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!

George Washington Carver Day

 

VernelleOn an unseasonably warm day in February about 200 high and middle school youth experienced the life of George Washington Carver. On February 15, 2018, University of Maryland Extension, Baltimore County 4-H Educators Vernelle Mitchell-Hawkins and Dwayne Murphy led the day with the help of many supporting partners.  The morning was set aside for high school youth to simulate key points from Carver’s career. Students from Benjamin Franklin High School and George Washington Carver High School were in attendance for the morning session.

Pasture

Coming off of buses, students were excited to be in a beautiful open space of pastures, grass, barns at the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park, fondly known as the Ag Center. This facility was used on this day as a learning space filled with hands-on activities, animals, books, teachers, scientists, and volunteers. The groups were divided and some went to the Horse Arena to learn from University of Maryland Extension Soil Nutrient Management Advisor Erika Crowl as she shared Agri-science concepts about the dairy industry. Erika began by teaching the students that Extension is the community education portion of the Land-Grant Universities like University of Maryland.  She then related the Extension concept to George Washington Carver’s work with the traveling Jesup Agricultural Wagon. This wagon was known as a “movable school” used for teaching and sharing knowledge from the local University with the community to improve farms.

Two dairy calves greeted the youth at the entrance of the arena – just like what may have been seen in the 1800’s when Carver was traveling to farms. In Erika’s session, students learned about the components of milk and what products can be made from cows. They also got to make butter using real cream and conducted a taste test of the final product.  Interestingly, Carver has been credited for making a milk type product from peanuts and as a substitute for cow’s milk.

Romney Cheviot Mix Sheep
Rosie the Romney Cheviot mix sheep helped students lean more about where their wool actually comes from.

Next, the youth went to the Romney Cheviot Mix sheep that live at the Ag Center to learn about other products that Carver would have helped farmers produce. This included a discussion about the importance and uses for wool. They also learned about animal behavior and how to take care of sheep. From the sheep they went on to a session presented by University of Maryland Extension Plant Pathologist, Andy Kness who talked about what he does as an Agricultural Agent. Much like Carver, Andy is our “Plant Doctor” as George Washington Carver was also fondly called. The students got to play a plant vs. pathogen simulation game and learned all about how plant cells work to fight against bacteria.  Andy discussed the impact of disease on plants and how it affects other parts of the food chain.

As the group moved from the Arena to the Exhibit Barn, students stopped and saw the week old chicks that are also in residence at the Ag Center.  This provided a valuable teachable moment about life cycle as well as proper growing conditions of animals.

Baby chicks
Newly born chicks offer an opportunity to see the cycle of life.

These are all concepts that would have been discussed on the Jesup Wagon in Carver’s day.  Inside the Exhibit Barn the Baltimore County Library conducted a discussion about the life of George Washington Carver and the many books written about him. In addition, to his work in the sciences, Carver was a gifted artist and studied art at Simpson College in Iowa in 1890. It was through this experience of drawing and painting botanical samples that he was encouraged to enroll in the Botany program at the Iowa State Agricultural College. The youth enjoyed examples of his artwork.  As a memorial to his artistic life and belief in reusing materials, the participants made flowers from recycled comic books. This craft was chosen to represent and remember the fact that Carver always work a flower in the lapel of his jacket.

As the students moved into the main room of the Ag Center’s main building, they had many stations to choose from to learn more about agricultural science and George Washington Carver’s contributions to society. One of the stations featured real cotton still on the plant. At this station students learned about King Cotton and how the Boll Weevil devastated the crop in the 1800’s.  Carver actively promoted alternative crops to cotton and taught several methods to prevent  soil depletion. The youth got to see microscopic samples of various fibers from cotton to wool to synthetics to learn about their different properties. Leading this station was Alex Smith, a volunteer for the day from Tree Baltimore.

There was also a station headed by Alexa Smarr, University of Maryland Extension Horticulturist and Master Gardener Coordinator.  She taught students about the nutritional benefits of eating insects for a low cost high yield form of protein. Students had the opportunity to try from a number of different kinds of insects including such as pizza flavored crickets, mango silkworms, basil mealworms, and others. Over 250 insects were eaten during the event. As a plant doctor Carver worked to help plants that were infested with various kinds of insects. He also worked to help people find food sources that were affordable and nutritious.

Another favorite station was the storm water runoff simulation.  Youth working with University of Maryland Extension Watershed Restoration Specialist Kelsey Brooks learned how the various layers beneath the ground are affected by both water and pollutants. A hands-on experiment was conducted by all the youth that went through this enlightening station. George Washington Carver was a steward of the land and was instrumental in educating southern farmers on the practice of crop rotation. He was especially known for teaching about rotating the cotton crops with peanut plants to aid restoring nitrogen to the soil.

Bees and pollinationThere was a beekeeper station that was taught by MARC volunteer Devra Kitterman, who shared about honey making, pollination and the value of bees in agriculture.  She had honey bee boxes on site and shared how bees play a part in the larger ecosystem.

Additionally, there was also a soybean station set up for students to explore.  At this station they learned in a “shell game” style activity that soybeans have become a major crop in the food system and is found in many common soybeans in everything with Wes Jamison MARCfood items. Wes Jamison, Gayle Ensor and Mimi Colson Leaning from Maryland Agricultural Resource Council volunteered at this station. They also shared information about how Carver conducted research on the soybean plant and created dozens of new uses for the plant including plastics for cars, foods, home products and plant based gasoline.  They also offered samples of Wow Butter, a peanut butter substitute made from soybeans butter.

Christine Allred, a 4-H Educator from St. Mary’s County shared about beans, their anatomy and growth. Youth had a chance to do their own discoveries with beans using iodine to bring out the characteristics of the beans. This experiment illustrated American Landscape Instituteto students how Carver’s work to prove that beans are a good source of starchy nutrition. Martha Pindale from American Landscape Institute was also on hand to share information about Landscaping and Horticulture as a viable career path for anyone interested in following in the footsteps of Carver.

Last but not least was food preservation. George Washington Carver also did work in the area of home economics and safe food preservation. To simulate this area of his research, youth made their own strawberry preserves. Dr. Shauna Henley, Family and Consumer Science Educator for University of Maryland Extension taught the youth many aspects of food safety and preservation of food.  She taught almost 200 people how to safely make jam using fresh strawberries and research based canning techniques.

 

The high school youth at George Washington Carver were student mentors in the afternoon sessions with middle schoolers helping out in the various stations. They gave hands-on support to our educators and help make the afternoon run more smoothly. Just as Carver himself, who took his experiments and teaching on the road to farmers with the “Jesup wagon” the students that helped to bring agricultural education and the life of Carver to youth from around the area came out away from their school to share their new found knowledge.

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.