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Iowa State University Extension and Outreach programs for K-12 youth build on the legacy of 4-H youth development and include a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) skills. Brenda Welch, an ISU Extension and Outreach youth program specialist, leads Mad Scientist Day Camps to get youth excited about STEM learning. She says:
Iowa State University Extension and Outreach works with youth on these science-based camps to get youth interested in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. We know that the state of Iowa needs a future that has scientists, people who are well versed in technology, engineers, and mathematicians to make our state a better state.
Today’s camp is a mad scientist camp. All of the activities that we do today are based on research. They’re experiential learning, which means that the youth are learning, they’re doing something, and they’re reflecting on it, and then they’re talking about how does this fit in real life.
Today we took a blown-up balloon, and then we took a wooden skewer, dipped it in vegetable oil, and actually were able to put this skewer through the balloon. Another activity that we’ve done today is to extract DNA out of a banana. This is an easy way for youth to learn about the building blocks that all of us are made up of, even the fruit that we eat.
Today’s experience isn’t just a one-time thing. It’s part of a yearlong, lifelong experience through Iowa State University Extension and Outreach where we get youth interested in science experiments — through our 4-H clubs themselves, other camps throughout the state, throughout the counties. We’re always looking at ways that we can encourage our youth to be participating in Iowa State University Extension and Outreach STEM activities.
This is a wonderful opportunity for our youth to learn so much. In today’s activities they’ve been laughing, they’ve been learning. Their excitement, and the smiles and the laughter when they actually extract DNA and they can see it in the test tube, and they can feel it, it’s incredible. And that’s what Iowa State University Extension and Outreach does – bring those smiles and that learning to the youth of Iowa.