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4-H Stream Teams Make an Impact

Posted: February 3, 2012

In 2010, youth in Pennsylvania’s Dauphin, Lebanon, and Lancaster Counties were invited to be part of a unique opportunity: a chance to learn, hands-on, about the water in their own community and how their daily lives impact that water. This is the mission of the 4-H Stream Teams Program, currently beginning its third year within the Conewago Creek Watershed and surrounding communities.

This small, 53 square mile watershed is the focus of much attention, as partners from a wide-variety of government agencies, universities, and non-government organizations come together to see what a fully collaborative effort (in this case the Conewago Creek Collaborative Conservation Initiative) can do to restore a small watershed and ultimately improve the quality of water entering the Chesapeake Bay. Thanks to the efforts of Penn State Extension Educators and to funding from a USDA-NIFA Integrated Water Quality Program Grant, youth are included in this collaborative effort.

The three major components of the 4-H Stream Team Concept are 1) provide a hands-on water-education curriculum that teaches youth about water conservation, water science, and water quality issues 2) focus youth learning experiences on small watersheds where their daily lives have the greatest impact and 3) promote community service and outreach projects that youth take ownership of in their own small watersheds. In the first two years of this pilot program, with the help of 36 dedicated volunteers, over 2,350 youth have been reached through 4-H Stream Team Activities.

For those youth who have completed 4-H Stream Team Activities and participated in evaluations, there has been demonstrated knowledge gained in water topics. 93% of participating youth demonstrated increased knowledge about the physical properties of water, 60% of participating youth demonstrated increased knowledge about water use and conservation issues, 76% of participating youth demonstrated increased knowledge about watersheds and associated landforms, and 61% of participating youth demonstrated increased knowledge about water quality issues and measurement. In addition, 76% of 4-H Stream Team Members demonstrated increased knowledge of their own local watershed boundaries and 166 4-H Stream Team Members have participated in 10 different community service and outreach projects that directly benefited their local watersheds in and around the Conewago Creek Pilot Program. Participating youth are also being evaluated on their skills, attitudes, and interests in science education and science careers.

As the program pilot enters the beginning of its final year, efforts are beginning to spread the 4-H Stream Teams Program outside of the USDA funded pilot region and into the entire state of Pennsylvania and beyond. To learn more about the program and some of the resources that have been developed to make the program a success, visit the Penn State Extension: 4-H Stream Teams website at:

http://sfr.psu.edu/youth/4-h-stream-teams-information

By Jennifer Fetter, Extension Educator, Watershed & Youth Education.  (Jennifer can be reached at jrf21@psu.edu)