MY VIEW

4-H is more than animals

It’s coding and engineering too

BY ALEXANDRA MCLAUGHLIN
Posted 6/21/22

At the recent 4-H STEM symposium in Pittsburgh, more than 100 youth educators and volunteers from across the nation gathered to collaborate, learn and generate new ideas for teaching science, technology, engineering and math.

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MY VIEW

4-H is more than animals

It’s coding and engineering too

Posted

At the recent 4-H STEM symposium in Pittsburgh, more than 100 youth educators and volunteers from across the nation gathered to collaborate, learn and generate new ideas for teaching science, technology, engineering and math. 

Ronak Suchindra, 15, a 4-H STEM ambassador for Pennsylvania and a native of Chester County, took the stage to share his perspective on 4-H and STEM.  

Suchindra became involved in 4-H at age eight, through a robotics summer camp taught by 4-H educators with Penn State Extension. 

During his presentation, a moderator asked Suchindra about his 4-H story, his experience with STEM and how he thinks more kids can get involved. Suchindra discussed a nonprofit organization he founded during the pandemic called Kids Connect.

“When schools shut down and kids were without education and enrichment, I wanted to find a solution,” he said.

Using Zoom, Kids Connect allows older kids to teach younger children various STEM skills through coding, crafting, origami and other activities. Since its inception in March 2020, the learning platform has racked up more than 8,000 interaction hours, and 3,000 students worldwide have joined. An expansion into schools, libraries and other organizations is underway.

At the conference, Suchindra attended a workshop about the use of digital technology in art. Another workshop looked at the role of drones in automating tasks. He was fascinated by how STEM can engage kids of many different interests—art, engineering, medicine. “All these different fields tie back to STEM,” he said.

Toni Stuetz, 4-H extension educator in Chester County, pointed out that 4-H encompasses more than the animal science element that often jumps to mind. “We’re more than raising and showing an animal,” she said. 4-H members can learn about computer coding, robotics, outer space, rockets and many other STEM topics. In Stuetz’s after-school 4-H STEM club, kids learn about kitchen chemistry and the science behind recipes.

“When we were cooking, they thought they were getting a day away from science, technology and math,” Stuetz said. “And I said, ‘Oh no, it’s all here!’”

The 4-H STEM ambassadorship is aimed at growing STEM opportunities around the state. Ambassadors promote STEM and share ideas for workshops.

“STEM really connects to everything,” Suchindra said. “You can connect STEM to the medical field. You can connect it to agriculture. You can connect it to aerospace. STEM is the future, so it’s important that we teach kids now.”

More information about Pennsylvania 4-H and local county programs is available on the Penn State Extension website at https://extension.psu.edu/programs/4-H.

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