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From robotics to fiber science at 4-H’s 2014 Career Explorations event

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Recycling old clothes into new in Fiber Science and Apparel Design

Recycling old clothes into new in Fiber Science and Apparel Design

The BCTR's 4-H Youth Development Program hosted over 375 high school students on campus for the annual Career Explorations event July 1-3.  Career Explorations provides youth with exposure to academic fields and faculty to develop leadership skills and hands-on experience in a college setting. This year's students could choose from diverse fields of study including astronomy, robotics, fiber science, and molecular biology.

4-H State STEM Program Specialist Nancy Schaff described the power of the Career Explorations experience for students, saying:

It is the personal experiences – meeting faculty members and graduate students, and seeing work in a real-life context – that helps youth realize that it could be them in those roles

Twenty-seven campus groups, departments, centers, and institutes participated this year. The Bronfenbrenner Center was represented by ACT for Youth, who led students through a PhotoVoice project. Participating youth used photography to explore a social science question, analyzing their gathered photographic information to come to a conclusion. A news post on PhotoVoice at Career Explorations can be found here.


4-H youth sample careers, college life at conference - Cornell Chronicle

Related article:
2013 4-H Career Explorations brings over 600 to campus

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Annual NY 4-H conference features cross-center connections

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The Annual New York State Association of Cornell Cooperative Extension 4-H Educators Conference was held October 15-17, 2013 in Lake Placid, NY. This year's theme was Go for the Gold: Make the Best Better at Work, Home and Play. Over 73 individuals who work in the area of 4-H youth development in New York state attended.

Janis Whitlock

Janis Whitlock

New York State 4-H Youth Development is housed in the BCTR and this event brought together researchers from projects across the center, including:

  • The keynote address was delivered by Dr. Janis Whitlock, director of the Cornell Program on Self-Injury and Recovery. Her talk, Adolescent Wellbeing: Setting the Stage for a Well-lived Life, emphasized the importance of resilience, gratitude, empathy, openness, and integrity as keys to a joyful life. Whitlock tied these concepts in with working with adolescents, encouraging those who work with youth to be invested and engaged in order to effect positive changes in the lives of young people.
  • Stephen Hamilton, BCTR Associate Director for Youth Development, and P.I. of Cornell Youth in Society, and Angela Northern gave a workshop on Supporting 4-H Volunteer Leaders
  • Jutta Dotterweich of ACT for Youth gave a workshop, A New Youth Development Curriculum

New York State 4-H staff presented the following workshops:

  • 4-H Common Measures: What, Why and How - Nigel Gannon, State Healthy Living Program Specialist
  • 4-H Connects Kids to Nature - Nancy Schaff, State STEM Program Specialist
  • Linking Healthy Living Programs and Careers in Health Professions - Nigel Gannon
  • Citizen Science in 4-H - Nancy Schaff
  • National 4-H Science e-Academy - Nancy Schaff

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Schaff to administer NASA education program in NY state

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Nancy Schaff (NY 4-H STEM Program Specialist) has received a subcontract with the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory in Cambridge, MA. This is a sub-award to a NASA Education & Public Outreach grant for a program called "Here, There, and Everywhere"(HTE). According the the HTE web site:

Here, There, and Everywhere (HTE) consists of a series of exhibitions, posters, and supporting hands-on activities that utilize analogies in the teaching of science, engineering, and technology (STEM) to provide multi-generational and family-friendly content in both English and Spanish to small community centers, libraries, under-resourced small science centers. The purpose of the program is to connect cross-cutting science content (in Earth and planetary sciences and astrophysics) with everyday phenomena, helping to demonstrate the universality of physical laws and the connection between our everyday world and the universe as a whole to non-experts. The program utilizes multimodal content delivery (physical exhibits and handouts, interpretive stations, facilitated activities for educators as well as online materials) hosted by public science locations.

Schaff will be piloting the HTE dissemination of posters and hands-on activities in informal 4-H educational settings in New York state. She will coordinate a NASA Here, There, and Everywhere booth in the Youth Building at at the NY State Fair with 4-H teen leaders teaching hands-on activities to the fair-going public. Schaff will train others to use the HTE materials in a variety of settings and will collect data about the results of implementation.

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Talks at Twelve: Cornell Cooperative Extension (CCE)

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La CCE Brigada Exploratoria en Nicaragua: Contexto, Encuentros, y Reflexiones
(The CCE Exploratory Brigade in Nicaragua: Context, Encounters, and Reflections)
January 29, 2013

Speakers: Helene Dillard, Rod Howe, Rocky Kambo, Charles (Chip) Malone, Nancy Schaff, Shawn Smith, Paul Treadwell, and Mary Wrege

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Talks at Twelve: CCE Group, Tuesday, January 29, 2013

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La CCE Brigada Exploratoria en Nicaragua. Contexto, Encuentros, y Reflexiones (The CCE Exploratory Brigade in Nicaragua. Context, Encounters, and Reflections)
CCE Group

Tuesday, January 29, 2013
12:00pm - 1:00pm
Beebe Hall, 2nd floor conference room

This talk is open to all. Lunch will be served. Metered parking is available in the Plantations lot across the road from Beebe Hall.

