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Thursday, June 18, 2015

From the director

Dear YD colleagues,

Our busy fair season officially starts this weekend with the Hennepin County Fair! I look forward to getting out to many of the fairs around the state, and seeing the 4-H youth and their accomplishments from the past year.

4-H is kicking off summer with a bang. Here are a few highlights:

  • On June 10-13, 241 youth and 25 Minnesota 4-H State Ambassadors from across Minnesota, gathered at the 4-H building on the Minnesota State Fair grounds to participate in the annual 4-H Youth Exploring Leadership and Learning Out loud! (YELLO!) youth leadership conference. This year’s theme was “Route 4-H,” and Ambassadors led participants on a trip through the 4-H pledge, each day focusing on a different part of the pledge - head, heart, hands, health - and how they could apply that in home, family, club, community, country, world. Youth also participated in service learning activities for Feed My Starving Children (went to three locations around town) and Habitat for Humanity (built Adirondack chairs and toy storage boxes, and participated in poverty simulations), and went on fun field trips to the  Big Thrill Factory/Grand Slam and Minnesota Science Museum.
  • National 4-H Council is partnering for the third summer with the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME Group) to deliver Commodity Carnivals that teach youth about the enormous value of agriculture and its impact on the economy. Minnesota 4-H is excited to participate in this partnership again, and will be delivering the carnival activities at several county fairs and the Minnesota State Fair. The Commodity Carnival game helps youth learn about managing the business risks associated with producing and bringing livestock to market.
  • 47 teams with 279 youth from 25 counties have signed up so far for this year’s 4-H Rube Goldberg Challenge to build a machine that will put toothpaste on a toothbrush, more than double the number from last year! The excitement and learning about engineering will be a highlight at county and state fairs this summer.
  • 49 youth on 15 teams from across the state are currently on the St. Paul campus as part of our first annual 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge.  In judging presentations today, youth are sharing their research and solutions for ag-related issues they identified. They also participated in workshops on interviewing and building resum├ęs. Tomorrow they will take campus tours to explore agriculture and science resources at the university, share their research at a showcase fair and connect with representatives from the agribusiness community who are eager to meet the next generation of leaders in agriculture. The event will end with an awards and recognition celebration where the top three teams will receive scholarships that can be used at any university, college or accredited trade school.

I’m very excited about all of this wonderful work, and look forward to seeing all of the learning and accomplishments from 4-H’ers around the state at county fairs this summer!


Dorothy McCargo Freeman
Associate dean & state 4-H director

Staff news

Farewell to Hui-Hui Wang

Please join us in thanking Hui-Hui Wang for her hard work, leadership and dedication to the 4-H STEM program, and in wishing her great success and the best of luck in her new position as assistant professor in the Department of Youth Development and Agriculture Education at Purdue University.

At Hui-Hui’s request, this celebration will be very informal and low-key. You’re invited to stop by for refreshments and a little visit with Hui-Hui in 401 Coffey Hall on Thursday, July 23 any time between 2:30 and 4 p.m.

Jennifer Skuza
Assistant dean

Statewide 4-H STEM team update

Last week, Dorothy shared some highlights of statewide 4-H science, technology, engineering & math (STEM) efforts in her 2015 State of the Center for Youth Development staff webinar.

The statewide 4-H STEM team wanted to take the opportunity to add a few more details and share some new information about future 4-H STEM efforts.

The statewide 4-H STEM team’s work is intended to:
  • promote excitement and interest in STEM, 
  • improve science literacy by equipping youth with 21st century STEM knowledge and skills through experiential, inquiry-based learning.

In our first two years, the team has focused our work on the following efforts:

Engineer It! events
  • Goal: To introduce STEM to new and existing 4-H youth to create excitement about STEM and connect youth to other 4-H STEM opportunities.
  • In 2014: Nine events were held in five regions with 367 youth participating, including 165 who were new to 4-H.
  • In 2015: Seven events were held in three regions, with two more scheduled for this summer.

Rube Goldberg Challenge
  • Goal: Get youth in grades 3-8 (the critical range of years when many youth lose interest in STEM) excited about and interested in STEM, learning science and engineering skills, and 21st century skills – critical thinking, communication, collaboration, creativity – through a fun, hands-on engineering design contest.
  • In 2014: 22 teams (125 youth) from 17 counties across all five regions participated.
  • In 2015: Currently there are 47 teams registered from 25 counties across all five regions with 279 team members, 54 adult volunteer team coaches and 17 youth coaches!

