Friday, November 27, 2020
4-H Not Just About Cows Anymore
Carter Busdon handles Vickie Cutler’s goats Willie and Lucy, who have taken part in show and tell at preschools and attended reading time at the Bellevue Library where youngsters read to them a book about goats.
Wednesday, October 4, 2017


The pigs couldn't come because they turn their snouts up at cold weather, especially rainy, cold weather, despite their layers of insulating fat.

And the donkey had to turn down its invite because its handler had Little League practice.

But two Alpine goats managed to make the cocktail party for 4-H hosted by Lynn Campion and Ted Waddell, along with Randy Van Dyke, on the beautiful grounds of their Deer Creek Farm north of Hailey.

Marlowe Bradley and Story Sharp show off the robots their team made last year for the FIRST Lego League state competition organized by University of Idaho Extension 4-H Robotics program.

And they happily eavesdropped on the conversations, always on the lookout for a fondue bite dropped by one of the partygoers as gusts of wind sent yard decorations spinning out of control and doused heat lamps set up around the tent people were gathered under.

The 4-H program, started more than a hundred years ago in 1912, is on the upswing in Idaho, even though the number of family farms is decreasing.

And one of the big reasons is 4-H’s foray into things that even youngsters who don’t live on a farm can get excited about, such as robotics.

The 4-H programs in Idaho reach more than 65,000 youngsters ages 5 through 18 each year, in part because of its expansion beyond traditional 4-H activities like raising and selling steers to include more STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) projects that augment the increasing number of STEM programs in Idaho schools.

Bot 1 and Bot 2 were programmed to pick up hay and feed farm animals.

An example is the Hailey Elementary Blaine County Bots Robotics Club, which aced the FIRST Lego League state competition organized by University of Idaho Extension 4-H Robotics program last year. They even beat out middle school teams as they competed against 49 other teams.

And their teamwork extended to sharing information to help their competitors succeed.

“The more we share, the better we do as a whole,” said Marlowe Bradley.

Marlowe Bradley, Story Sharp and four teammates learned to think like scientists and engineers as they  built robots out of Lego Mindstorms technology and programmed them to perform a variety of tasks to solve real world problems. Last year’s theme was animals so they programmed their robot to deliver hay and feed farm animals. And they researched white-nose syndrome, a deadly fungus that’s killing off North American bats.

Cowboy poet and singer GW Groethe, a longtime friend of Lynn Campion and Ted Waddell, provided entertainment from the porch as a steady rain fell.

This year the theme is water so they will have to program their bots to pick up and repair pipes, deal with frozen pipes, flush a toilet and perform other tasks associated with the use of water on a farm.

“They have to research hydrodynamics, how water is transported and other issues,” said Jessica Miller, Marlowe’s mother. “They have to talk to experts and come up with solutions to problems. It’s amazing the things they are learning to do at that age.”

This year the youngsters hope to advance through regional competition to international competition by building bigger robots with better attachments and writing more in-depth research papers. Last year competitors from 88 countries armed with 32,000 robots took part in FIRST Lego League.

“Technology is going to be huge for these kids. And they enjoy problem solving.  Even I look at what they’re doing and wonder, ‘How can they figure that out at such a young age?’ ” said Jamie Sharp, Story’s father.

Fondue provided a warm tonic to an unseasonably cold evening in late September.

The 4-H movement, the largest youth organization in the world, transformed how science was taught outside the classroom through practical, hands-on programs and experiences when it started in 1912. It was also one of the first organizations in America to teach young people leadership skills and how to impact their communities.

It has not lost that focus.

“We focus on giving them a voice,” said Barbara Petty, director of the University of Idaho Extension in Moscow.

“We’re about hands-on, real-world experience that young people need to become leaders,” added James Lindstrom, program director for the University of Idaho Extension. “True leaders aren’t born but grown. Research shows that 60 percent of the students in our program go on to post-high school education, compared with 40 percent or less of the students in the state.

“And a Tufts University study shows that those who participate in 4-H are twice as likely not as likely to get involved in risky behavior like alcohol or drug abuse, they’re twice as likely to participate in science programs outside school, they’re twice as likely to assume leadership roles and be civically active and they’re four-times more likely to give back to their communities.”


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