In September of 2012 a diverse group of extension educators from New York and Montana visited communities in Nicaragua during a nine-day exploratory trip. Enfolded in a larger cross-cultural learning initiative originating at Cornell Cooperative Extension, this initial brigade to Nicaragua was intended to build a foundation for future growth and collaboration.

During this presentation brigade members will share their experiences in Nicaragua and explore the implications of international engagement for the cooperative extension system.


Helene Dillard, Director, Cornell Cooperative Extension; Associate Dean, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and College of Human Ecology

Rod Howe, Assistant Director for Community and Economic Vitality; Executive Director of the Community and Regional Development Institute (CaRDI), Cornell Cooperative Extension

Rocky Kambo, Director of Planning, Schuyler County

Charles (Chip) Malone, Senior Resource Educator, NY State 4-H Program Specialist, Genesee County Cooperative Extension

Nancy Schaff, Extension Associate, NY State STEM Program Specialist, 4-H Youth Development Program, Bronfenbrenner Center for Translational Research

Shawn Smith, Extension Issue Leader, Cortland County Cooperative Extension

Paul Treadwell, Distance Learning Specialist and Coordinator, Cornell Cooperative Extension Cross-cultural learning and engagement initiative

Mary Wrege, Resource Educator, Statewide Energy and Climate Change Team, Agriculture Renewable Energy Educator, Oneida County Cooperative Extension


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CCE group travels to Nicaragua

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September 7-16, 2012, Nancy Schaff (4-H State STEM Program Specialist) traveled to Nicaragua with eight Cooperative Extension colleagues for a cross-cultural exchange experience and fact-finding trip. Eight of the group were Cornell Cooperative Extension professionals (CCE Director, Distance Learning Coordinator, three 4-H Youth Development professionals, and two representing community development interests) and were joined by a community development colleague from Montana Extension. The trip kicked off with a bang by an earthquake and major volcanic eruption just before they arrived, and exceeded expectations in contacts gained and experiences. They visited Managua, Matagalpa, San Ramon, Leon, Nagarote, Masaya, and Granada. Nicaragua is a stunningly beautiful country – cameras were clicking continuously as they attempted to capture the mountains, volcanoes, people, countryside, and cities. Every day was filled with a feast of sights and experiences.

Two young men who work for Planting Hope in their NYS 4-H t-shirts

One of Schaff's goals for the trip to Nicaragua was exploring opportunities for New York 4-H’ers to connect with Nicaraguan youth – electronically and hopefully some day through exchange trips. On their first morning in Managua they were joined for breakfast by Kevin Marinacci, President of the Fabretto Children’s Foundation, and two Extension professionals from the University of Wisconsin. Fabretto has some funding from the U.S. Foreign Ag Service to start up 4-S Clubs (the equivalent to 4-H Clubs in Latin America – ‘saber’, ‘sentimientos’, ‘servicio’, ‘salud’). 4-S was operating in Nicaragua at some point in the past, but has been dormant for some time.

Other youth development contacts made included CECESMA and Planting Hope (NGOs in San Ramon) and a Peace Corps volunteer in Nagarote. At a meeting with CECESMA, similarities between their work with youth and 4-H's youth programs were strongly apparent. They have an impressive youth leadership program and are doing great work with youth conducting participatory action research. Their focus is on eliminating violence and supporting children’s rights. Planting Hope runs a library we visited outside of Matagalpa that serves as a community center. Schaff distributed Cornell Garden-Based Learning project materials in Spanish, as well as a new Lab of Ornithology curriculum for Latin America. There are plans to try to get Collegiate 4-H members involved, possibily through traveling to Nicaragua, serving as ‘virtual’ mentors for start-up 4-S clubs in Nicaragua, or helping to facilitate connections between 4-H members in New York and youth in Nicaragua.

Coffee Finca plantation

The group had an amazing time visiting farms, villages, cooperatives, and NGOs. Highlights included a three-day homestay in San Ramon; coffee farm; women’s weaving, jewelry, and papermaking cooperatives; a model small farm being piloted by a university professor; banana plantation; university botanical gardens; and much more.

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4-H Robotics Challenge at the 2011 New York State Fair

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4-H Robotics Challenge at the 2011 New York State FairFifteen teams of enthusiastic youth joined in to participate in the first ever, 4-H Robotics Challenge at the 2011 New York State Fair (August 25th- September 5th, 2011). Lots of excitement was generated by the Mars Exploration Rovers playing field. Children and parents passing by were drawn in by the LEGO robots and were surprised to learn that this was a 4-H project. Nancy Schaff, the new State 4-H Specialist for Science, Engineering, and Technology, ran the event. Schaff was truly impressed by the creativity, innovation, and teamwork demonstrated by the youth (ages 9-17) in robot design and programming.

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