OSU specialist pumps up 4-H at geoscientists meeting


CORVALLIS - The 4-H youth development program is taking on an important new role in providing natural science education opportunities to children and adults, according to an Oregon State University Extension Service 4-H youth specialist speaking at the 98th annual meeting of the Cordilleran Section of the Geological Society of America held May 13-14 on the OSU campus.

The society is composed of geoscientists from around the world who meet each year to share research results with colleagues. Some 1,000 scientists are expected to attend the meeting at OSU.

"4-H is a lot more than cows and cooking these days although many people don't realize it," said Virginia Bourdeau, OSU Extension 4-H Youth natural resources specialist. "In recent years the 4-H Youth program has revamped its natural resource education materials to broaden their use and appeal with children in all kinds of educational programs."

An example, said Bourdeau, is the "4-H Earth Science Leaders Guide," a 152-page spiral bound workbook, which she authored. It is the adult leader guide for the 4-H geology project, but can be used a variety of ways, she said.

The book contains a natural sciences curriculum in nine chapters, featuring hands-on lessons that demonstrate Earth science processes responsible for Oregon's geological history from the Mesozoic era through the present. The lessons are keyed to Oregon Department of Education benchmarks at the fifth and eighth grade levels in science, social science, math and English.

The geology curriculum in the publication was designed for use with big groups, small groups or on a one-to-one basis with individual children.

Besides 4-H, the curriculum is intended for grade and middle school teachers and instructors in environmental awareness programs in museums and parks, Bourdeau said. It's also ideal for youth camp programs and parents can even use it with their children, she added.

"The important question in developing the guide was figuring out the best way to interpret science and geology to young people, or how to help children get their minds around big geological concepts like plate tectonics and volcanic eruptions," said Bourdeau.

"The message 4-H wants to communicate is: 'Look to us for resources if you're doing environmental or natural science education with youth audiences,'" said Bourdeau. "This guide is one of many the OSU Extension Service 4-H Youth Program has to offer in the natural resources area."

According to Bourdeau, the curriculum in the "4-H Earth Science Leaders Guide" has been nationally recognized, receiving awards from the National Interpretive Association, National Association of Natural Resource Extension Professionals, and the National Association of 4-H Agents.

The "4-H Earth Science Leaders Guide" is available at county offices of the Oregon State University Extension Service. The cost of the publication is $1.50 per copy.