4-H Clubs Conduct Nationwide Science Experiments

Add an extra "H" for "hypothesis" to the head, heart, hands, and health that make up the 4-H club motto. This week, 4-H chapters across the country are taking part in science experiments that aim to teach kids in rural and urban areas about water use and carbon footprints.

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IRA FLATOW, host:

You're listening to SCIENCE FRIDAY. Ira Flatow.

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But before that, some very interesting stuff about turning kids on to science. You know, you all probably heard of 4-H clubs, which - there are chapters of them all over the country. But you may not know that the H stand for - remember what the H stands for? Well, head, heart, hands and health. And for this week, maybe it's time to add - we've added a fifth H for hypothesis, because students all over the country are participating in a national 4-H Youth Science Day in auditoriums, in gymnasiums across the country. Thousands of kids all did the same science experiment in which they explored the relationship between carbon dioxide, CO2, and water.

And joining me now to talk more about it are my guests. Donald Floyd is the CEO and president of the National 4-H Council. He joins us by phone from Chevy Chase, Maryland. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

Mr. DONALD FLOYD (National 4-H Council): Hi, Ira. How are you?

FLATOW: Thank you. Jackie Davis-Manigaulte is a senior extension associate and a family and youth development program leader for the Cornell University Cooperative Extension here in New York. And she's with us on our New York studio. Welcome to SCIENCE FRIDAY.

Ms. JACKIE DAVIS-MANIGAULTE (Cornell University Cooperative Extension): Thank you, Ira. Glad to be here.

FLATOW: Thank you. Also with us is Lazarus Lynch. He's a student at the Food and Finance High School in Manhattan. Thanks for coming in today.

Mr. LAZARUS LYNCH (Student, Food and Finance High School): It's a pleasure being here.

FLATOW: Lazarus, can you tell us what the experiment was that you did?

Mr. LYNCH: Well, the National Science Day is a time when 4-Hs all around the country will engage in science experiments to discuss water quality and global climate change issues. We will also be talking about how we can reduce our carbon footprint to lessen the negative impact we have on our environment. We will also be discussing the effects of CO2 and nutrient runoff, and how it leads to the overproduction of algae in lakes, leading to changes in water quality.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

Mr. LYNCH: The evident will actually be taking place at my school. And we have a greenhouse on the roof. And we also have a hydroponics and aquaponic lab where we are in efforts to reduce our carbon footprint.

FLATOW: Donald Floyd, we don't really think of a 4-H usually as going into schools in New York City and other areas, in gymnasiums. You think about them, you know, 4-H members out with the cows.

Mr. FLOYD: Well, the great news is that - thanks to Jackie, who's been my 20-year friend - we have a fantastic 4-H program in five boroughs, in the greater New York City area. And so we're not only in Manhattan, Kansas, but Manhattan, New York.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Great. Great little sound bite. But what about getting into science? We don't think - we think of, you know, agriculture, agronomy, things like that. When did 4-H decide they were going to get active with, say, having kids do real sciency things?

Mr. FLOYD: Actually, since we first started 110 years ago, we were an ag science program. And the big ag schools had a hard time putting new ag technology into field. And they started corn clubs for the young kids on the farm, and they gave them hybrid seed and grew four times as many bushels per acre. And guess what dad says, is where'd you get all that? And then told him at the ag school. And so it was really a technology transfer in ag science from the earliest of days. And we've just adapted our programs over the years to the kinds of programs that Lazarus just described.

FLATOW: Jackie, why this experiment with CO2? Was it - is it related to greenhouse gases and global warming?

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: It definitely is. And it's exciting for the young people to have a chance to actually do something hands-on that allows them to see it in action. One of the things that Lazarus mentioned is that we'll be doing this experiment at his school next week, on Friday. But we actually did this experiment last - this past Wednesday at P.S. 5 in Bedford-Stuyvesant. And there's nothing like seeing young people actually engaged, seeing a process where they can see how that change occurs.

We also - to really bring the point home - had the opportunity to have one of our former 4-Hs 4Hs Don's given our secrets away. I told him not to do that, but...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: But we actually have 4-Hs who have - were in 4-H 20 years ago and who are now actively involved in careers that allow them to help tell about the messages that we are promoting in 4-H. So we had one of our New City former 4-Hs, Bernard Williams, who is now working for an organization called the Alliance for Climate Education, and through his efforts he came and was able to serve as a real role model and talk about this topic in detail. And it just helped brought - brought the message home for the young people.

FLATOW: Lazarus, you won a prize already...

Mr. LYNCH: I did.

FLATOW: Tell us about that.

Mr. LYNCH: So this is the World Food Prize. And the World Food Prize is awarded to those who have made significant advancement in quality, quantity and the availability of food in the world. And so my topic was addressing gender and cultural discrimination and improving access to credit and securing property rights for the poor. And so I focused on Swaziland, which is located in the Southern Africa - in Southern Africa, primarily because I just never heard of it.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

Mr. LYNCH: But in the essay I talk about a typical rural subsistence farm family and a mother who is struggling to produce food every day and sell for profit because her husband has died due to AIDS, which is very pervasive in Swaziland, and leaving her without any patriarchal representation to make financial decisions for the family's business.

