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4-H Matters

Message from the Director

Hello and happy fair season!

This time of year is always busy and exciting with fairs taking place around the state. We hope you are enjoying this season and that you have had the chance, or will have the chance soon, to participate in your local fair.

During this 2017 fair season, Idaho 4-H'ers will exhibit 34,000 individual 4-H projects. Members usually show their projects at their county fairs. The variety of projects ranges from communications and expressive arts to animal projects — it’s always great to see diverse entries among participants. At this time of year our 4-H staff are hard at work, assisting with all of this great activity. I encourage you to stop by and say hello to them!

I hope you enjoy reading our newsletter about what we have been doing this summer, while also looking ahead to what we have in store for our STEM programs later this year, specifically in robotics. We look forward to the continued buzz of energy as summer turns to fall and we start to look ahead to another school year.

Jim Lindstrom
4-H State Director

Did You Know?

August is truly “fair season” in Idaho. Of the 39 county fairs and three state fairs in Idaho, 30 of them take place during the month of August. Elmore County kicked off fair season on July 17 and Lewis County will wrap it up on Oct. 1.

Children line up near their animals.
Fairs offer 4-H youth a great opportunity to show off what they have learned and gain new skills.

Statewide Impact

FIRST Tech Challenge Prepares Students for STEM Fields

There’s a lot of buzz about STEM, and the need for students to develop these skills to meet the needs of the future workforce. But what is STEM? STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. In our increasingly tech-driven world, it’s easy to see the need for STEM education. The question is, how do we make STEM more appealing to students and encourage them to go on to attain post-secondary degrees in these fields?

Enter FIRST Tech Challenge (FTC). FTC is an international robotics competition for grades 7-12, administered in Idaho by the University of Idaho Extension 4-H Youth Development program. In FTC, students learn by doing, as they design, build and program robots within an intense, fun, sports competition model. According to a study conducted by Brandeis University, of students who participate in FIRST Tech Challenge, 85 percent expressed an increased interest in going to college and 95 percent had an increased desire to learn more about STEM.

In addition to learning engineering, programming, design principles and electronics skills, students build soft skills such as creative thinking, problem solving, teamwork, time and money management and project documentation. That same Brandeis study showed that 93 percent of students felt they were better able to solve disagreements and 92 percent increased their leadership skills. FTC students are also eligible for over $50 million in scholarships nationwide.

The new FTC season kicks off Sept. 9. The UI Extension 4-H robotics programs needs volunteers to help as team mentors and coaches and at competition events. To get involved contact Robin Baumgartner at 208-364-4603 or

Teens hold controllers and look at a robot on the floor.
Teens work with other teams as their robots compete.

County Successes

Building a Better Future

When the University of Idaho launched its Enroll Idaho initiative in 2015, the UI Extension 4-H Youth Development program saw an opportunity to expand an already successful 4-H curriculum to reach more Idaho youth.  

The Build Your Future: Choices… Connections… Careers 4-H curriculum is designed to help youth develop skills and knowledge in career exploration. Participants experience a variety of activities, such as developing a career plan, competing in a quiz bowl, creating a portfolio, analyzing case studies and discussing questions that reflect on their experiences.

“The idea was to go into groups of teens who have never been in 4-H or influenced by 4-H and try to reach them with a career exploration curriculum,” said Carrie Johnson, UI Extension educator in Canyon County.

Johnson and colleague Brian Luckey began integrating the curriculum into environments outside of 4-H in January. They identified five sites; three in the Treasure Valley, one in Cassia County and one in Kootenai County.

Approximately 116 teens participated in the initial launch of the program. The curriculum features nine lessons, but Johnson and Luckey decided to choose five of the lessons for site leaders to focus on. If a student completed four out of the five lessons, they became eligible to attend the Idaho 4-H State Teen Association Convention (STAC) on the UI campus in Moscow at the end of June. Participation at STAC is paid for by the University of Idaho for Build Your Future participants.

“The idea is that if they complete the lessons they will get to go see the University of Idaho campus,” Johnson said. “We already know that 4-Hers are more likely to go on to post-secondary education and so this program is trying to reach kids who aren’t in 4-H and hopefully help increase the likelihood that they will go on. I think the campus visit is something that really adds value to the program versus sitting in a classroom wherever they are in the state and just talking about careers and career development.”

Meeting Teens Where They Are

Johnson, Luckey and Idaho 4-H Director Jim Lindstrom worked together to identify potential sites across the state to launch the program. The only qualification for utilizing the program is that students must be in eighth to 12th grade. For the initial launch, the 4-H team was also looking for groups of potential first-generation college students.

“We let each site setup how it would work within their group,” Johnson said. “One program was run through the Future Hispanic Leaders of America Club at a public school. One was an afterschool program, one was facilitated during actual class time. We allowed them to have the freedom to make it work within their population.”

As the program coordinator, Johnson is responsible for training the facilitators, helping them get materials, answering questions and evaluating the program. She also helped sign up participants to attend STAC and presented a workshop to participants at the convention.

The five lessons focus on activities that go in-depth into possible careers. Participants begin building a career portfolio, researching the cost of getting started in a career, the type of education they would need and what kind of pay they can expect.

Expanding Possibilities

Plans for the future include expanding to additional sites, incorporating financial planning activities and the involvement of more UI Extension educators. The expansion was supported by UI’s Vandal Ideas Project, an internal grant program funded by the Office of the President. Build Your Future was awarded $26,015 to take the program to 10 sites statewide and reach 200 teens.

Johnson sees the hands-on focus of the curriculum, the ability to come to campus and the flexibility of the program as the keys to its success.

“The flexibility that we’ve been able to add is valuable,” Johnson said. “The program can be done through a club or in an afterschool setting. It can be done in class time.

The facilitators were really excited about the campus visit,” Johnson said. “A lot of the participants don’t have the ability to do a campus visit financially. Getting them all the way up north could be life changing for them — to see that this is a real possibility for them. They get to see the university, maybe meet some professors that could really have a profound effect on them. I think that was something that really excited everyone when we started talking about this.”

Story by Amy Calabretta, College of Agricultural and Life Sciences

Carrie Johnson

Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development

Support Idaho 4-H

Idaho 4-H License Plate

You can show your support and help us broaden the visibility of 4-H in Idaho by purchasing an Idaho 4-H specialty license plate. A portion of the fees are returned directly to the UI Extension county 4-H program where the license plate is purchased. Request yours today from your county vehicle licensing department.

An Idaho license plate with a 4-H clover and the motto "To Make the Best Better."
4-H customized license plates have been available in Idaho since 2015.

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4-H Headquarters

University of Idaho Extension, 4-H Youth Development

Physical Address:
Mary E. Forney Hall
1210 Blake Avenue, Room 206
Moscow, ID 83844-3015

Mailing Address:
4-H Youth Development
University of Idaho
875 Perimeter Drive, MS 3015
Moscow, ID 83844-3015

Phone: 208-885-6321

Fax: 208-885-4637


Web: 4-H Youth Development

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