The Cheapest Kids Programs You've Never Heard Of (page 2)

The Cheapest Kids Programs You

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Updated on Feb 24, 2011

Bob Sams, Director of Communication Services and Information Technology for Agriculture and Natural Resources at the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE), agrees that these program areas have some of the farthest-reaching effects. For example, UCCE’s award-winning EatFit program has reached hundreds of thousands of young children across the state of California and the U.S. The program includes a curriculum for educators as well as online resources for teens and children. “It’s a very entertaining and well-designed curriculum for high school students… used as part of the food stamp nutrition education program,” he says.

Youth programming has historically been an important part of Cooperative Extension, and involvement in 4-H and other Extension youth programs continues to increase. Sams says afterschool programming in California is one of their fastest-growing segments of 4-H. UCCE’s school garden project, which is affiliated with the Center for Weight and Health at the University of California, Berkley, is another example of a highly visible and successful nutrition education program. UCCE collaborates with the Center for Weight and Health on a range of ongoing research projects, such as evaluating the Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Program that operates in low-income schools across the country.

Jill Martz, Director of the 4-H Center for Youth Development at Montana State University Extension, explains that 4-H programming through afterschool, in-school, community, and military clubs, is well received by parents because of the research-based nature of the curriculum.

4-H has the privilege and responsibility of bringing the latest research in youth programming and development to the programs they offer,” Martz says. “With that land-grant university connection, you have access to some great research and resources.”

Through Montana State 4-H, for example, children can get involved in horse-related programming—learning about proper handling and riding techniques—and other outdoor activities such as hiking, camping, and backpacking. 4-H programs around the country range from science-based youth projects, including projects involving water, energy, and wildlife, to social studies projects, including projects involving learning about various cultures and practices around the globe.

“Costs vary from one state to another,” Martz says. “At the state level we do not charge a fee for 4-H members, but at the county level they charge minimal fees to pay for the literature.” Martz says they have been fortunate that recent budget cuts have not dramatically affected county programming. “We’ve been really lucky, but then…we weren’t overstaffed to begin with and our state happened to be in a better financial situation than other states.”

Budget Cuts and Evolution to High-Tech Education

California is one such state that has been affected by the cuts. Sams explains that while much of their programming remains hands-on—with Extension agents and specialists working directly with California residents—he and his colleagues are adapting to what amounts to a 20 percent reduction in permanent state funding, and they are involved in a major reorganization of their program delivery. “Our approach is that we can longer afford to do business in the way that we’ve done in the past,” he says, “and we have an obligation to change our business processes. “

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