During the month of October, over 250,000 youth will become game-changers, learning how to use computer-science skills to make a difference in their communities, through the 12th annual 4-H National Youth Science Day.
This initiative aims to inspire kids to take an interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics through hands-on learning experiences — with this year’s focus on computer science and coding. This year’s challenge, Game Changers, designed by Google and West Virginia University Extension Service, aims to teach kids how to use computer science (CS) to create games and engage with topics they care passionately about.
There are currently over half a million open computing jobs, and new ones are being created at four times the rate of other opportunities. These jobs pay nearly twice as well, but in many communities across the U.S. — from rural areas to urban centers — kids don’t have access to the tools or resources they need to learn computer science skills in order to take advantage of these opportunities. And recent research shows that schools can’t meet demand alone: nine out of ten parents want their kids to learn computer science in schools, but only one quarter of schools offer dedicated courses.
“4-H’s passion is for young people everywhere to have access to skill-building and mentorship opportunities that will inspire and empower them to lead, to innovate, and to make our world better for all of us,” said Jennifer Sirangelo, President and CEO, National 4-H Council. “4-H NYSD brings hands-on computer science learning opportunities within reach for thousands of young people each year. The skills they learn along the way –problem solving, digital fluency, perseverance — will provide a strong foundation for success today and in the future.”
This year’s challenge, Game Changers, is perfect for first-time and beginner coders ranging in age from 8 to 14. Using games, physical activity, and puzzles to teach kids important CS concepts and problem-solving skills, the challenge is designed to be a perfect fit for the classroom or out-of-school learning. Each kit consists of one computer-based activity on Google’s CS First platform, using MIT’s Scratch programming language, and two unplugged activities that bring coding to life through games and interaction and draws career and real-world connections between computer science and 4-H’s non-STEM pillar areas — civic engagement, healthy living, and agriculture.
“What’s unique about Game Changers is that the activities allow kids to engage with CS hands-on and the challenge can be completed offline if access to computers or internet is a barrier in their schools or communities,” said Jen Robertson-Honecker, Associate Professor and STEM Specialist for 4-H Youth Programming at West Virginia University. “Our approach removes or drastically reduces the technological barriers and makes it possible for anyone to teach Game Changers and help kids learn how to use CS to solve problems and inspire others to make change in their world.”
4-H National Youth Science Day kicks off on October 1st, with events taking place throughout the month of October in classrooms, clubs, homes, and afterschool spaces across the country. All youth are invited to participate in 4-H National Youth Science Day. For information about how to get involved, visit their wesbite or to purchase the Game Changers kit. Follow 4-H NYSD events around the country with #4HNYSD.