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The Best Ways to Find a STEM Program in Your Midwestern State

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The Best Ways to Find a STEM Program in Your Midwestern State
4-H STEM campers image

As summer vacation continues, kids and parents may be dreading the inevitable summer boredom. Keeping children entertained in the summer months can be challenging, but STEM opportunities through 4-H help avoid the risk of boredom year-round. STEM summer camps and year-round programs can help keep kids learning and having fun!

Finding local opportunities has never been easier thanks to local 4-H clubs and other organizations that work to bring resources to all counties. In fact, there is a local 4-H club that serves every state and county, so you can find opportunities no matter where you live in the Midwest.

Illinois

Illinois is located in the middle of the country, but it’s certainly not in the middle of the pack when it comes to STEM educational opportunities. The University of Illinois runs a robust state extension of the 4-H program. Its annual State 4-H Robotics Challenge draws more than 70 teams every year, with a total of more than 400 youth participants. Illinois has two types of technology projects: 4-H robotics, a program for ages 8-18 which uses the newest LEGO® technology to learn about robots, and 4-H tech wizards, which provides small-group mentoring and summer camps in fields such as video editing and rocketry to kids ages 12-18. Contact your county or state office to learn more about these opportunities.

Indiana

Many of Purdue University’s Indiana state 4-H extension STEM programs work specifically to prepare high school students for career opportunities in STEM. The program includes workshops focusing on the science of flight, computer science, engineering and robotics. To find your program in Indiana, check out the school’s extension website.

Iowa

The Hawkeye State provides an excellent view into how interested STEM students can learn more over the summer. Iowa State University’s 4-H extension website includes information on local STEM programs. The site’s resources also include a list of STEM careers and tip sheets for specific industries, such as aerospace, to empower children to continue their STEM education on their own.

Kansas

Kansas is far from NASA’s rocket launch sites, but the state and local 4-H clubs are helping STEM students rocket to the top. One of the prominent STEM projects in the Kansas State University 4-H extension is SpaceTech, which focuses on rockets, robotics, computers and astronomy. Other programs center around environmental science, energy management and geology. Visit the site for local events and to learn more about summer opportunities.

Michigan

Michigan State University leads a robust 4-H state extension, with opportunities such as a 4-H Animal and Vet Science camp, renewable energy program and camps that highlight ecological exploration with “Green Science Adventures”. In addition to its offerings with 4-H, Michigan State University also runs a “Spartaneering LEGO Robotics” camp, in which K-8 students explore engineering fields and digital problem solving. Other Michigan colleges and universities also offer local STEM programs. Check out the Engineering Education Service Center to learn more.

Minnesota

Future paleontologists in Minnesota have plenty to be excited about. The University of Minnesota 4-H extension runs Dinosaur Detectives Day Camps all summer long, in which kids in kindergarten through eighth grade explore and investigate dinosaurs through a STEM lens. The university also offers urban STEM clubs and hosts statewide challenges such as the Rube Goldberg Engineering Design Challenge, where kids in third through eighth grades build a wacky Rube Goldberg machine designed to accomplish a specific goal.

Missouri

Missouri is the “Show-Me State” and the University of Missouri 4-H extension shows that STEM matters. The university offers camps for aerospace study, covering flight, astronomy, and space exploration, and Robo Palooza, which allows kids to stay on campus and work together to “build, program, and solve problems with robots” with building blocks provided by LEGO, Raspberry Pi, and Junk Drawer. The 4-H club also offers programs for Mission Energy, an energy project, forum and discussion about energy that 4-H members of all ages can join.

Nebraska

The Nebraska State University 4-H extension has a variety of programs in science and technology, from robotics, to ocean science and companion animal programs. There’s something for everyone over the summer: the Lab Rats Camp at the Omaha Children’s Museum, the “Raiders of the Lost Artifact” archaeology day camp, Radical Reactions (chemistry camp), or Zoo Ventures.  In addition, the 4-H website has a resource to help guide kids on their STEM journey. The website’s Career Explorer app and web game simulates a STEM career path to help children understand the steps to attain a career they love.

North Dakota

North Dakota State University, which runs the state 4-H extension for North Dakota, was founded on the principles of agriculture and applied science. The university pays tribute to this heritage in its encouragement of future STEM leaders. 4-H youth in the state can attend the Create It: Science, Photography, and Woodworking camp. There’s also an annual Aerospace Camp and additional STEM opportunities throughout the year.

Ohio

Ohio is known as the “Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers”, and the Ohio State University’s 4-H programs are designed to live up to the state’s prestigious past in STEM. The state 4-H center, a dedicated building on the Ohio State University campus, offers many summer opportunities. Space Adventure Camp, for kids ages 11-13, empowers campers to build and test flying machines, partake in computer flight simulations and learn about aerodynamics and the history of the space program. Other opportunities include Camp Tech, which focuses on coding, robotics, engineering  and electricity, and the Engaging with Insects day camp. If your family lives closer to Cleveland, check out the Great Lakes Science Center for their Great Science Camps and Classes.

South Dakota

Although the faces of Mount Rushmore gaze over the plains of South Dakota, American history is not the only thing that is important to residents. South Dakota State University’s 4-H youth development programs show the state’s commitment to STEM education as well. The university participates in Teen Camp Bob Marshall, which focuses on “STEM, space exploration and Personal Growth.” In addition to 4-H programs, there are additional STEM programs across the state, including several run by the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology. The school offers camps focusing on various topics for interested high schoolers, from building and physics, paleontology, mining and explosives, to geology, green chemistry, natural disasters and biotechnology.

Wisconsin

Like its state motto (“Forward”), Wisconsin is moving ahead in STEM education. The University of Wisconsin 4-H extension offers programs in robotics, aerospace, alternative energy, engineering, and agricultural science. Plus, the university runs an annual “I want to know!” camp for kids from sixth through eighth grades to conduct science experiments. On the university site, you can also find STEM opportunities that aren’t specific to 4-H, such as Engineering Tomorrow’s Career Camp or Camp Badger engineering camps.

The midwestern U.S. has tons of local opportunities for continuing STEM education over the summer. 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 summer lesson plan. With this list of STEM resources, you can continue your STEM education over the summer from home.

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