The Massachusetts “4-H STEAM” Program reaches over 350 youth in Springfield and Holyoke. The program enhances the Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM) skills of young people in grades K-12. Through partnerships with eight community centers and two schools, Massachusetts 4-H provides programming based on its heralded national 4-H curricula. 100% of the young people we serve come from low-income families, the majority are young people of color, and they are underserved and underrepresented in their educational system compared to their white counterparts in towns and cities throughout the state.
“4-H STEAM” provides hands-on learning opportunities for young people between the ages of 5 and 18 who live in Holyoke and Springfield. Based on the needs expressed by our community partners, we focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, and Math (STEAM). We go into schools and community centers and engage with young people through hands-on activities using our outstanding 4-H curricula. We connect every activity to fields in higher education and STEAM-related careers. The program content is age and grade specific at each location, ensuring uniformity in design, training, evaluation, and desired outcomes.
We were running “4-H STEAM” programs at the following ten sites: Sargeant West Community Center in Holyoke, Holyoke Boys & Girls Club in Holyoke, South End Community Center in Springfield, Home City Liberty Hill Townhouses Community Center in Springfield, Bay Area Neighborhood Resident Resource Center, Chestnut Accelerated Middle School Talented and Gifted in Springfield, Chestnut Academy Middle School in Springfield, Springfield Housing Authorities’ Robinson Garden Community Center, Make-it-Springfield Makerspace in Springfield, and at the UMass Center at Tower Square in downtown Springfield. *Currently with Covid-19 restrictions we are working virtually with Home City Housing community centers and the South End Community Center.
4-H STEAM started in 2011 by the 4-H Youth Development program with the goal of addressing the need to introduce more Springfield middle-school students to important topics related to Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts, and Mathematics.
Over the last 8 years, our 4-H STEAM program has collaborated with a range of faculty from departments across the UMass Amherst Campus. These include Dr. Paula Sturdevant Rees, Assistant Dean for Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, at the College of Engineering; Emily Kumpel, Assistant Professor, Civil and Environmental Engineering; Michael DiPasquale, Extension Assistant Professor, Department of Landscape Architecture and Regional Planning; Dr. Kirby Deater-Deckard Professor of Psychological and Brain Sciences; and Amanda Kinchla Associate Extension Professor/Food Safety Specialist, Food Science Department.
Our programming content and delivery method have evolved over time to cover the most relevant topics, based on planning sessions we conduct before each semester with UMass faculty and Springfield school administrators. In this way, we can provide the most relevant courses.
4-H, together with our UMass partners have offered hands-on activities and experiences for 4-H youth from urban areas. These hands-on experiences are held both on and off campus and are currently being held virtually.
The program has several important benefits:
- Career Discovery: STEM opportunities to create interest in higher education and career pathways for this group of young people.
- A range of learning models: From project based learning field trips to panel discussions these collaborations continue to make an impact.
- A Variety of STEAM learning topics: Some of the projects we’ve worked on include: bridge building, Rube Goldberg machines, testing the quality of our local drinking water, creating models of a park to improve the city, monitoring brain activity using EEG technology, making gummy worms, and extracting iron from cereal.
- Making a meaningful connection to Springfield: in the fall of 2018, each semester we began hosting groups of 20-30 Chestnut TAG middle-school students on the UMass Campus; 4-H Extension Educators and UMass partners organize these field trips.
Before the students visit campus, the UMass partners visit the middle school in Springfield to meet the 4-H STEAM participants. They talk about what they do on campus and the importance of their STEM work for our world. We choose to add in the Springfield visits to deepen the relationship between the young people and our UMass partners. Once on campus the youth will feel comfortable seeing a familiar face.