Assessment/inventory of other 4-H STEM efforts across Minnesota
  • Goal: Assess and inventory existing 4-H STEM work in counties, and provide information that could inform future 4-H STEM efforts.
  • Baseline data established using the 2013-2014 program year.
  • Findings:
    • 51 counties delivered long-term STEM learning opportunities (that met parameters)
    • 28 counties offered long-term robotics
    • 25 counties offered long-term engineering
    • 24 counties offered long-term in other STEM content (aerospace, exploring the environment, power of wind, citizen science, entomology, geology, and water & wetlands)

4-H STEM/Engineering clubs
  • Goal: Develop 4-H STEM learning framework and curriculum to be applied in 4-H STEM clubs to achieve four levels of learning and outcomes.
  • Field-test of Design It! curriculum and sequencing completed with CYFAR project.
  • Fall 2015: Pilot-test phase roll out STEM/Engineering Club model with 3-4 clubs total.

We would like to ask you to join us in congratulating 4-H STEM team co-chair Hui-Hui Wang on her new position as assistant professor in the Department of Youth Development and Agriculture Education at Purdue University, which will begin in August.  Hui-Hui’s hard work, leadership and dedication to the team and our statewide 4-H STEM efforts have been instrumental in helping us shape and move this important work. Hui-Hui will be with us through the end of July.

The statewide 4-H STEM team will continue the work in these various STEM efforts in 2015, and is currently developing a plan for rolling out the 4-H STEM Club pilot with 3-4 clubs this fall.  We ask staff to be patient, as plans may need to be adjusted with the departure of our team co-chair until the position is filled.

Please send any questions to Becky Meyer, the statewide 4-H STEM team co-chair, at

Statewide 4-H STEM team: Hui-Hui Wang, Rebecca Meyer, Anne Stevenson, Patrick Jirik, Margo Bowerman, and Mark D Haugen

YD communications tips: Create great takeaway materials for 4-H events

Summer is our busiest and most visible time of year, as we engage youth around the state of Minnesota in 4-H summer programs, camps and county fairs. In many cases, these summer activities and events may be the first time people learn about the breadth of valuable learning opportunities and skills that Extension and 4-H Youth Development provide youth and adults in their communities.
What a perfect time to explore all of the professionally designed 4-H templates to use for your 4-H handout materials at events this summer!

Go to the Branding Resources – Downloads and Templates section of Extension’s Intranet, and click on the Youth Development tab for each item to see the 4-H version of the templates. Change the headlines, copy and photos, and voila! You have great customized handouts for your event!

4-H has bookmarks, business card-sized small promo prices, and postcards that are perfect for handing out at county fairs and other summer events!

Wendy Huckaby
YD Communications manager

YD CYFAR team present at nat’l CYFAR event

University of Minnesota Extension Center for Youth Development colleagues and partners represented the CYFAR project on Urban 4-H STEM clubs at the 2015 Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) professional development event on June 4-5 in Arlington, VA.

Pictured left to right: Abdimalik Mohamed, Tim Sheldon, Jessica
Russo, Mohamed Farah, Jennifer Skuza, Grace Gbolo, Joanna Tzenis.

Extension Educator Joanna Tzenis, 4-H Program Coordinator and Executive Director Mohamed Farah, Program Associate Abdimalik Mohamed, Program Associate Grace Gbolo and Extension Educator Jessica Pierson Russo presented the project's program model during the program showcase session.  Principal Investigator Jennifer Skuza and CAREI Evaluation Specialist Tim Sheldon were invited to present project evaluation methods and findings in a data usage panel. Congratulations to the team!

Jennifer Skuza
Assistant dean

My 4-H Project Place update

Our team continues to learn more about how to deliver nonformal, experiential learning online for youth age 10-14. The nature of a personal learning environment is that it has many components, and like 4-H itself, offers many ways to get involved. We have several trials going on, and evaluation at each stage helps us to grow the work:

  • Four-week “camps” on in wildlife exploration, acting and movie-making, with 20 4-H’ers taking part.
  • On July 8, we’ll run our own one-week online camp for participants in the engineering design challenge. This is an optional online experience led by Mark Russo, a friend of 4-H and St. Paul middle school science teacher. Enrolment will start June 19.
  • A group of 20 4-H’ers are doing photography and being mentored by adult 4-H volunteers. This group has been so active that we haven’t fixed an end-date.
  • Last week, we conducted a focus group at the 4-H YELLO youth leadership conference to learn more from youth and adult volunteers about what they want to do online. Minnesota 4-H State Ambassadors conducted the youth focus groups.

Our team has been named a state program team, and added two new members: Jody Koubsky, 4-H program coordinator in Pope County; and Mark Haugen, Extension educator.

In coming months, you'll be hearing more from us about how youth in your area can use online learning to complement their project-based learning.

The 4-H online learning environment team: Ann Nordby, Todd Mehrkens, Jennifer Skuza, Trudy Dunham, Mark Haugen, Jody Koubsky, Amy Baker, Danny Sussman, Tom Alvarez, Tim Sheldon

Minnesota 4-H Foundation news

Minnesota 4-H Foundation Executive Director Cara Miller will be leaving her role with the foundation on June 23.

