Integrating STEM into Extension Education: A Case Study
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Extension education has played a valuable role in our society’s development over the years, especially regarding the well-being of our youth. Youth development programs everywhere are increasing in economic importance as there are many job fields in need of qualified individuals. Science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) are among the fastest growing work fields where jobs are in abundance but qualified individuals lack. With STEM related jobs on the rise and a lack of suitable individuals to adequately fulfill the need, the push for STEM related programming and education at an earlier age is becoming of higher importance across the country. However, with interests often not being explored until high school, extension education is working to address these educational needs of our society at an earlier age. This case study was designed to determine how extension could work to provide quality STEM related programs to students in early elementary school through late middle school, increase student interests in STEM education and careers before entering high school through reached, and evaluate strategies used in STEM education and based on the experiential learning theory. We used secondary data, which was data previously collected as a means of evaluation from the evaluated programs of this case study. The evaluation for the programs addressed questions relating to participant’s interests in STEM which will later be defined. The evaluated programs included: two different Cooking Creations Camps, the Producing, Achieving, Striving, Success (P.A.S.S.) program, Introduction to Robotics, and Chesterfield Summer Rocketry Design and Competition. The findings showed that 4H programming can spark youth interests and develop interests that were already preexisting. Even though not all of the 35 respondents wanted to pursue a career in a STEM related field, the methods used in programming made the program more fun, engaging, creative, and helped develop valuable skills that will help youth become more successful. These findings agreed with previous studies.