Summer is here, and many students look forward to pursuing hobbies, outdoor activities and other fun outside of the classroom. For those who want to experience summer fun and keep learning over the summer, camps and programs through 4-H can provide a happy medium. 4-H, which provides youth programs in many different fields, is a great way for kids to keep up with Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) interests over the summer and year-round.
If you or your child is interested in building a future in STEM in your Southern State (Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas are covered in this post), find your local 4-H club. 4-H offers programs in every county in the country, so you can easily find a program that fits your interests close to home. See below for some of the many opportunities students have for interesting programs this summer and beyond.
One of Alabama’s most famous sayings is “Stars Fell in Alabama”. Interested STEM scholars can research more about the iconic Alabama meteor shower in youth 4-H programs run in partnership by Alabama A&M University and Auburn University. The extension has programs in aerospace, GPS, and robotics. The state 4-H website has a 4-H Innovators section with animation and cartoons to help get interested kids in STEM programs. Online resources include a virtual media lab in which kids can play games that help them learn scientific techniques and a careers finder for teens looking to go into STEM fields.
Arkansas is known as the Natural State, and there are plenty of 4-H STEM activities that both get kids outside into nature and help them learn about interesting STEM subjects. One example is the Arkansas 4-H Day of Archaeology run by the University of Arkansas State 4-H extension. Participants use scientific dating techniques to uncover history. Additional programs include environmental science, agricultural science, and veterinary science, along with robotics, aerospace, alternative energy and engineering.
A large part of Kentucky will get one of the country’s best views of the solar eclipse this year, and The University of Kentucky 4-H extension is taking advantage of this once-every-decade opportunity. The extension has planned a Solar Eclipse Camp focusing on space exploration, the use of telescopes, rockets, weather, astronomy and drone discovery. Guest speakers include meteorologists, astronomers and a NASA scientist. If you’ll miss the eclipse, programs and contests abound in the Bluegrass State, from robotics to petroleum power to aerospace, interested Kentucky students have abundant STEM opportunities.
The Louisiana State University state 4-H extension is working to get students “SET” for the next school year. In fact, it has a concentration on Science, Engineering and Technology (SET). Programs include biological sciences, environmental education, plant science, technology and engineering and animals. Louisiana 4-Hers can also develop a deeper knowledge of each program in the state by visiting the extension’s own Louisiana 4-H Museum.
Many famous artists throughout the years have called Mississippi home, including Jim Henson, Elvis Presley, William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, B.B. King and Jimmy Buffett. But art isn’t the only subject in which Mississippi residents excel. In fact, robots seem to be taking over the 4-H the Mississippi State University 4-H extension. The extension runs a separate website with 4-H Mississippi robotics events, challenges and educational resources. The Robotics academy has four educational tracks: Cloverbud, Code.org and Junior and Senior Robotics using LEGO NXT and coding languages such as Java and Snapdragon. Mississippi State University offers many engineering camp experiences, from the BATMEN academy to the Computer Science and Engineering Academies, and the Summer Engineering Experience (SEE).
Oklahoma State University’s 4-H extension has multiple science projects to choose from, including plant and animal science, technology, Geospatial, rockets and environmental science. The project activities fit niche interests as well, with activity opportunities in such areas as Sea Otter Biology, Rainforest Ecology, Digital Media, Rocketry and more. The University also puts on an annual Oklahoma Science Night at the Museum.
Tennessee’s state motto is “Agriculture and Commerce”. While 4-H programs were originally designed to highlight just those attributes, now the University of Tennessee’s state 4-H extension exceeds the state’s agricultural roots. The extension hosts an annual electric camp to get students “plugged into the future”. There are also 4-H GROWs scientists day camps to help understand the science of nutrition and meal preparation. Year round, Tennessee has activities and programs that enhance agricultural, scientific and skills-based knowledge.
As the saying goes, “everything is bigger in Texas”, including the STEM opportunities in the state. Texas A&M runs the state’s 4-H extension program. The extension’s online program listings help students choose projects by matching with their interests, age and grade range. Programs include Robotics (using GEAR robotics to design and show at the 5th annual GEAR Robotics Tournament), Veterinary Science, Meat Science and Rocketry. Texas’ STEM offerings also extend beyond 4-H, and include summer camps at Texas A&M, Austin Community College Riverside Campus (Making Awesome Things Happen MATH Camp) and SMU engineering for kids camps. If none of these large colleges are in your neighborhood, check out ScienceMill, which runs STEM summer camps across the state.
The Southern U.S. has tons of local opportunities for continuing and strengthening STEM education. If you don't see your state above, please visit 4-H.org to find local 4-H opportunities by county. You can also find resources at the Institute for Broadening Participation's Pathways to Science website. If you still can't find what you're looking for, you can create your own STEM lesson plan. With this list of STEM resources, you can continue your STEM education from home.