County, these programs are typically held at schools, Police Athletic League (PAL) Centers, recreation centers, libraries, and community centers.

One of our most well-known Afterschool STEM Programs is the Afterschool Harford Hills Elementary School STEM Club. The club meets after school from 3:20 pm to 4:30 pm on Tuesdays from March 21 – May 2, 2017. Topics include drones, electronics, plant science, physics, and so much more.

Our STEM programs goal is to introduce kids to mathematics and the sciences, in hopes of getting them excited about these subjects. The exposure to science, technology, engineering and math can lead to better efforts in school courses and less lost days due to skipping because the child may be more interested.  By giving youth the opportunity to explore diverse interests, you give them the chance to discover what they are passionate. Once children find an activity that they enjoy, succeeding in the activity could ultimately build their confidence and self-esteem. Mastering new skills can help build confidence in children. By participating in after-school activities, they can strengthen their self-esteem in a relaxed setting as their activities provide the opportunity to be successful in something that they are passionate.

 

My first train the trainer session

My first train the trainer session

By: Bidemi Oladiran (AmeriCorps VISTA)

insect pal thing

I began my first train the trainer session on September 24, 2015 where my supervisor and I managed nine Police Athletic League (PAL) center directors, who are in charge of afterschool programs across the state. The meeting focused on different activities to present to K-12 youth at their individual sites. The first activity involved using the 4H curriculum: Persistent Pests where we used dark and light colored beans to illustrate pesticide resistant and non-resistant insects and how they can have a negative impact on agriculture. The group was broken down into three groups and each group completed this activity. Afterwards I went through questions with the group to illustrate how this can be relevant in many different ways, not just in terms of agriculture. We illustrated how bugs can become resistant to pesticides over time and how this can affect the environment negatively. We mentioned ways to counteract this, by including different insects into the environment over time to decrease the likelihood of pesticide resistance. I also went over how this can be used in other science and medical fields, where bacteria can become resistant to certain medicines and antibiotics causing disease that are difficult and nearly impossible to treat in humans and animals.

The second activity focused on using the 4H engineering curriculum: Will it float? This presented a beginning to underwater robotics. The goal of the activity was to illustrate how items can sink or float. The first parts of the activity involved getting all the groups to work together and try to build an aluminum boat that could hold as much beans as possible before it started to sink. In this activity the group learned about how engineers often have to create multiple prototypes before they can make their final model. This activity got everyone to come up with different ideas for their boats. The second part of the activity focused on finding what items sink vs float vs flinker using what we call “junk robotics” (anything lying around) to test what can sink, float or flinker. A flinker as I found out was something that doesn’t float to the top or sink to the bottom; it’s below the water’s surface but won’t sink. This activity got everyone excited including me. The entire group was trying to find different ways to make a flinker; unfortunately we were unsuccessful with the limited time we had. Afterwards, we illustrated how if we as grown-ups had fun doing these activities, then the youth would enjoy it also. They could gain an insight into how engineers design and re-design different models when making various prototypes.