4-H Youth Development Program
4-H Youth Development Program
4-H Youth Development Program
University of California
4-H Youth Development Program

Professional Development Resources

Science educators need preparation in order to effectively engage youth participants in 4-H STEM curricula. This preparation contains two key elements, pedagogical topics as well as specific curricular content, through effective professional development approaches. 

4-H promotes effective teaching strategies (known as pedagogy)
In 4-H, we promote the use of learner-centered, constructivist-based teaching strategies including experiential learning and inquiry-based teaching. Constructivist-based teaching strategies are learner-centered, foster knowledge and skills development, and hold promise for improving youth scientific literacy. Unfortunately, science education has a history of being taught through didactic teaching strategies – lectures, demonstrations, presentations – emphasize the direct delivery of information (from the "expert") and youth memorization of known facts. These methods do not provide learners with an in-depth understanding of science content and do little to contribute to their abilities to use scientific thinking.

4-H promotes ongoing professional development and not "one time" workshops
To become proficient at using effective pedagogical strategies to teach science, science educators require access to and participation in professional development opportunities that model constructivist-based, learner-centered methods- such as communities of practice and lesson study. Professional development should exhibit key characteristics, including extended duration, active learning, emphasis on pedagogical knowledge, authentic context, use of data, and connections to broader organizational and systemic efforts. Unfortunately, most professional development opportunities in science involve a highly skilled professional demonstrating knowledge and skills to less experienced individuals who are in the role of being passive recipients of information. This strategy perpetuates the use of didactic teaching methods and is viewed broadly as being ineffective.

Resources and Tools

Tools of the Trade II
An after school staff-development guide that uses a “train-the-trainer” approach to deliver a comprehensive 21½ -hour training for afterschool program frontline staff and youth workers on incorporating science, engineering, and technology (SET) into afterschool programming. Using a handson, interactive skill-building approach, it provides tools drawn from research and best practices to help afterschool staff enhance communication, management, and educational delivery of afterschool programs. Each session provides complete instructions, readily available supplies and session evaluations.

4-H Science Promising Practices

National 4-H Science Professional Development Website
Contains resources and Materials for building understanding, implementing programs, and evaluation efforts.

4-H Experiential Learning Website
This website contains three modules with activities to use with 4-H staff and volunteers.

  • I. Understanding the Experiential Learning Cycle
  • II. Inquiry-Based Learning and the Experiential Learning Cycle
  • III. Developing and Adapting Curricula to Integrate Experiential Learning

Carlson & Maxa. (1997) "Science Guidelines for Nonformal Education"
The purpose of the science guidelines is to encourage understanding of science and technology, address guidelines from a nonformal perspective, and assure that nonformal guidelines are compatible with other science standards. This document will be used to evaluate existing program curricula; guide the development of new science curriculum; judge a particular program's potential to fulfill the vision of a scientifically literate society; and enhance the quality of programs that were designed to improve youth's opportunity and ability to learn science.

California 4-H STEM Presentations and Publications


  1. Bibliography- Science Education for Diversity
  2. Flyer: CA 4-H SET Overview
  3. National 4-H Science Logic Model FINAL Revised 6-10
  4. 4-H STEM Checklist
    1. Youth Scientific Literacy
    2. Experiential Learning
    3. Experiential Learning Check-Off List
    4. 4-H SET Inquiry Learning
    5. Positive Youth Development Practices
    6. 4-H STEM and the Next Generation Science Standards


