Farm Credit Services of Mid-America Gift to Help Launch 4-H Science Clubs

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The National 4-H Council has established a bold goal of engaging one million young members in science programs by 2013.

When it comes to turning out science, engineering, and technology grads, American colleges are getting left in the dust—a mere 5 percent, compared to 66 percent in Japan and 59 percent in China. To help counter that trend, the National 4-H Council has established a bold goal of engaging one million young members in science programs by 2013. Indiana 4-H Foundation executive director Shelly Bingle-Coffman wants to see some of those in Indiana.

“We want to develop 4-H science clubs, starting with two in northern and northeast Indiana, with the overall goal of getting kids interested in science. And we hope that some of them eventually pick science as a career,” she said. “4-H is really good at helping kids figure out what they like and where they excel. Both directly and indirectly, we do a lot of career development.”

To help these 4-H science clubs get off the ground, Pam Ott of Farm Credit Services recently presented a check for $6,000 to Bingle-Coffman on behalf of the Columbia City, LaGrange, South Bend and Rochester Offices. “Farm Credit has been an absolutely amazing partner with 4-H over the years, and this is just the latest example,” said Bingle-Coffman. “We’re truly grateful for their support.”

Bingle-Coffman explained that the types of science programs vary from region to region, with some being set up as after-school clubs, while others may take the form of a weekend workshops or week-long summer camp. The local Purdue extension educators who work with volunteers to plan and implement the programs have considerable discretion in developing them in ways that will get kids in their area involved.

“We’re trying to be very grassroots about how we develop the programs, so they can be adapted to make them the most effective,” she said. “The key is to find ways to get kids engaged and get them excited.”

Once the clubs have been designed and are in place, Bingle-Coffman said that they will build on ways that 4-H is already involved with science. Some of those ways — like food and crop production—involve 4-H’s traditional tie to agriculture, but will just be more intentional in nature. Related topics include natural resources and water quality, with entire curriculums written for these and other topic areas. She said that young people were particularly excited about robotics and that building wind turbines has also been a popular activity. Bingle-Coffman stated that the science clubs would take on something of a “non-traditional” 4-H flavor.

“A lot of families have the misconception that 4-H is just for rural kids, and that you have to come from a farm or have livestock,” she said. “Like all of 4-H, these clubs will be open to anyone. We want kids and parents to realize that there are are a variety of activities and many different ways for youth to be involved in 4-H.”

She added that the activities performed by the kids in the clubs or camps might not necessarily take the form of a 4-H exhibit that is shown at the fair. Instead, it might involve being part of a robotics contest or science fair.

Bingle-Coffman indicated that the main objectives of the clubs are for the kids to have fun while learning the basics and becoming more inquisitive. For those who find their niche in science, the opportunities of a career could be attractive.

“I hear from ag-related companies all the time how they’re having difficulty filling scientific jobs from within the U.S.,” she said. For her part, Farm Credit’s Ott said that it was a good feeling to be able to help the science clubs get started.

“So many of our customers and families are involved with 4-H that we already know what a quality program it is,” she said. “This was a little different emphasis, but seemed like a really good way to invest in our communities and our future.”

About Farm Credit Services of Mid-America

Farm Credit Services of Mid-America is an $18 billion financial services cooperative serving more than 92,500 farmers, agribusinesses and rural residents in Kentucky, Ohio, Indiana and Tennessee. The association provides loans for all farm and rural living purposes including real estate, operating equipment and housing and related services such as crop insurance, and vehicle, equipment and building leases. For more information about Farm Credit, call 1-800-444-FARM or visit them on the web at http://www.e-farmcredit.com.

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