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4-H Tech Wizards

Becoming Citizen Scientists

Posted: April 10th, 2014 by dfajans

At the Kurn Hattin School, sawdust is flying everywhere. In February, this VT 4-H programming partner received 10 Apple iPads to start the 3rd year of their participation in UVM Extension’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) funded grant, 4-H Tech Wizards.

In an earlier Tech Wizards experience, the students constructed models of bridges using materials that simulated those in a real bridge. TheP1050687 students and their mentors were eager to use the new iPads to move from a simulated structural engineering scenario to something more “real”.

After a 2 week, iPad-assisted study using Peterson’s Backyard Birds app to learn characteristics, visual identification and recognition of the calls of different birds, students further researched the Internet and wrote reports on birds of their choosing and successfully identified birds in outside, field study. They discovered that some birds, such as the blue bird or chickadee, nest in tree cavities and as forests are cleared for human developments, habitats such as mature forests with decayed trees are destroyed, reducing essential habitat for cavity-nesting birds.

After learning about bird habitats and shelters, the students wanted to construct nest box birdhousesto help increase the populations of many of these cavity-nesting birds such as bluebirds, finch, robins and chickadees.

Their engineering goal was to solve a problem with the use of technology – ranging from complex to simple – with iPads, hand saws, hammers, tape measures, glue and nails.

P1050685Their Tech Wizard mentors introduced and discussed the difference of the tools and materials and instructed in safety precautions and tool skills and the students evaluated each other’s work using rubrics to assess hand saw technique and their finished bird houses.

Working in pairs, students created nesting boxes that will be donated and placed near the fields and ponds of the community Westminster, successfully demonstrating that students learned the 4-H lifeP1050526 skills of decision making; communication, useful/marketable skills and community service while using the 4-H science skills of stating a problem, designing a solution, implementing a solution, measuring, and use of tools.

If you think this sounds like fun, decide which species you would like to attract and learn how. From there, you could become a citizen scientist and have fun while doing good. Participants in Nest Watch, a citizen-science project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, monitor bird nests in their nest boxes (or any other place), gathering information such as the number of eggs or young in the nest. Good luck and let us know how many bird houses you build or how many nests you find as a citizen scientist.

Takng Better Pictures

Posted: December 12th, 2013 by wizards

With the technology of digital cameras many youth and adults now enjoy photography as a hobby.  Many of today’s youth do not remember taking pictures with film and then having rolls of undeveloped film in a kitchen drawer or sending a roll in to have it developed only to realize then you paid for the photos that many were blurred or out of focus.  Digital photography allows the photographer the opportunity to review the photo instantly.  Even with the technology of semi-auto focus cameras not all photos are magazine quality.  Youth who participate in the Tech Wizards program offered at the Fairfield Public Library have learned some ways to increase the quality of the photos they take.   A few simple steps and you too can improve your photography skills.Tech Wizard participants at the Fairfield Library prepare for a photography scavenger hunt.

1.  Learn the parts of your camera and how it works.  Be able to set the time and date if you want that to appear on your photos.  Simple point and shoot cameras may have only a few very simple settings while more advanced models may have many settings. Get to know your camera.

2.  Once you are familiar with your camera practice, take a lot of photos.  Decide what you want your focal point to be of the photo.  Youth learned that very simple things could be creative focal points. 2.  Take a good look at the area that will be to the side and in the background – is itcluttered

are there overhanging wires, can you improve the background by moving to one side and changing the angel of the shot.

3.  Lighting  -  experiment with lighting and the time of day you try to take your photos – many professional photographers who work outside prefer early morning or early evening light for the best color.IMG_0342

Students experimented with different types of photography, landscape, portrait, self-portrait, action, and pets.  The youth brainstormed career opportunities that include photography.  Some of the ideas that they shared included, free-lance photographer, news photographer, portrait photographer, and  wedding or event photographer.  The youth enjoyed sharing their photos with the group, families, and with the public by putting them on a digital photo frame that was on display at the library. Some of the youth also exhibited at the local fair.  We also downloaded a free version of Picas, from http://picasa.google.com/    that allowed the youth to experiment with digital photography enhancement and manipulation.  This technology allowed to youth to be creative while exploring the various options.

 

If you would like to learn more about 4-H photography and the photography curriculum go to:  http://www.4-h.org/resource-library/curriculum/4-h-photography/mastering-photography/ to check out the available curriculum or contact your local 4-H Educator to explore resources available for youth interested in photography.

4-H Tech Wizards Map Invasives

Posted: November 11th, 2013 by wizards

100_1431Some species of plants pose a serious threat to ecosystems across the globe. Sometimes, when a nonnative species is introduced to a new area, it is able to grow in the unfamiliar environment. When this happens, it often begins to reproduce rapidly, vivaciously consuming tremendous amounts of resources, as they have no natural predators in this new habitat, and thus, are able to run unchecked. This in turn reduces the amount of native species, completely throwing off the local ecosystems and food chains.100_1559

 