  1. State of the 4-H STEM Initiative for Dec 1 2015
  2. SET Slides for the 2015 New Staff Orientation
  3. 4-H SET Poster for ANR Conference October 2015
  4. SET Slides for ANR Program Council (revised Feb 17, 2015)
  5. STEM Education (Bring Exploration and Design to your Programs) workshop at the Bridging the Bay Conference on January 31, 2015
  6. iThrive3 Curriculum workshop at 2014 NAE4-HA
  7. Examination of Attitude and Interest Measures for 4-H Science Evaluation at 2014 NAE4-HA
  8. Anchor Points for Youth Scientific Literacy POSTER for 2014 NAE4-HA
  9. Making and Tinkering Handout for Robotics Session at 2014 NAE4-HA
  10. Webinar on Nov 11 2014 - Science Education for Diversity. Presented as part of the CYFAR PDTA. Companion piece: Bibliography- Science Education for Diversity - Webinar recording
  11. Experiential Learning Workshop (TOTII) at the Bridging the Bay Afterschool Conference Jan 2014
  12. JDR Poster for Galaxy Conference in September 2013
  13. 4-H CYFAR Poster for ANR Conference 3-18-2013 final
  14. 4-H SET Poster for ANR Conference 3-18-2013 final
  15. State of the 4-H SET Initiative - October 2 2012. Presented to California 4-H staff in October 2012.
  16. 4-H SET Poster 2012
  17. Science Abilities - The Processes of Doing Science - National Webinar. Presented nationally in January 2012.
  18. CA4-H SET Webinar on September 9. Presented to California 4-H staff in September 2011.
  19. 4-H Program Empowers Youth - 2011 HSC Workshop. Presented at the HomeSchool Conference in August 2011.
  20. 4-H SET - Full day CYFAR Workshop. Presented at the 2010 CYFAR Conference in San Francisco.
  21. REC Directors Meeting Presentation 2013
  22. 2013 4-H SET Resource Presentation 2013
  23. 4-H SET Poster for ANR Conference 3-18-2013


  1. California Agriculture (2015)
    Scientific literacy: California 4-H defines it from citizens’ perspective.
  2. Journal of Extension (2015)
    Examination of Attitude and Interest Measures for 4-H Science Evaluation
  3. Journal of Extension (2015)
    TechXcite: Discover Engineering—A New STEM Curriculum
  4. Published in the California Science Teachers' Association (2014)
    Professional Development in 4-H: A Case for Reform.
  5. Published in the California Science Teachers' Association (2014)
    The California 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology (SET) Initiative: Using and Informing Best Practices for Science Education in Non-formal Settings
  6. Journal of Youth Development
    Bers Theory of Positive Technological Development
  7. Journal of Extension
    Embracing scientific and engineering practices in 4-H
  8. Guest Blog of the Coalition for Science After School (2012)
    4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology
  9. 4-H CYD Monograph (2012):
    History of Science Education in 4-H
  10. Published in the California Science Teachers' Association journal (2011)
    4-H Programs Focus on Science.
  11. For 4-H Robotics, published in the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) publication Learning and Leading (2011)
    Learning Connections: No Robotics in School? 4-H Can Help.
  12. California Agriculture, special issue on Hands-on Learning, Healthier Choices, and Better Lives. http://californiaagriculture.ucanr.org/issue.cfm?volume=67&issue=1

 UC Delivers

  1. 4-H Water Wizards: Water literacy through after-school science programs
  2. Youth engage in hands-on science on nine California military installations
  3. 4-H youth improve their technological literacy by producing films. 
  4. 4-H CYFAR: Youth Grow Through Science Programming. 
  5. Academy improves capacity of 13 western states to deliver 4-H science education
  6. On the 'Wild Side' 
  7. 4-H develops Junk Drawer Robotics to teach youth science and engineering.
  8. Educating California’s youth on water issues
  9. 4-H Program brings families together for fun science
  10. Gearing up 4-H through robotics.
  11. Central Coast youth developing engineering and technology skills.

The need for science literacy

  • Committee on Prospering in the Global Economy of the 21st Century: An Agenda for American Science Technology (2007). Rising above the gathering storm: Energizing and employing America for a brighter economic future. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.  Available from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=11463

  • Fleischman, H.L., Hopstock, P.J., Pelczar, M.P., and Shelley, B.E. (2010). Highlights from PISA 2009: Performance of U.S. 15-year-old students in reading, mathematics, and science literacy in an international context (NCES 2011-004). U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office. Available from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2011/2011004.pdf

  • National Center for Education Statistics (2011). The nation’s report card: Science 2009. (NCES 2011-451). Washington, D.C.: Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Available from http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/pdf/main2009/2011451.pdf

  • Gonzales, P., Williams, T., Jocelyn, L., Roey, S., Kastberg, D., and Brenwald, S. (2008). Highlights from TIMSS 2007: Mathematics and science achievement of U.S. fourth- and eighth-grade students in an international context (NCES 2009–001 Revised). Washington, D.C.: National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education. Available from http://nces.ed.gov/pubs2009/2009001.pdf.

