Iowa 4-H Youth Create Agriscience Action Plans at Ignite Summit in Washington, D.C.


May 30, 2024, 9:12 am | Sydney Peterson, Cayla Taylor

AMES, Iowa – Ten high school youth participated in agriscience track sessions at the national Ignite by 4-H Summit – developing action plans, sharing ideas and connecting with peers from other states.

They were among 37 4-H youth in grades 7-12 who were selected to represent Iowa at the teen summit, held March 13-17 in Washington, D.C. Over 1,200 youth from throughout the United States participated in the event, which aimed to help teens find their spark and learn the skills they need to create a positive impact.

After the delegates returned home from the summit, they could submit their action plans to vie for an Ignite Lead to Change grant. Up to 13 grants of $2,000 were expected to be available, with one possible $5,000 grant, and one of the Iowa agriscience youth action plan teams received a $2,000 grant to help them implement their project.

Engaging in agriscience

Representing the Iowa delegation through the agriscience track were Kaydence Kirkland, Adair County; Emily Olson, Dallas County; Cooper McCarthy, Davis County; Lilah Heinz-Wilson, Guthrie County; Tyson Mohr, Iowa County; Megan Swartzendruber, Johnson County; Kendric Langreck, Winneshiek County; Nora Pickhinke, Sac County; Sarah Dean, Fayette County; and Ananya Balaji, Story County.

Kendric Langreck presents his Lead to Change project.The youth engaged in workshops on topics ranging from carbon farming, biofuels and food science to pollinators, biotechnology and pizza making. Delegates also listened to various keynote speakers and leaders in the agriscience field and even expanded their horizons by participating in sessions from the healthy living and STEM tracks.

Each core track featured a keynote speaker and a challenge activity that teens collaborated on. In the agriscience track, they worked with Dan Venteicher on a challenge around cheese making. Teens reported they enjoyed hearing from Venteicher about his family and dairy farm, specifically how he uses social media to help educate people about agriculture.

In addition to the enriching experiences at the Ignite Conference, agriscience track delegates embarked on an educational outreach tour of the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center.

Lynne Campbell, extension education specialist with Iowa 4-H, was selected to present two workshops: “BEE Part of the Solution: Youth Pollinator Education and Action” and “Monarch Mania: Youth Pollinator Education and Action.” These workshops immersed summit attendees in interactions with live native bees and monarch butterflies, inspiring youth and adult mentors to consider how they could participate in pollinator projects in their counties nationwide. Both sessions included access to K-12 resources developed through a North Central IPM Center grant. Campbell plans to reach out to youth and adults who indicated interest in participating in future pollinator project collaborations.

The agriscience track youth developed the following Lead to Change action plans that could be implemented in their home counties:

  • Iowa Innovation Ignited involves advocating for agriculture and informing the general population on how to use their connections and broaden their horizons beyond their imagination through an Iowa Ignite 4-H social media platform.
  • Cutting Down on Cutting Lawns—Reducing Mowing to Reduce Carbon Emissions through presentations and demonstrations will focus on lawn care’s contribution to carbon emissions and share ways to reduce emissions while still getting a great lawn.
  • Dinner on the Farm recognizes that the average consumer is three generations removed from the farm. Teen leaders will invite consumers to the farm for tours and farm-to-plate dinners to further educate consumers by giving a clear understanding of food labels, modeling ethical and sustainable agriculture and showcasing new farm technology.
  • Seed to Steak aims to help the public understand the process of making a meal by setting up informational meetings with different experts along the “chain” to speak on specific topics and help portray that the agricultural industry is much more than what is portrayed on the internet.
  • Honey I Shrunk the Pollinators – Let’s Save Our Tiny Heroes aims to educate the public about habitat loss and helpful solutions to encourage habitat areas by hosting events with hands-on activities to help sustain the monarch population.
  • Bee-lieve in Change – Save the Pollinators recognizes how urbanization is leading to the fragmentation of pollinator habitats, significantly limiting bee populations. This program aims to teach third-grade students in Iowa about the importance of pollinator conservation by planting pollinator gardens at schools and offering take-home bird and bee house kits, inspiring them to take future steps to preserve pollinators in their communities. This team also plans to organize a field trip to Allendan Seed Company in Winterset, inviting high school youth across Iowa to learn about pollinators and native plants.

On April 26 the Bee-lieve in Change action plan team learned they had received one of the $2,000 grants. The team, consisting of Ananya Balaji, Emily Olson, Lilah Heinz-Wilson and Megan Swartzendruber, has submitted a video storyline about their plan to expand programming and is vying for a total of $5,000 to support the expansion of their project.

If additional funds are received, the team plans to add a stronger connection to pollinators to all six projects, increasing real-world connections and supporting community actions, including communicating with local colleges and organizations. The goal is to provide a minimum of $500 per youth to host an event in their county to reach third-grade youth, connect with adults and plant pollinator habitat.

About the Ignite Summit

 Youth Pollinator Education and Action workshop.The four-day summit included inspiring and engaging panels, hands-on workshop sessions and entertainment, along with opportunities for career exploration, youth voice and building connections with teens from across the country. The high-impact programming included speakers, such as national experts, with opportunities to hone leadership skills.

This is the second year the event was held as a super summit, combining all interest tracks: STEM, agriscience, healthy living, career readiness and emotional well-being. In previous years, the event was split into four different summits. Before leaving Iowa, each delegate selected the track in which they were most interested.

Youth also heard from innovative keynote speakers Gitanjali Rao, a young inventor, author and Time Magazine’s first “Kid of the Year,” and Daniel Mac, a content creator with over 20 million followers across TikTok, Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.

In addition, in partnership with adult mentors, Ignite youth participants developed and presented various 4-H Lead to Change projects during the conference. These projects challenged the delegates to brainstorm and act on an issue they care about, become catalysts for others, foster real change in their home communities, and, therefore, contribute to stronger, healthier communities.

Many teams plan to continue developing and implementing their Lead to Change project, demonstrating their commitment to positively impacting their communities and beyond.

Experiencing Washington, D.C.

Besides attending the summit, the delegation engaged in sightseeing. One evening, participants took a night bus tour of the national monuments. They walked around the Jefferson Memorial, World War II Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Korean War Veterans Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial and Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial. Many delegates had never been to Washington, D.C., and reported that visiting all the memorials and history there was a cherished experience.

The teens also engaged in entertainment opportunities, including a pin trade, a celebration event featuring DJ Lela Brown, a prodigy and former teen Radio Disney show host, and a YouTube creator panel and dinner.

Stephanie Alanis, northwest region program assistant for ISU Extension and Outreach, was one of the chaperones who accompanied local 4-H members on the trip. She said the summit was a fantastic opportunity for the students and the adults who attended, as they connected with other students and extension staff members from Iowa and across the country.

“One of my favorite parts about the Ignite by 4-H Summit is being able to watch youth come out of their shells and interact with other 4-H’ers from across the country,” Alanis said. “Ignite by 4-H has been an event that genuinely tries to create a positive and welcoming environment for all youth in 4-H.”

Participation in the Ignite by 4-H Summit was made possible through funding from the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program, National 4-H Council, Walmart Foundation, Google and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

For more information on the Iowa 4-H Youth Development program, please contact your ISU Extension and Outreach county office or visit the Iowa 4-H website at www.extension.iastate.edu/4h.

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