Kurn Hattin School (Westminster) 4-H Tech Wizards’ middle school ability groups “Vermont” and “New Hampshire“ and their Tech Wizard mentors / teachers Tom Fontaine & Lisa Frost learned about, found and mapped the invasive plants on their campus. From Sept 23 to Nov 1, 2013, they learned about invasive plants and explored the campus to find them and record their locations using GPS units. There were a surprising number of invasive species on the Kurn Hattin campus, easily identified as large clumps of a single species of plant. After finding Asiatic bittersweet, Buckthorn, Bush honeysuckle, Burning bush, and Japanese knotweed to name a few, they returned to the science lab, to analyze where and why invasives were dominant. To see what they found, look at  — http://www.invasive.org/– National Invasive Species Council

map

To learn the geospatial skills that they needed, the students learned about latitude and longitude on a globe & on various flat maps and used aerial pictures of their school campus to determine appropriate orientation. Outside, they learned how to mark waypoints and how to use other features of their GPS units, such as lat/long/elevation. Back in the science lab, before creating their digital maps, they learned to view maps as layers of information (data) to introduce the idea of Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and how to use maps & mapping tools to gather & process information from a spatial perspective. With the help of Google Earth, they placed their waypoints onto their digital maps. Some of the websites that they used were  www.terraserver.microsoft.com – Aerial photographs and http://www.google.com/earth/explore/products/ — Google Earth download

 

Have you spotted invasive plant species in your backyard? If so, tell us about them in the comments below!

Learning About Flight…Together!

Posted: October 21st, 2013 by slatwood

Last April, one of our amazing mentors (who also happened to be an AmeriCorps member serving with Operation: Military Kids Vermont for the year) put together our “Taking Flight” vacation camp in South Burlington, Vermont. Over the course of one week, 14 campers and five mentors worked together to learn about the science of flight by observing birds, flying kites, and launching rockets (among many other things!). Although I personally wasn’t able to attend the camp, I couldn’t help but get excited by all the activities that were planned.

taking_flight_volunteer_photoOne of the great things about the Tech Wizards program, and most 4-H youth development programs for that matter, is the hands-on nature of our activities. We’re lucky to have equipment like bottle rocket launchers, model rocket kits, and hot air balloon simulators. So instead of just sitting back to watch, our participants can do. They can work together to fold pieces of paper into airplanes. They can cut out and glue pieces of tissue paper together to construct mini hot air balloons. And they can use a bike pump to push air into upside-down soda bottles before sending them soaring through the air.

Here are three relatively simple activities our campers did during camp last spring. I’ll encourage you to try each of these activities with someone! One of the best things I’ve learned from the Tech Wizards program so far is the value of working together. Whether you’re two friends, a parent and child, or a mentee with your mentor, I’m sure you’ll have fun working as a team.

birdfeeder_photoMake a birdfeeder – what better place to observe birds in flight than right out your window! Here’s a link to the type of birdfeeder we made during camp.

After your birdfeeder is complete and hanging from a branch outside, take some time to stop and watch when you see birds dropping by to eat. What do they do when they land? When they take off? What do you think keeps the birds in the air? Do birds remind you of any other flying objects? If so, what?

Pop Can Hero Engine – this activity is straight from NASA (National Aeronautics and Space Administration)! It might make you a little dizzy, but feel free to check out the video our campers took when they tried this one! This activity helped us to learn about Newton’s Third Law of Motion. Do you know it? Learn a little more about it by watching this video (from NASA!).

Model Rockets – one of the final projects at camp was building and launching model rockets. This activity requires a little more planning and prep work than the other two, but I think you’ll find the end result pretty rewarding. For our rockets, we used the Alpha III Launch Set, but I’m sure most beginner rocket sets would do!

rocketsWhen you’re ready to launch, be sure to think about the forces at work. What causes your rocket to fly into the air? What happens when it goes as far as it can go? Why did that happen? How do you think this rocket is similar to real rockets? How is it different?

Whether you decide to try these activities or not, maybe you have some of your own flight-related projects you’ve tried. Or you’d like to try! If so, tell us about them in the comments below! Maybe we’ll use them in our next Tech Wizards camp!

Be a Mentor!

Posted: May 30th, 2013 by wizards

If you have ever been in a mentoring situation you know just how important the relationship is between a mentor and young person (mentee).  The relationship grows and develops over time as each learns about trust, respect as they nurture that developing connectedness with each other.   Quality mentor/mentee relationships just don’t happen.  They require an investment of time and effort to build and maintain.

5.30.1

Mentors are essential to our involvement with 4-H National Mentoring Program through replicating Tech Wizards.  Often mentors and mentees learn about the about the science and technology associated with each topic, whether robotics, flight, digital photography, forestry or global positioning systems.  Occasionally the mentor has expertise in these topics and can offer a unique perspective as a professional in the field.   Either way, it is when the mentor and mentee share the experiential learning of our program delivery model that provides the medium for the relationship to grow. 5.30.13.2

Mentors take the commitment of working with our Tech Wizard youth seriously and are regularly present with their attention focused on enhancing the learning experience through dialogue and joint problem solving.  They work together to master the Science Inquiry Process:

  • Forming questions that can be answered by collecting data;
  • Designing a scientific procedure to answer the questions;
  • Communicating their scientific procedure to other:                                                                                                   5.30.13.3
  • Recording their data accurately;
  • Creating a graph/display to share data and observations with others;
  • Analyzing results of their scientific investigation; and
  • Applying the results of their investigation to answer the questions they developed.

Mentors assume their role as coach or guide, leaving the roles of parent, teacher and guardian to others.  Youth often find mentors in their coaches for school or community recreation athletics.  Our Tech Wizards program offers another type of mentoring for youth beyond the sports arena.  Knowledge and skill building remains the focus but with Tech Wizards Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) are the subjects for learning.

Are you willing to share yourself as a mentor?  Offer to be a coach for STEM exploration with a youth and foster the thrill of science inquiry as you build a mentoring relationship.

Hello world!

Posted: March 28th, 2013 by wizards

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