Making a Difference in STEM
Last month I travelled to Washington DC for National 4-H Conference. It's a youth leadership conference for all 4-H youth leaders from every state. They come together for a week and figure out solutions to problems that their generation will face.
Here's the cool part, they prepare presentations about their solutions and deliver them to officials at the USDA, HRSA, and White House! A seriously amazing opportunity for a teenager.
Teens also spend a day at the US Capitol meeting with their own Senators and Representatives telling them their 4-H story.
Here's a video I made about the experience:
I accompanied the 4-H youth leaders who presented their plan to increase youth's desire to study STEM subjects to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).
Their solution: Provide youth with fun, hands-on STEM activities and help them gain confidence in themselves so that they believe they can pursue and master these areas of science. They all agreed that the best way to promote this would be through social media. They highlighted the FIRST and the Maker movement.
One of the policy analysts asked the youth 3 questions:
Their responses were interesting, one youth remarked, "Nobody cares, what I say won't make a difference." I replied, "But you just told the White House OSTP that the best way to market STEM education was through social media?" I followed up with, "Haven't you ever been influenced by content you've seen on Facebook?"
After this reflective conversation, I shared the story of one of my 4-H youth leaders in Washington County, Utah who made a difference promoting our 4-H Robotics program. He did amazing work, but the story would have gone nowhere unless I made a video and tweeted the heck out of it. I asked the youth leaders, "What can I do to help you realize that you actually can make a difference?"
The response I got was fascinating. Another youth said, "You just did. We know what we need to do, but it's hard. It's easier to just ignore the leader inside telling me to step outside my comfort zone and do something challenging." That's when they understood something that could be summed up in one of my favorite quotes:
Fear is an indicator of what you need to do next. - Seth Godin
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Paul Hill, Ph.D.
I design, plan, and evaluate economic development programs for Utah State University.
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