N.M. Moores1, B.J. Hall-Scharf2, S.E. Taylor3, W.J. Lester4
1 4-H Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Hernando County, Brooksville, FL
2 Marine Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Hernando County, Brooksville, FL
3 Family Consumer Sciences Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Hernando County, Brooksville, FL
4 Horticulture Agent, UF/IFAS Extension, Hernando County, Brooksville, FL
Situation: There are approximately 1,600* homeschooled youth who reside in Hernando County, Florida. Florida Statute 1002.41 requires that these youth submit portfolios documenting their educational activities each year. In an effort to provide quality, research-based education for these portfolios, UF faculty from four Extension areas combined their expertise and created the STEM InvestiGATORS program.
Methods: Events were scheduled to occur on a monthly basis between August 2019 and May 2020. Each agent led at least two educational events that included 20-40 youth per event. Registration links were created through Eventbrite and a fee of $5.00 was charged to cover insurance and supplies. Various instructional methods were used to teach the subject matter. Topics included coding, biology, anatomy and physiology, financial management, entomology, marine science, environmental science, and ecology. Parents were provided space in a separate room to network during the events. To encourage participation in multiple classes, certificates of completion were offered to youth completing ten hours (5 courses) to use in their homeschool portfolios. Those completing 18 hours (9 courses) were given additional gifts.
Results: A total of 159 youth have participated in our STEM InvestiGATORS program to date. Pre/post tests showed that participants had an 93% increase in knowledge. Individual follow-up surveys showed that 8% of youth have adopted at least one behavioral change as a result of what they have learned. Lastly, five families have joined 4-H clubs and enrolled in project work.
Conclusion: The STEM InvestiGATORS program is actively engaging Hernando’s homeschooled youth and providing sound content for portfolios.
*Source: Hernando County Home Education Office