Precious Hours After School

By: Andrea Miotto, new 4-H VISTA intern

Hey, 4-H’ers! I hope you’re staying warm out there. This is your friendly neighborhood VISTA volunteer, Andrea, with a question for you: how do you spend your time between school and dinner? As I’m working to expand 4-H’s afterschool programs, I’ve come across some surprising news: Participating in fun and interesting programs between the hours of 3 and 5 p.m. can make you a better student in school!

The Afterschool Alliance, a nation-wide organization working to expand afterschool opportunities to all kids, says that “afterschool and summer learning programs are locally-designed school and community solutions that help kids learn and grow, keep children and teenagers safe, and support families to balance work with home.”

Kids who participate show increased achievement in reading and math grades; higher scores on standardized tests; fewer days absent from school; lower risk of dropping out of school; greater classroom participation; and higher motivation toward learning.

Besides 4-H, young people find these afterschool opportunities in schools, community centers, churches and temples, daycare businesses, and organizations including Scouts, Boys and Girls Clubs, and the Y. In fact, 4-H often teams up with groups like these to offer the 4-H projects you might already know about from 4-H clubs—things like robotics, healthy living, crafts, livestock, and STEM—to more kids. Other 4-H afterschool programs are independent and stand on their own.

Some 4-H afterschool programs are short-term courses, lasting a few weeks, while others might meet for months or a year. Just as in 4-H chartered clubs, afterschool programs rely on dedicated adult and teen volunteers to bring to life fun new learning experiences.

Here’s something to think about: how could you be spending your time between the time you get home from and when you eat supper? Could you be learning an exciting skill? Getting new information about something you care about? Or even helping someone in your school or community?

Like my last post, I’ll leave you with a few ideas about serving others from the publication “366 Community Service Ideas for 4-H and Youth” by the Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County:

Grandfather under drip

  • Bring toys, books, craft supplies, or games to sick or injured children at a local hospital. You could even work with classmates, teachers, school counselors or your principal to collect toys. Tip: Make sure you contact the hospital you have in mind ahead of time to see what supplies are most needed and what rules they might have about visitors.

Patient wearing oxygen mask while sleeping

  • Why not craft a hand-made thank-you card for someone who works hard, helps out a lot, and might be under-appreciated at your school, gym, afterschool program, community center, parent’s workplace, doctor’s office or church? This could be a person who stays “in the background” doing jobs like scheduling appointments, cleaning, gardening, or fixing things. Folks like these don’t always get the recognition they deserve!

Children's drawing for Mother's Day

 

 

 

 

Doing Good in the New Year

By: Andrea Miotto, new 4-H VISTA intern

Happy New Year, 4-H’ers of Baltimore County! I hope you all had a warm, safe, and happy holiday and are feeling hopeful about this new year. I know I am! I’m Andrea Miotto, the new VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America, a federal service program) and I am working to expand afterschool programs in Baltimore County. I’m new to 4-H and after only six weeks I am deeply impressed with the enthusiasm, hard work and dedication to service I’ve seen among 4-H youth, volunteers and staff. Being able to help other people is why I joined VISTA and I know I’m in the right place with 4-H.

I thought in my first blog post I’d talk a little bit about that very thing–helping others–which is what VISTA is all about. 4-H’ers spend so much time helping their neighbors that I thought this topic might be of interest: Just what is poverty? Well, poverty simply means families not having what they need to live safe, healthy lives.

Many people in the United States, especially young people, struggle to find adequate schooling, food, shelter, and clothing. According to U.S. Census data, nearly 10 percent of American kids live “below the poverty level,” which means their families are unable to provide these necessities. In 2016, about 15.3 million kids, more than 1/5 of all people under 18, were in danger of being homeless or hungry. In Baltimore County, an even greater percentage of children live below the poverty level: 11.5 percent. Elderly people and people with disabilities, too, are vulnerable to poverty.

Earlier in this post I gave a simple definition for poverty, but it turns out the whole concept is complicated! For example, according to the Center for Poverty Research in California, more than half of able-bodied adults aged 18 to 64 worked during 2014 but were still unable to house, feed, and clothe their families in a safe and healthy manner. Often called the “working poor,” millions of people work hard but still can’t make ends meet. Families move in and out of poverty for many reasons, including becoming disabled, losing a job, and being unable to find jobs that pay enough to cover essentials.

Okay, take a deep breath! Don’t be discouraged! There’s huge reason for hope because wonderful people like 4-H’ers care about these problems and are working hard to help people and, in the long term, end poverty. Here are some ways you and your club can take action:

  1. Hold a winter clothing drive and research local organizations that accept donations. Hint: try Purple Heart http://www.purpleheartpickup.org/baltimore-donations, St. Vincent de Paul https://www.vincentbaltimore.org/in-kind-donations or Planet Aid, http://www.planetaid.org/.
  2. Research local nursing homes and then call and offer to make winter-themed crafts to decorate the lobby and rooms, such as paper snowflakes, drawings, and snowmen. Hint: check out this web site https://www.happinessishomemade.net/easy-winter-kids-crafts-that-anyone-can-make/
    snowflakes 2.jpg
  3. Research organizations near you that work with homeless people. Ask if you can make fleece scarves for them. Find the instructions here: https://www.wikihow.com/Make-a-No-Sew-Fleece-Scarf
  4. Contact the volunteer coordinator of your local Veterans Affairs hospital, Office of Aging, or a local nursing home and offer to make cards or care packages for needy or lonely local residents.
  5. Organize a donation collection with your club for a local organization that fights poverty.

Donation box with children's things and toys

In future posts I’ll keep the poverty-fighting suggestions coming! In the meantime, thank you for all your service. Keep up the great work!

 

Welcoming a New Face to the 4-H Office

20181114_152012.jpgAndrea Miotto, 4-H Baltimore County’s newest VISTA (Volunteer in Service to America), is a Maryland native. She hails from Prince George’s County and attended University of Maryland at College Park for undergraduate studies. She is passionate about increasing equitable access to quality out-of-school programming for under-served youth and is dedicated to helping reduce barriers, such as poverty, that keep young people from participating in exceptional activities like 4-H. Andrea’s goal this year is to grow the number of 4-H afterschool courses and clubs in specific areas of the county where these barriers are particularly persistent.

A “VISTA veteran”, Andrea served as a VISTA shortly after college at a literacy program in Wausau, Wisconsin. More recently, Andrea has worked as a writing tutor at Howard Community College and as a chaplain for hospitals and hospice programs, where she provided spiritual care and counsel. She has also held positions as editor and writer for several technical publications. Andrea continues to work part-time as an independent writer, editor, and tutor and provides pro bono editing services to a couple of nonprofit newsletters.

Andrea holds a B.A. in English and a Master of Divinity degree from Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Indiana. In her downtime, Andrea enjoys church activities, volunteer work such as mentoring, reading, dancing, and trying to reason with her black cat, Loki.

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.