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Small Town 4-H'er Reaches for the Stars

Many kids gaze up into the night’s sky and dream of touching the stars. Peggy Whitson, NASA astronaut and commander of the International Space Station, turned that dream into reality.

Whitson grew up in the small town of Beaconsfield, Iowa, completing standard chores like mowing the lawn and caring for animals, but never lost her determination to fly and eventually go to outer space. At the age of nine, Whitson became involved with the 4-H program. Her brothers and sisters were active with the local Ringgold County 4-H club and it was a natural fit for her. The program played a key role in helping her develop from a shy girl into an exceptional leader.

Youth Embracing Agricultural Innovation Grows a Three Leaf Clover into 4-H

National 4-H Week happens each October, a time when nearly six million youth celebrate their participation in 4-H.  Every year, clubs around the country showcase the great things that 4-H offers young people and highlight the incredible things they do to make a positive impact in their communities.

The 4-H clover is one of the most recognized icons in the country, but it wasn’t always that way.  Like most things, it grew – this case from three leaves.

The seeds of 4-H were planted at the start of the 20th century by several adults in different states who were concerned about young people. Clark County, Ohio, claims credit as being the birthplace of 4-H, although the initial groups were called “The Tomato Club” or the “Corn Club.”

Using Data for Social Good

We are entering a new era of information openness and transparency.  Open data has the potential to spur economic innovation and social transformation.   Focusing just on economic impacts, in 2013, for example, the consulting firm McKinsey estimated the possible global value of open data to be over $3 trillion per year.  A study commissioned by Omidyar Network has likewise calculated that open data could result in an extra $13 trillion over five years in the output of G20 nations.

These impacts illustrate why it is important that we encourage people of every age to invest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) education.  For example, the White House initiative on Equal Futures Partnership, aims to open more doors to high-quality education and high-paying career opportunities for women and girls in the STEM disciplines, fields in which they are currently underrepresented. To support this effort, Federal science and technology agencies, private corporations, and academic institutions are taking steps to collect better data on women and girls in STEM fields, expand STEM mentoring opportunities, encourage research-driven teaching practices, and increase access to online STEM-skill training.

Hawaii's Women in Technology Program Cultivates the Next Generation of STEM Leaders

This post is part of the Science Tuesday feature series on the USDA blog. Check back each week as we showcase stories and news from USDA’s rich science and research portfolio.

If America is to maintain its role as a global leader, it needs to develop more world-class talent in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM), especially among underrepresented groups, such as women and minorities.

This need is especially true in rural Hawaii, where developing renewable and sustainable energy is vital due to the isolation of island living and high energy costs. Hawaii has the highest cost of living in the nation and is more dependent on imported fossil fuels than any other state. Preparing students for entry into the renewable energy industry could help the state's economy and overall economic sustainability.

How College Catapults Students to Ag Careers

Gracie Valdez explains how traveling around the world helped her to want to pursue a career in international agricultural development and trade.

Growing up, the question of the day often started with “why” or “how” because I loved discovering things. Though my specific interests morphed from archaeology to geology to biology, I knew I wanted to be a scientist since the 5th grade.  In college, I chose to study biology, which exposed me to many different aspects of the field.  College was the springboard that sharpened my focus and led me to becoming the ecosystem ecologist I am today.  Recognizing National College Signing Day, I hope that today’s inbound students consider studying science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) subjects to help meet our future agricultural challenges.

NIFA Supports Annual Science, Engineering Festival to Spur Future Scientists

The link between agriculture, science, and engineering is quite simple. Whether you live in a rural or urban setting, those three components work together to make a more sustainable environment. Thousands of students had the chance to learn about that and more, April 15-17 at the 4th Annual Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, DC.

Several members of the USDA’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) participated in the festival to encourage children to become the next generation of agricultural professionals.

High Five: NIFA Programs Help You to Know Your Farmer/Know Your Food

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) invests in agricultural research, education, and extension programs that take groundbreaking discoveries from laboratories to farms, communities, and classrooms. These programs enhance the competitiveness of American agriculture, ensure the safety of the nation’s food supply, improve the nutrition and health of communities, sustain the environment and natural resources, and bolster the economy. The following blogs are examples of the thousands of NIFA projects that help Americans get to know their farmers and their food.

Celebrating Black History Month with 'A Night at the Museum'

It was my great pleasure to recently attend what proved to be a truly inspiring wrap-up of national Black History Month—namely, an African American Living Wax Museum event hosted by the 5th-grade class at Harriet Tubman Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

The school kicked off the event this year to recognize the contributions of African Americans in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields, as well as to provide hands-on learning experience for the 52 participating students who had to use their research, writing, and oral-presentation skills to portray these individuals—Daniel Hale Williams, George Washington Carver, Sarah E. Goode, Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Mae C. Jemison among them.

A Diverse Sector is a Strong Sector: My Brother's Keeper National Week at the Labs

Two years ago, President Obama launched My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) to address persistent disadvantages and ensure boys and young men of color have opportunities to reach their full potential.  Since the initiative’s launch, the Administration has partnered with nonprofits, businesses, towns and cities to connect young people with mentors and resources, helping to build lasting bridges of opportunity for youth across the country.

Over the next five years, approximately 57,900 jobs will become available in food, agriculture, renewable natural resources and the environment annually -- with only 35,400 students graduating with the specialized expertise to fill them. A diverse sector is a strong sector, and that’s why we’re taking strides to ensure all Americans have access to the array of opportunities across the field.

Under Represented Students STEP-Up to Careers in Agriculture

The lack of women and minority representation in the professional agricultural workforce has become so pronounced that in STEM Stratplan 2013 President Obama called for an “all-hands-on-deck approach to science, technology, engineering, and math” (STEM) education.

According to the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, despite accounting for 16 percent of the U.S. population, Hispanics earned only 8 percent of all certificates and degrees awarded in STEM fields.