4-H’ers Explore What UMass Has to Offer
If you had been looking out across the UMass Amherst campus on a recent late June afternoon, you would have seen young 4-H’ers undertaking some unexpected projects. Drones lifted off the ground (operated by 8th grade students). DNA was extracted from their own bodies. Pond organisms were scrutinized beneath the fine lens of a microscope. These were some of the activities on tap during a three-day event called Explore UMass, part of 4-H’s “Summer of Science.”
While many established organizations struggle to remain relevant, 4-H certainly does seem to make their own success look like falling off a log! Teenagers used laboratory equipment normally reserved for research scientists. Young students who enrolled in “Biology 101: Microscopy: More than meets the eye,” collected pond water and then peered through microscopes to identify creeping crawling organisms. Hannah, from Groveland, loved this track of study. She said, “It was cool to see things up close. Maybe one day I will become a biologist, you never know.” Her fellow camper, Claire, who hails from Ipswich, liked going outside to find and scoop up pond creatures. She said some were easily seen with the naked eye, but the microscope revealed so many legs and other parts that were “really neat.” Lizmarie Lopez, 4-H Program Assistant from Springfield, helped them learn what their bodies look like on the inside by teaching them to extract and examine DNA from their own cheek cells.
Meanwhile, Lukas, an Amherst resident, was happily learning the basics of operating a small drone. Chris, a volunteer from North Adams, demonstrated the mechanics of how to raise and lower a drone as well as adjustments needed to make it go forward and backward. Chris explained why is this a worthy endeavor for 4-H: “We are using cutting-edge technology to break traditional fields of the STEM umbrella. These young students need to possess new engineering skills. During this exercise, they learn about teamwork and negotiation as they also develop eye-hand-coordination.” And they thought they were just having fun!
Other educational tracks on campus included the ever-popular robotics, veterinary science, food science and movie-making.
4-H is providing useful tools for a positive future. Makes you want to be a kid again.