In recent years, Title I schools in Nevada have made a special effort to enhance student achievements in reading and math. As a result, not as much emphasis is placed on STEAM, (science, technology, engineering, art and math), civic engagement, and health and nutrition. To help support the schools and bridge the gap in education, Extension’s 4-H Youth Development Program has partnered with several school districts to bring additional educational opportunities to students through the 4-H AfterSchool Program.
“The beauty of 4-H experiential learning is that we provide meaningful ties to the next-gen science requirements,” Sarah Chvilicek, Extension 4-H Program coordinator for northern Nevada, said. “We provide enrichment activities that support their academic achievement goals, and all of our experiential-based learning activities are backed by research-based curricula.”
The AfterSchool Program also offers opportunities to students from families with limited resources that they may not otherwise receive.
“Those young people, through their experience with 4-H AfterSchool, are 4-H members and receive programming updates,” Chvilicek said. “They then get invited to the 4-H Camp and to participate in other local 4-H activities.”
Below are some of the specific efforts made in northern Nevada through these partnerships.
Teaming up with TEAM UP
For over a decade, Washoe County School District’s Together Everyone Achieves More Utilizing Programs (TEAM UP) has used 4-H curriculum to provide experiential-based learning activities in Title I schools in the Reno area. In 2020, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 4-H staff taught the after-school programming in 27 schools.
“4-H has been the most valuable partner that we have providing services in terms of enrichment programming,” Denise Benson, TEAM UP coordinator, said. “Our students absolutely love it. They look forward to the programming that Extension offers.”
All of the 4-H AfterSchool Program curriculum is research-based and meets or exceeds the academic requirements mandated by 21st Century Community Learning Centers, who fund TEAM UP. Depending on student grade levels and educational need, schools can choose from 23 enrichment activities spanning six categories, including animal science, energy science, outdoor science, art, civic engagement and healthy living. 4-H staff then spend one hour a week teaching a lesson from the chosen activities.
4-H AfterSchool programming was put on hold due to the pandemic, but 4-H and TEAM UP are working hard to bring it back in a virtual format. Their goal is to be up and running online when the students return in January.
STEAMing into school breaks and community support
After school is not the only time students can engage with enrichment activities offered by the 4-H AfterSchool Program. 4-H staff also partner with schools to offer STEM in the classroom and STEAM day camps during summer and school breaks. In December 2019, two teenage 4-H members in Elko County led the 4-H STEM Challenge, Game Changers, for a class of 30 middle school students. In October 2020, the program conducted the 4-H STEM Challenge, Mars Base Camp, as a day camp with proper COVID-19 procedures in several locations throughout the state, including in four of Humboldt County’s rural schools and at the Humboldt County Library.
4-H also offered the STEM challenge both years at the Women and Children’s Center of the Sierra in Washoe County, which provides activities to help students move forward to compensate for delays in their education. In particular, the 2020 school year has been difficult due to distance learning. Many of the students served by the center were falling behind due to a lack of resources for learning at home.
“Kids aren’t catching up,” Pam Russell, executive director for the center, said. “When doing distance learning, the students are sitting in the house with no social interaction. In addition, many don’t have the support they need to keep up with their work.”
After the 4-H STEM Challenge, Chvilicek suggested offering 4-H AfterSchool activities with proper social distancing and COVID-19 restrictions at the center. Since staff at the center chose to keep the center open due to the at-risk families they serve, Russell jumped at the chance. They can only have eight students at a time, but Russell does not mind.
“Extension’s program adds to our ability to help families,” she said. “Kids are having fun learning and getting individual attention from the amazing 4-H team. In addition, not only are kids getting out, but moms are getting out to pick them up, and sometimes they talk to the center’s advocates as well. We really truly appreciate having this opportunity for our kids and our families, because it’s fantastic.”