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When You Think of 4-H, Do You Think of STEM?

4-H Wind PowerJean Rogalsky, 4-H Agent, UF/IFAS Extension

You would make this connection had you stopped by the 4-H Showcase at the Florida State Fair. Each year 4-H county programs and special project groups set up displays on the first Saturday of the Fair. The Pinellas 4-H exhibit features a variety of science themes and activities that are based on 4-H project areas.

One of the most popular projects in 4-H is entomology, the study of insects. Honey bee keeping is not only growing in popularity, but great importance in agriculture. This year’s display not only contained information on the internal and external parts of bees, but also bees engineering capabilities. Everyone knows bees built hives and produce honey combs. Did you know that the honeycomb is in the shape of a hexagon, the strongest and most efficient geometric shape in nature? Fair-goers got to learn more about hexagons and cap the experience by making a candle using strips of foundation featuring the hexagonal pattern. One of our 4-H’ers has entered the state level essay contest on the history of beekeeping.

Much of the bee information is from “What’s the Buzz on Bees?” available from http://www.freshfromflorida.com/Divisions-Offices/Plant-Industry/Pests-Diseases/Africanized-Honey-Bee. The elementary level curriculum may be downloaded. The 4-H project series on entomology in general is “Teaming with Insects”.

Forestry and urban forestry is another project area of interest. Did you ever have a tree in your yard and wondered what it was? The forestry portion of the exhibit showed how scientists identify living and non living specimens by using a classification key. The activity challenged participants to guess the type of Florida forest tree and then use the key to positively identify the tree. This activity can be found in the 4-H project book “Trees and Me”.

Alternative energy sources are another area of scientific inquiry. Using a past year’s National Science Experiment, 4-H volunteers set up a display of model turbines generating electricity. The question asked was, “Do turbine blade shapes affect the amount of energy produced?”

The discussion included a comparison to the aerodynamics of airplane wings. Participants were also able to test their knowledge of electricity terms with a game board set up with a buzzer and light for correct answers. The game board was based on the 4-H project book series “Electric Excitement”.

As the 4-H program works to build life skills in our youth, science continues to remain a large part of the 4-H project. 4-H is building the leaders and scientists of tomorrow.

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