Overall, I would say women are greatly discriminated against and are treated as minors in Swaziland. They overall lack accessibility of administrating natural resources such as land. And so the deficiency of land rights by women and young girls defined the victimizing existence of discrimination within the country. However, my findings were that by reinforcing current policies that embody women's rights and mediatory interventions by way of international organizations, women will rise to their rightful place and obtain due equal status with men.

FLATOW: Are you - you're in eleventh grade?

Mr. LYNCH: I'm in eleventh grade, yes.

FLATOW: You speak very well.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: Have you thought about public speaking?

Mr. LYNCH: Oh, yes. And you know what? 4-H is really, really big on public speaking events.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

Mr. LYNCH: I've participated in a public speaking event and we do it on statewide level, we do it national level, up in Syracuse, New York. And so that also helps young people develop social skills and interactions with other young people all around the world.

FLATOW: Mm-hmm. Donald, are you going to be doing these science experiments every year now?

Mr. FLOYD: We've - this is our third year doing. And last year was about biofuels and the year before was about hydrogels and this year, as Jackie said, you see these young kids get all fired up about science programs. That's what we're trying to do, spark an interest. And we're also trying to deal with real life issues so they understand why this stuff matters and they can experience science firsthand.

I wanted to note that Lazarus, this World Food Prize fellowship is a big deal. And I think we're actually going to see each other in Des Moines next week at the World Food Prize.

Mr. LYNCH: Looking forward to it.

Mr. FLOYD: We have 200,000 young people in 4-H programs in 13 countries in Africa and around the world. So 4-H is a global movement these days.

FLATOW: Well, it seems like a perfect place to do a national, international experiment with kids.

Mr. FLOYD: Exactly. The experiment was done from Antarctic to Korea to Nairobi. So it's kind of fun to see that.

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: There are also a lot of ways that the youth will be able to build on this experiment, so we've trained the teachers so that they'll be doing things over the next...

FLATOW: Right.

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: ...couple of weeks, where that will build on the things that they did on Wednesday and throughout the country.

FLATOW: You know...

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: We also have about three or four different additional science education projects that we're going to be introducing in the next couple of months and are hoping that we can get our people more involved in doing science education, both in the community-based schools...

FLATOW: Mm-hmm.

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: ...and community-based organizations, including topics like junior master gardener, the power of wind, there's no new air. These are all curricula that we got from our national 4-H program...

FLATOW: Right. Well, the science is going on in all these things. You're gardening...

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: Yes.

FLATOW: ...you're doing - you know, we like to talk about gardening on SCIENCE FRIDAY and our projects here...

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: Mm-hmm.

FLATOW: ...(unintelligible) all this science is going on and it goes everywhere. You know, you do it with urban gardening, you do rural gardening.

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: Absolutely. So that's why when people say they don't understand why we're in New York City...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: ...the other one's missing out. Do you know the pledge? The pledge. I pledge my head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and health to better living, for my club, my community, my county and my world. There's no part of that that doesn't apply to youth in New York City.

FLATOW: Well, maybe you can add that (unintelligible) the hypothesis.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: Absolutely. Definitely. We've got to get that one million new scientists by 1012(ph), right, Don?

Mr. FLOYD: Exactly. And we're well on our way, and our projection is we'll have 1.4 million new young people in 4-H because of the science programs alone.

FLATOW: Lazarus, do you find kids who are excited about this experiment?

Mr. LYNCH: Well, yes. In my school we've been promoting this event amongst the student government and just, really just building on the food and nutrition aspect in our food, in our school. And our school - my school is a culinary-based high school. And so, you know, consisting with 4-H's pledge of head, heart, hands and health, my interest lies in communicating food and nutrition for youth in the way that bridges, you know, their holistic health with food and nutrition. And so 4-H has also a great food and nutrition aspect called keeping it fit and healthy, where we understand how to be healthy youth. And I also love, you know, engaging with other youth to see their different points of view on the world and an example of what true citizenship is and what that means for our families, or lives and our community.

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: And just so you know, Lazarus - Lazarus's school is a New Vision high school that is sponsored by Cornell University Cooperative Extension in New York City.

FLATOW: Well, I think science is really getting hot with - these days.

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: Absolutely.

FLATOW: You know, TV shows and books and...

Mr. LYNCH: For sure.

FLATOW: (Unintelligible) in math and all kinds of things it's girls and boys really rediscovering science and it's interesting to see that. And I wish you all the best of luck in your experiments.

Mr. LYNCH: Thank you.

FLATOW: And in comparing this, we'd love to see the national results. It's great it's a national test. We'd like to just see those national results...

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: Well, now we know where you are.

(Soundbite of laughter)

FLATOW: We're very centrally located, so it's easy to find us. I want to thank all of my guests for coming today. Donald Floyd is CEO and president of the National 4-H Council. He's joined us by phone from Chevy Chase. Jackie Davis-Manigaulte is senior extension associate and the family and youth development program leader at the Cornell University Cooperative Extension here in New York. And also, Lazarus Lynch, he's a student at the Food and Finance High School in Manhattan. Thank you.

Mr. LYNCH: Yes. Thank you very much.

FLATOW: Thanks, all, for taking the trek down here to be with us.

Ms. DAVIS-MANIGAULTE: Oh, it was our pleasure.

Mr. FLOYD: Thanks, Ira.

Mr. LYNCH: Thank you so much.

FLATOW: You're welcome.

Mr. FLOYD: Bye-bye.

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