4-H teens apply STEM skills to ag activities at Iowa State Fair

Maya Hayslett and Elizabeth Settles Huffman
Iowa State University Extension
Teen leaders Kayla Streight, Jenna Kujac Schlieman, Cody Messer and Leif Haug facilitate the Unlock Ag Innovations Challenge with a group of youth.

This summer at county fairs and 4-H camps across Iowa, youth are using their critical thinking skills to take part in solving a real-world agriculture challenge through the 2022 4-H Ag Innovators Experience “Unlock Ag Innovations Challenge.”

Hands-on activities challenge youth to apply STEM skills to better understand the innovative tools, practices and technologies farmers use to make farming more environmentally sustainable. Participating youth will learn what these new technologies are, how they are being used to feed the world and how these innovations can benefit farmers and communities worldwide.

The collaborative, interactive challenge will help Iowa youth:

  • Understand how advancing technologies in each part of the food production system are necessary to feed the world.
  • Understand that technology can empower farmers, consumers and others in the food value chain to contribute to environmental sustainability.
  • Identify the technology careers that today’s food and agriculture industries require.

Youth learn about ag innovation through hands-on activities in an escape room-type challenge. One 4-H participant said, “I love escape rooms but have never participated in one like this.”

The 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, presented by the National 4-H Council and Bayer, is designed to be led by trained teen facilitators who guide youth through hands-on activities. In Iowa, trained teen leaders across the state are helping youth use STEM skills to solve a real-world issue while also driving youth awareness of, and interest in, agriculture innovation and agriculture careers. Students in Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska and Missouri are also participating in the Unlock Ag Innovations Challenge throughout the summer.

“The Unlock Ag Innovations Challenge is a great tool for youth to discover exciting technologies being used in agriculture and spark interest in ag careers,” said Maya Hayslett, 4-H crop science youth specialist and one of the program coordinators.

You can experience the Unlock Ag Innovations Challenge at the Iowa State Fair by visiting the Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building on Aug. 14.

For more information please contact your Iowa State University Extension and Outreach county office or visit the Iowa 4-H website at www.extension.iastate.edu/4h.