Cara has accepted a position as president of the Silos & Smokestacks National Heritage Area in her home state of Iowa.

Please join me in congratulating her on this exciting new opportunity and thanking her for her leadership and support of the Minnesota 4-H program over the last 11 years, and making a difference in the lives of Minnesota youth.

Staff who need support from the foundation should contact Jane Johnson, Extension director of development, at or 612-626-3717.

Dorothy McCargo Freeman
Associate dean & state 4-H director

YD in the news

  • Kids Get Growing
    The Extension Source story on the 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge was featured in the U of MN Alumni Angle magazine.

  • Stillwater student's effort to protect pollinators takes flight
    The second half of this article in the Star Tribune highlights the Washington County 4-H team studying how bees survive the state’s frigid winter weather. The youth are participating in the 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge. Read the full article.

  • 4-H program deepens students' understanding of science
    Minnesota is the first state to start a 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge, which is a team competition showing science and engineering understanding. Read the full article.

  • New 4-H program promotes STEM
    This article is about the Meeker County 4-H team participating in the 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge and their research on reducing hay waste. Read the full article.

  • Crow Wing County 4-H teams to compete in first-of-its-kind challenge
    This article is about the Crow Wing County 4-H teams participating in the 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge, and their research on buffer zones and alternative fuels. Read the full article.

  • Children experience gardening through One Step Garden program
    Children had the opportunity to get their hands dirty and learn something about gardening in the process Monday morning in Owatonna. The One Step Garden program — a partnership between Hy-Vee, University of Minnesota Extension Master Gardeners and Steele County 4-H — kicked off its second year Monday at Hy-Vee with nearly 30 children. Read the full article.

  • New 4-H coordinator will promote activities all year
    Natalie Johnston knows firsthand the benefits of participating in 4-H, having joined the youth-development organization as a kindergartner growing up on her parents’ farm in west central Minnesota. Read the full article.

  • 4-H members plan avian flu education piece at fair
    Virginia Hendrickx, Wadena County 4-H Program Coordinator, said there were about 10 families planning to show poultry at the fair this year. "They have an opportunity to put up a photo and decorate to show off their birds," Hendrickx said. The 4-H members are also putting together some information to explain why there won't be birds in the poultry barn. "It's going to be an educational piece," Hendrickx said. Read the full article.

  • Poultry ban doesn’t stop 4-H kids: Members find other ways to compete
    While they won’t be able to bring their poultry to county or state fairs, 4-H students will instead be able to bring an educational display, poster or presentation, which will be on displayed in the same location. Read the full article.

  • Winona Sunrisers Kiwanis 4-H Member of the Month for May
    Alyssa Ellinghuysen was recognized recently as the Kiwanis Sunrisers of Winona 4-H Youth Representative for May. Alyssa is a senior at Lewiston-Altura High School. She is the daughter of Scott and Sue Ellinghuysen from Altura, Minn., and is a member of Silo Happy Hustlers 4-H Club. Read the full article. 

  • De Groot honored at U of M Extension Staff Day Conference
    Amy De Groot, executive and administrative assistant at the University of Minnesota Extension Brainerd Regional Office, was honored at the Extension Staff Conference on May 5. Read the full article.

Webinar teaching opportunity: Proposals due July 31

Webinar proposals for the 2015-16 November and January Youth Development “brown bag” webinar series are now being accepted. (A Call for Proposals for the March and May webinars will go out in late fall.)

The brown bag webinar series has been organized collaboratively with NDSU since 2010 to give youth development staff a platform to increase their skills as a webinar presenter and share their work with youth practitioners at a national level.  Therefore, lead presenters must be youth development faculty or staff from the U of M Extension or NDSU Extension.  Co-presenters may be from other universities, agencies, etc.

The topic of the webinar must be relevant to youth practitioners and appropriate for a 1.5 hour presentation.

Topics may include, but are not limited to:
  • Hot topics/issues in youth development
  • Trends in youth development research
  • Innovative programmatic efforts, strategies and/or lessons learned in youth development
  • Content from a new curriculum/resource for youth or adults working with youth. (Needs to be available for free or purchase.) 

Complete the online proposal form.

Proposals must be received by Friday, July 31.  The proposals will be peer-reviewed and presenters will be notified in August.  Please contact Kari Robideau at 218-236-2013 or with any questions!

Kari Robideau
Extension educator and associate professor

Youth worker training: Upcoming training and events

Quality Matters Online: A self study
Learn about the essential components of a high-quality youth program and how to create environments that are positive places for young people to develop. In this basics class, participants will learn about the current research that helps us define quality and begin understanding how to measure and improve it.

Most training and events are free for 4-H staff. Please use the TXTFREE coupon code when registering. For more information about upcoming classes or to register, visit:
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