4-H SySTEMatics partnership connects Milwaukee middle schoolers with STEM education
MADISON, Wis. – The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents awarded the eighth annual Regents’ Diversity awards in Madison Feb. 5. The awards program was established by the Board to recognize and support individuals and programs in the UW System that foster access and success in university life for historically underrepresented populations.
A combined team from UW-Extension Milwaukee County, UW-Waukesha and UW-Richland received the Regents’ Diversity Award for their work with 4-H SySTEMatics. Research suggests 80% of the fastest-growing occupations in Wisconsin will require science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, but low-income Milwaukee youth have low STEM proficiency. SySTEMatics connects Milwaukee middle school youth, at low to no cost, with hands-on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) curriculum and pre-college experiences to prepare them for successful STEM careers.
Youth who participate in 4-H SySTEMatics complete at least eight hands-on STEM lessons from 4-H Youth Development curriculum and three pre-college lessons during the academic year. They also have the chance to attend STEM Day at UW-Waukesha and test-drive campus life during the week-long UW-Richland College Experience. All the participants gather for a science fair as well.
“4-H SySTEMatics gets youth excited about learning,” said Milwaukee County 4-H SySTEMatics Coordinator Eva Terry. “When I go into the classrooms or to the different program events, I get to see firsthand how the students’ confidence builds when they are doing a hands-on experiment and they figure out the science involved.”
According to 4-H SySTEMatics evaluations, youth who participate feel more connected to STEM skills and opportunities: 88% of youth found their experience made them aware of science-related careers, and 98% want to take part in more college preparation programs.
“The partnerships with UW Colleges adds an integral part to the program by helping the youth actually visualize themselves attending college or some type of post-secondary education option in the future,” said Terry.
The partnering UW Colleges campuses also see the benefit of 4-H SySTEMatics. “We are committed to serving the local youth community,” said Holly Wehrhahn, regional director of continuing education for UW Colleges’ southeast region, including UW-Waukesha. “Through this collaborative program, it is our hope to reach out to more youth and continue providing a hands-on learning experience that will engage them for years to come.”
Jessica Laeseke, the southwest regional director of continuing education for UW Colleges, thinks the program is a great example of institutional cooperation. UW-Waukesha and Milwaukee County 4-H originally turned to UW-Richland when looking for an overnight pre-college experience to incorporate into 4-H SySTEMatics. “Programs like this, when UW-Extension and UW Colleges have such a strong partnership, emphasize the fact that we have resources and we can help each other,” Laeseke says.
In 2015, 4-H SySTEMatics worked with seven schools and 145 students in the south side of Milwaukee. In 2016, Terry hopes the program will expand to include eight schools and about 200 youth.
UW Colleges is the third largest institution in the UW System and includes 13 campuses and UW Colleges Online. UW-Extension, which receives the third largest amount of federal grants and contracts in the UW System, serves Wisconsin families, business and communities statewide through offices in all 72 Wisconsin counties and three tribal nations, continuing education services through all 26 UW System campuses, the statewide broadcasting networks of Wisconsin Public Radio and Wisconsin Public Television, and entrepreneurship and economic development activities by county throughout the state. Information is available at: http://www.uwc.edu/ and http://www.uwex.edu/.