Tom Waskiewicz may be one of the most enthusiastic 4-H educators you will ever meet, maybe even one of the more enthusiastic humans in general. He has been involved with UMass Extension 4-H for 34 years (and counting). In 1982, Waskiewicz, a Hadley native, joined 4-H as a county agent based in Hampshire County and he has subsequently taken on many roles. Waskiewicz has worn the hat of Program Coordinator, State Teen Specialist and Fund Development Specialist along with a few stints as Ashland 4-H Conference Center Manager and 4-H Educator for Essex County. “Working with 4-H youth and volunteers is the most rewarding career I can imagine,” he said.
Technology Changes the Landscape
Over the years, along with many other changes, technology has evolved that has enhanced outreach to young people and volunteers in urban, suburban and rural areas. Volunteer development now includes on-line courses. Newsletters are available on the 4-H website with a couple of clicks. 4-H records are electronically submitted. The 4-H Facebook page has thousands of viewers who share their expertise and promote their upcoming events.
For Waskiewicz, the challenge is to merge the power of technology with experiential learning so that a blend of high-tech/high-touch efforts result in the most effective delivery of services. An analysis of 15 years of research on the advantages of hands-on learning has demonstrated that students in activity-based programs perform up to 20% higher than groups using only traditional or textbook approaches. At the same time, technology has already transformed learning by introducing new models of connected teaching.
Family Roots Help Connect Him to 4-H
Growing up on a small farm in the Connecticut River Valley known for its asparagus has provided a background that allows him to relate to farms—many of them operated by 4-H families—across the valley. In his role as the third generation working on the family farm, it’s evident to him that meeting the challenges of weather, disease, price fluctuations, marketing and changing consumer tastes are assisted by accessing UMass Extension’s assistance. Waskiewicz remembers when he was a young man traveling with his father to the Waltham Experiment Station to learn the latest research on cultivation, seed varieties, applications, packaging and fertilization. He has come full circle, grateful to UMass Extension for its powerful impact on his life… past, present and future.