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Illinois Country Living

One Million New Scientists, One Million New Ideas
4-H Science, Engineering and Technology Program is improving science literacy

The United States is falling behind other nations in developing its future workforce of scientists, engineers, and technology experts. Global competition is a current and future reality and America is facing this competition with a shortage of scientists.

Only 18 percent of U.S. high school seniors are proficient in science according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (2005). A meager 5 percent of current U.S. college graduates earn science, engineering, or technology degrees compared to 66 percent in Japan and 59 percent in China. Add these statistics to the fact that current scientists and engineers are retiring in record numbers, and it becomes clear that America faces a crisis in its ability to keep up with increasing demand for professionals trained in these fields.

That’s the problem and 4-H is helping provide at least one answer. The 4-H Youth Development program is directly connected to the research and resources of the 106 land-grant universities and colleges of the Cooperative Extension System. This connection positions 4-H to strengthen U.S. global competitiveness and leadership.

For more than a century, 4-H has involved our country’s youth in projects that help them develop skills related to science careers. In the past this may have meant they gained knowledge and skills in agricultural science, electricity, mechanics, entrepreneurship, textile science, and food science. In addition to those subject areas, today’s 4-H offers rocketry, robotics, bio-fuels, renewable energy, computer science and GIS (Geographic Information Systems)/GPS (Global Positioning Satellites).

The 4-H Science, Engineering and Technology Program (SET) is ready to be a part of the long-term solution for improving science literacy and aptitude of America’s youth. The SET program currently reaches more than 5 million youth with hands-on learning experiences. These experiences are supported by more than a half million dedicated adult volunteers who provide a nurturing atmosphere in which youth feel safe enough to try these new science projects. The 4-H projects and activities they are involved with encourage interest in science that will help them become young leaders proficient in science.

To learn more about this goal watch the video found at

Your family or group can get involved!

One small part of the One Million New Scientists challenge is 4-H National Youth Science Day. It’s easy for families, 4-H club leaders, school teachers, and home school families to get involved in this exciting day. On Oct. 7, 2009, 4-H National Youth Science Day, young people across the nation will have a chance to examine one of the most important issues facing our nation today-energy.

The 2009 National Science Experiment, Biofuel Blast, will introduce young people all around the nation to biofuels. Millions of young people will actively participate in a live demonstration of how organic materials can be converted to fuel to supply energy. The experiment offers several activities to showcase how cellulose and sugars in plants can be used to create ethanol.

Everything an individual or group needs to participate in 4-H National Youth Science Day can be found online at The site has lots of useful information, including the experiment facilitator’s guide, interactive tools, youth worksheets, event planning kits and much more. As October 7 Science Day draws closer, new features, information and promotions will be added. To receive these updates the group or individual must register on the Web site.

On 4-H Youth National Science Day, youth will discover, learn and have a blast exploring alternative fuels through Biofuel Blast. Throughout the year 4-Hers in Illinois and across the nation involved with SET are developing a passion for science that will shape their education and career decisions tomorrow.

Source: Judith M. Taylor, Extension Educator, Youth Development and Illinois State Schools of Character Chair, University of Illinois Extension, Springfield Center, (217) 782-6515


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