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4-H Continues Tradition of Animals, Ag but Also Robotics and More

Thursday, May 3, 2018   (0 Comments)
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When someone says "4-H," many people might be inclined to say something like, "Isn't that for farming?"

There is no doubt the footprint of agriculture in the Cadillac area is large, but when it comes to 4-H and its programs, there is so much more than agriculture and animals.

Just ask Missaukee County 4-H Coordinator Laura Quist. 

"That is what it has been in Missaukee County for decades, and we are an agricultural community," she said. "When you look at the makeup of the county we are highly agriculture. The clubs are reflective of the interests and talents of the leaders, so as more small business owners or people with backgrounds in technology get involved, we will see the offerings expand."

Quist has only been on the job since Aug. 1, but she worked as a 4-H club leader for four years and as an informal science educator at various zoos, nature centers and non-profit organizations for the past 25 years. She said it is an exciting time for 4-H in Missaukee County due to an influx of both new leadership and club offerings. 

As a result, the children and teens in the county are responding. One great example: three sessions of embryology at the Ardis Missaukee District Library. As part of the program, kids learned about and witnessed firsthand every stage of a chicken embryo's development.

"I'm not seeing a drop in numbers but an increase," she said. 

She also said two students are working to bring an after-school program to McBain that involves robotics. One is a "lifelong 4-H'er" while Quist said the other is a middle school student with a budding interest in the science field. Together, they are working to bring the program to fruition. Quist also said it won't be led by adults but rather by the two youth. 

While club offerings and leadership are growing, Quist said funding is still an issue, as is the fact that her position is only part-time. 

"Missaukee can only afford a half-time coordinator, and that is a big challenge to split my time between the new and existing clubs in half the time," she said. 

In Osceola County, 4-H Coordinator Jacob Stieg said his program is very strong in the traditional 4-H programming of animal science. Stieg said he feels as if the county is lucky to have such a strong tradition, but what 4-H'ers learn from raising an animal isn't just about farming. 

He said those who go through the program learn entrepreneurship, life skills and financial literacy. While some of that might be lost on younger participants, Stieg said it starts to hit home for the older kids involved in 4-H, especially the importance of budgeting. 

"As they get older and are looking at getting a car, they start to understand the importance of having a budget and sticking to it," he said. 

In addition to the animal sciences, Stieg said he is big into offering programs that incorporate science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM. One such program includes the use of a smoothie bike. Stieg said the bike allows users to power a blender to make hummus dip or a smoothie by pedaling. Prior to pedaling, Stieg said a lesson about healthy living and lifestyle is given, as well as a science lesson about how the energy they are exerting is transferred to the blender to make the dip or smoothie. 

Stieg said 4-H programs across the state are similar, but each one is unique based on the skills of the coordinator. He also said there is a big push nationally to see agriculture being brought to urban areas as well as technology-based programs, including the use of drones and computer programing. 

Finally, Stieg said if it wasn't for the 90 or so core volunteers, he would get nothing done. 

"They have the passion to help and educate youth," he said. "They do countless hours of volunteer work."

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