Research on the Effectiveness of Informal/Nonformal Science Education

  • 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development - Wave 6 (2008) - SET Findings

  • 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development - Wave 6 (2008) - SET Findings POWERPOINT

  • 4-H SET Fact Sheet (2009)

  • National Research Council. (2009). Learning science in informal environments: People, places, and pursuits. Washington D.C.: The National Academies Press. Available from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12190
  • Fenichel, M., & Schweingruber, H. A. (2010). Surrounded by science: Learning science in informal environments. Washington D. C.: The National Academies Press. Available from http://www.nap.edu/catalog.php?record_id=12614
  • Harlen, Wynne. (2001). Primary science: Taking the plunge: how to teach science more effectively for ages 5 to 12. While focused on classroom science teaching, the pedagogy and advice given fits right in with 4-H SET. It was accessible and easily understandable. Every 4-H volunteer involved with 4-H science programming should read it!    
  • Rahm, Jrene. (2010). Science in the making at the margin: A multisited ethnography of learning and becoming in an afterschool program, a garden, and math and science upward bound program. roadens our understanding of learning science, using research in sociocultural learning, which includes developing identities, motivations, and participation in authentic communities. "This book explores youths meaning making of science and co-constructions of new levels of understands of science, as well as how they come to position themselves in relation to science through participate in science practices at the margin."
  • Furtak, E.M., Seidel, T., Iverson, H., & Briggs, D.C. (2012). Experimental and quasi-experimental studies of inquiry-based science teaching: A meta-analysis. Review of Educational Research, 82(3), 300-329.
  • Shirk, J. et al. (2010). Public participation in scientific research: A framework for deliberate design. Ecology and Society, 17(2). Available from http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol17/iss2/art29/

Research on 4-H Science Education

  • Heck, K., Carlos, R., Barnett, C. & Smith, M. (2012). 4-H participation and science interest in youth. Journal of Extension, 50(2). Available from http://www.joe.org/joe/2012april/a5p.shtml
  • Barker, B., Grandgenett, N., & Nugent, G. (2009). A new model of 4-H volunteer development in science, engineering, and technology programs. Journal of Extension 47(2). Available from http://www.joe.org/joe/2009april/iw4.php
  • Bourdeau, V. (2004). 4-H experiential education – A model for 4-H science as inquiry. Journal of Extension 42(5). Available from http://www.joe.org/joe/2004october/tt3.php
  • Bourdeau, V. D. & Arnold, M. E. (2009). The science process skills inventory. Corvallis, OR: 4-H Youth Development Education, Oregon State University. Available at http://www.pearweb.org/atis/tools/18
  • Heck, K. (2009). 4-H impacts young people’s interest in science, engineering, and technology: Data from the 4-H study of positive youth development. Fact Sheet. UC Davis, CA: 4-H Center for Youth Development. Available from http://www.ca4h.org/files/1319.pdf
  • Horton, B., Gogolski, J., Warkentien, C. (2007). Science, engineering, and technology (SET): Programming in the context of 4-H Youth Development. Chevy Chase, MD: National 4-H Council. Available from http://www.ohio4h.org/publications/documents/SET2007.pdf
  • Kress, C. A., McClanahan, K., & Zaniewski, J. (2008). Revisiting how the U.S. engages young minds in science engineering and technology: A response to the recommendations contained in The National Academies’ “Rising Above the Gathering Storm” report. Chevy Chase, MD: National 4-H Council.
  • Mielke, M., LaFleur, J., & Sanzone, J. (2010). 4-H science, engineering and technology (SET) initiative: Youth engagement, attitudes, and knowledge study. Washington, D.C.: Policy Studies Associates. YEAK Final Report Executive Summary Spring 2010
  • Smith, M., Dasher, H., & Klingborg, D. (2005). A model for recruiting and training youth development volunteers in urban areas. Journal of Extension. 43(5). Available from http://www.joe.org/joe/2005october/a6.php
  • Smith, M. & Enfield, R. (2002). Training 4-H teen facilitators in inquiry-based science methods: the evaluation of a “step-up” incremental training model. Journal of Extension, 40(6). Available from http://www.joe.org/joe/2002december/a3.php
  • Smith, M., Meehan, C., Enfield, R., George, J., & Chin Young, J. (2004). Improving county-based science programs: bringing out the science teacher in your volunteer leaders. Journal of Extension, 42(6). Available from http://www.joe.org/joe/2004december/a5.php
  • Worker, S. (2013). Embracing Scientific and Engineering Practices in 4-H. Journal of Extension, 51(3). Available from http://www.joe.org/joe/2013june/iw3.php


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