A wonder league for Iowa’s future

John Lawrence’s message from May 14, 2019

Teach kids to code today – and make it fun – and before you know it, they’ll be the computer programmers, scientists and engineers of tomorrow. That’s the premise supporting Wonder League, a global robotics program that 4-H Youth Development offers for youth in grades K-3. The youth develop problem-solving and creativity skills while they build meaningful relationships with their peers. Did you know?

  • Over the past year, 21 Iowa Clover Kids teams participated in Wonder League. The theme was oceanography, leading teams through five, story-based missions under the sea.
  • In April, 17 Clover Kids from four counties participated in the Iowa 4-H Wonder League Robotics Exposition on campus. Teams programmed robots to return a sea creature to its natural habitat and launch sea turtle eggs into a nest.
  • Mahaska County has nine Wonder League teams and held its own expo last week. Additional expos will be held throughout the state.
  • Youth teams also may participate in a Clover Kids robotics experience Sunday, Aug. 11, at the Iowa State Fair.

Providing 4-H STEM activities for K-3 youth builds their school and career readiness skills, such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking. 4-H is creating a wonder league of learners and leaders for Iowa’s future.

Goodbye … and welcome

In April, we said goodbye to the following individuals who left ISU Extension and Outreach:

  • Brianne Johnson, Clinton County youth coordinator.
  • Margaret Murphy, Lyon County horticulture educator/regional food coordinator.
  • Sherry McGill, Region 5 director.

We welcome the following new staff:

  • Hilary Lanman, Wapello County program coordinator.
  • Kyler Waddle, Louisa County office manager.
  • Ashtyn Danker, East Pottawattamie County office assistant.
  • Kelli Anders, Wapello County local foods program coordinator.
  • Emily Belvel, Keokuk County program coordinator.
  • Jenna Koenigsfeld, Hardin County office assistant.
  • Erin Parker, Johnson County program coordinator.
  • Abby Boysen, Louisa County program assistant.
  • Alycne Boban, Mills County youth coordinator.
  • Chris Kick, communications specialist II, Agriculture and Natural Resources.
  • Jill Goldsmith, clerk III, Extension Information Technology.
  • Prashant Jha, associate professor, Agriculture and Natural Resources/Agronomy.

Award recipients

Congratulations to the following ISU Extension and Outreach faculty and staff who will be honored during the university’s annual awards ceremony in September:

  • Regents Award for Staff Excellence: Malisa Rader, human sciences specialist, family life.
  • Inclusive Excellence: Angela Shaw, associate professor of food science and human nutrition.
  • Inclusive Excellence: Barbara Woods, special projects manager, Human Sciences Extension and Outreach.
  • Achievement in Economic Development in Iowa: Mark Edelman, professor of economics.
  • Professional and Scientific Outstanding New Professional Award: Mackenzie Johnson, human sciences specialist, family life.
  • Distinguished Service in Extension and Outreach: Kim Brantner, human sciences specialist, family life.
  • Outstanding Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice: Anna Johnson, professor of animal science.
  • Early Achievement in Extension or Professional Practice: Shelley Oltmans, community development specialist.
  • R.K. Bliss Extension Award: Gene Mohling, Region 15 director.

One more note: The Office Professionals Conference is set for Oct. 8 on campus. Save the date!

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Vice President for Extension and Outreach

STEM Lit to Go!

John Lawrence’s message from Nov. 21, 2017

The WOW Center in the Extension 4-H Building looked like a warehouse and assembly line a few weeks ago, as our 4-H staff were putting together the pieces for another research-based curriculum, one kit per county. About 2,000 pie tins, 10,000 brown paper bags and 1,200 foam pool noodles cut in half lengthwise, along with stacks of children’s books, cans of Play-Doh and many more interesting items, were being squeezed into 100 plastic tubs. 4-H and Human Sciences Extension and Outreach call it “STEM-Lit to Go!” The program supports the development of STEM and literacy skills for K-3 youth. Did you know?

  • This program integrates inquiry-based STEM activities and carefully selected children’s literature. Through roller coasters, inventions and other engaging topics, children explore key STEM concepts such as the engineering design process and conducting investigations.
  • In each lesson, youth try a hands-on STEM experience and then read, write, speak and listen about that experience.
  • The curriculum draws from resources published by the National Science Teachers Association and the International Literacy Association. It also supports the Next Generation Science Standards and the Common Core English Language Arts Standards.

ISU Extension and Outreach state and county staff piloted “STEM-Lit to Go!” at 11 sites across the state during the summer of 2017. During YouthFest in late October, staff from all 100 county offices picked up a copy of the curriculum and a tub of supplies. Now they’ll start training their Clover Kids leaders to facilitate “STEM-Lit to Go!” for Iowa 4-H Clover Kids groups, day camps and afterschool programs, and through partnerships with local school districts.

A couple more notes

Finally, I want to wish you all a happy and safe Thanksgiving. Take time to enjoy family and friends and truly be thankful for those things you hold dear.

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

Solar cars, STEM and paradigms

John Lawrence’s message from June 6, 2017

My first ride was a 1971 Ford half-ton pickup with a 360 V-8 and 4-speed. I think it had been in a wreck because it was a bargain and dog-tracked like a blood hound going down the road. It also was a gas guzzler and got about 12 miles to the gallon. With a tank full of gas I could travel, at most, 200 miles from home.

I thought about that old truck on Friday, as I witnessed the unveiling of Penumbra, Iowa State’s, and the world’s, first solar utility vehicle. The students of Team PrISUm designed and built this practical solar car because they want to change the paradigm of transportation. They also want to inspire future generations to pursue their passions through education. So they’re going on a #SunRun99. They’re going to crisscross the state with Penumbra to promote renewable energy and STEM education. By the time they finish at the end of June, they will have traveled through all 99 counties (with some extension county office stops along the way).

Their travel schedule may seem a little ambitious, but we appreciate their enthusiasm. We also share their commitment to educating young people about science, technology, engineering and math. Whether the topic is rabbits or rockets, cattle or chemistry, gilts or gadgets, 4-H Youth Development uses the experiential learning model – teaching youth to do, reflect and then apply. Did you know?

  • Our Iowa 4-H Clover Kids program includes a focus on STEM literacy. Sara Nelson, a postdoctoral scholar at Iowa State, is working with our state 4-H staff to ensure that all new Clover Kids kits and programing build the STEM skills of kindergartners through third graders in Clover Kids.
  • STEM 4-H projects cover content from aerospace and robotics to crops, livestock, the environment and the science in everyday living.
  • Three Iowa youth received third-place awards at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair. They qualified for the international fair because they were finalists at the State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa, which ISU Extension and Outreach sponsors.
  • This spring 30 youth from Des Moines, Henry, Jefferson, Lee, Louisa and Washington counties explored the “STEMs of Crop Science.” The all-day field trip focused on crop production innovations at Monsanto and Mairet Farm. The youth participated in hands-on experiences with Monsanto technologies and local foods producers to further their knowledge and understanding of how technology effects our food supply and local economy. Before the trip 43 percent of the youth reported they understood how technology is used in agriculture, compared to 83 percent afterward. The youth also shared that they enjoyed the experiments, technology and chemical reactions that were highlighted.

Next fall the Iowa State students of Team PrISUm will haul Penumbra to Australia to compete in the 2017 Bridgestone World Solar Challenge. And yes, they plan to drive it across the continent. The longest trip I ever took in my old gas guzzler was Iowa to Arkansas. Talk about a paradigm shift!

— John D. Lawrence
Iowa State University Interim Vice President for Extension and Outreach

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