4-H program encourages STEM careers.
Anyone who has ever been hunting knows that it takes a lot more than just physical mechanics to make the perfect shot. In fact, science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) are all part of shooting sports. The 4-H Shooting Sports program, which is part of the University of Nevada, Reno Cooperative Extension, engages youths in hands-on activities that teach the basics of archery and firearm safety while incorporating lessons that advance scientific concepts related to these activities.
The 4-H Shooting Sports STEM Connections program, a six-week virtual course, takes it a step further. It’s all part of a bigger mission to fill a national workforce void in STEM careers and a future shortage of scientists in America.
Only 18 percent of America’s high school seniors are proficient in science, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress (2005). And a mere 5 percent of current United States college graduates earn science, engineering, or technology degrees, compared to 66 percent in Japan and 59 percent in China. These statistics lead many to worry about the future, when a startling shortage of American scientists combined with intense global competition in technology could cause the country to fall behind in many sectors.
“To address the increased demand for science and technology professionals, Nevada 4‐H is working to reach a bold goal of increasing participation statewide to 100,000 young people, especially in the sciences, by 2025,” says Carrie Stark, the state 4-H youth development director at the UNR Cooperative Extension.
Currently, Nevada 4-H reaches more than 65,000 youths throughout the state, with nearly 5,000 of those participating in some type of outdoor education and shooting sports program.
Designed to help reach that goal, the 4-H Shooting Sports program draws on youths’ interest in the outdoors, the safe use of firearms, archery equipment, and more to engage participants in interesting programming and teach fundamentals. Participants do not simply learn to shoot guns, but also how and why certain systems work.
“The activities fall directly into the hands‐on experiential learning concepts that are integral to the 4‐H Youth Development program,” says Luisa Ixmatlahua, a Clark County/Las Vegas community-based instructor who teaches the course.
In one experiment, participating youths used Twizzlers candy to represent muscles and skewers to represent bones, in order to explore how muscles react when they tire out. Understanding how the skeletal system supports movement is one example of making complex STEM concepts accessible to young people and bolstering an interest in STEM careers, all while capitalizing on a child’s natural interests.
At the end of the course, all participants receive certificates for demonstrating two of the six STEM concepts taught.
Interested in signing up? The 4-H Shooting Sports STEM Connections program offers weekly 60-minute sessions. The next series begins in September and is open to anyone in Nevada. For details, contact your local UNR Cooperative Extension office at Extension.unr.edu or Carrie Stark at Starkc@unce.unr.edu.
Writer Nora Heston Tarte is a longtime Reno resident. You can follow her local exploits and travel adventures on Instagram @Wanderlust_n_wine.