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4-H holds open house at new UWGB STEM Innovation Center

By Lauren Waters

GREEN BAY – There’s definitely more to the 4-H Youth Program than simply bringing farm animals to the county fair.

The Brown County 4-H Program showed the public just a fraction of what it has to offer at an open house Saturday, Oct. 5, at its new location in the University of Wisconsin–Green Bay STEM Innovation Center.

Not only were attendees able to discover more about the current 4-H clubs and projects from members and local leaders, there were plenty of hands-on activities for the whole family.

For the younger children in kindergarten through second grade, Cloverbud group leader Sarah Vercauteren assisted kids with arts and crafts projects, including constructing four leaf clovers and animal puppets.

“The primary purpose of the 4-H Cloverbud program is to provide a welcoming and safe environment that promotes children’s healthy development mentally, emotionally, socially and physically,” she said. “This is represented in the 4-H’s head, heart, hands and health.”

Vercauteren said the Cloverbud meetings are held the last Monday of every month for one hour of fun, hands-on learning activities that are geared toward this age group.

“Our activity meetings are very relaxing, and every kid gets a chance to speak and be involved, plus use their creativity,” said Vercauteren. “I want to help these children grow into better 4-H members because there are so many great opportunities out there for them if they stay involved in the program.”

There were many other activities at the open house for attendees to participate in, such as powering a blender using a stationary bicycle, writing letters to the troops and creating confetti poppers out of rolls of cardboard and balloons.

The 4-H Tech Changemakers showed attendees some STEM-related activities, such as making lava lamps out of household items.

The group is made up of older 4-H members who are working with Microsoft to promote STEM education in Brown County.

“We are so much more than what people may think,” said Melinda Pollen, 4-H youth development educator. “We certainly do have animal projects and the traditional crops, soils and cooking, but we also have programs like robotics, engineering, mechanical sciences, computers and design.”

Pollen said the 4-H projects include teaching skills to help prepare youth for future jobs, such as communication, critical thinking, collaboration and creativity.

Growing the program and making further connections around the community will be more achievable with 4-H’s move to the STEM Innovation Center, she said.

“The new building location provides so many possibilities of partnership with UWGB – from college professors to students, as well as creating a new and exciting partnership with the Einstein Project,” said Pollen. “Being here on campus will also help us connect young learners to workforce development in a new and exciting way.”

4-H Coordinator Ben Hoppe said he’s excited about the move to the STEM building because it will allow for more space and flexibility for the expanding programming, including the technology-related fields.

“Our world utilizes STEM more and more with each passing day,” said Hoppe. “From designing apps to building with LEGOs, I hope people view 4-H as an organization that is adapting with a changing world.”

There will be robotic and coding classes taking place throughout the year, said Hoppe, as well as many other STEM-related camps in 2020.

4-H Youth Development is the nation’s largest empowerment organization for young people.

There are more than 500 members of 4-H in Brown County made up of 18 clubs and groups.

The program is open to all youth ages 5-19.

For more information on 4-H, visit browncountywi4h.org or call 920-391-4654.

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