Louisiana 4-H is actively addressing some of the state’s largest educational needs by creating curricula for teachers and connecting students to local experts and hands-on learning experiences. These intercurricular school enrichment programs are helping address agriculture literacy gaps and a coastal conservation crisis as well as healthy living education and financial literacy challenges.
Each of the school enrichment opportunities is taught by teachers in the school setting and involves a minimum of six instructional hours along with experiential learning opportunities. Combining these enrichment programs with traditional classroom education allows students to study concepts with greater depth and complexity, ultimately creating more informed citizens while also introducing students to future careers and hobbies.
When your state is losing a football field’s worth of land every 100 minutes, developing the next generation of coastal stewards is imperative. The 4-H Youth Wetlands Program mission is to heighten students’ awareness of Louisiana’s land loss through an organized educational program of outreach, empowerment and advocacy.
Over the past 12 years, the 4-H Youth Wetlands Program has reached more than 1 million students statewide through a curriculum aligned with Louisiana Department of Education science standards. The wetland-themed lessons and supplies are provided to teachers in every parish free of charge.
Wetland educators plan field trips to engage students in local swamps and marshes, giving students opportunities to connect classroom-acquired knowledge with the natural environment. Students are introduced to the habitats of wetland animals, and they identify native plants and remove invasive species while also collecting litter, testing for water pollution and even leading restoration plantings on the coast.
“I think wetlands should be a part of all schools, so kids will know what to do when new problems come up in the future, said Lexie, a student at Isidore Newman School in New Orleans. “If we lose our delta and coast, it would hurt our economy, our state, our whole country and our culture.”
Traditionally, facts about agriculture, its importance and where food comes from were taught at home on the farm and passed down generation to generation. However, with less than 2 percent of Americans living or working in farming today, the lesson is no longer being learned.
Louisiana 4-H is partnering with schools to begin addressing this issue. Through the development of a curriculum that meets the Louisiana Department of Education science standards, Louisiana 4-H is offering educators and students the opportunity to actively engage in scientific learning about agricultural production in their science classrooms.
The embryology unit places an incubator into science classrooms, so students are actively engaged in watching and learning about chick development. The students compare embryological development across species and evaluate chick development within the egg while comparing its growth with other animals, all while making connections to production agriculture and how animals help feed them and the world every day.
Healthy Living reaches Louisiana youth through school gardens and 4-H Yoga for Kids. Some 4-H school gardens meet after school, but many gardens are cocurricular, with 4-H partnering with a classroom or physical education teacher to deliver the school garden programming.
In Lafayette Parish, teachers and students create goals and align garden learning with a core subject. While working in the garden, students practice math concepts by calculating plant growth and measuring plant spacing.
In other parishes, school gardens tie in with physical education classes, language immersion, science and more. 4-H school gardens are an excellent way to make learning come alive.
4-H Yoga for Kids teacher workshops rotate locations to reach various educators, including classroom teachers, school counselors, physical education teachers and school speech pathologists. The goal for the trainings is for teachers to walk away with tools to help youth deal with stress, improve their strength and flexibility, and increase skills for handling anxiety. Teachers learn yoga-based games, breathing exercises and simple activities to help students improve their overall health.
Beginning on July 1, 2019, financial instruction will be a requirement for graduation for students entering the ninth grade. Louisiana 4-H is filling the void for financial literacy educational content by sharing its Living Your Financial Experience (LYFE) program with school districts and educators.
LYFE is a school enrichment program that includes six interactive educational lessons and a culminating simulation event. The goal of the LYFE program is to help students make informed financial decisions, achieve goals and achieve financial independence over the long term. The program involves an estimated 10 hours of total instructional time. Students learn to identify needs versus wants, interpret paychecks, complete tax documents, invest and budget.
Through this unique intercurricular approach, Louisiana 4-H is enhancing student learning by bringing interactive experiences to classrooms across the state. From alligators to yoga, Louisiana 4-H is ensuring youth in Louisiana receive truly enriched education.
This article appears in the Louisiana 4-H 2019 Annual Report.
St. Elizabeth Elementary School students study coastal erosion during a Youth Wetlands Program lesson.
Students explore the difference between alligator and chicken eggs.
Getting healthy is fun through 4-H Yoga for Kids.