IF YOU HAVE always believed that 4-H programs are related only to livestock and simple youth skills, read on, you'll find there is much more.
Since 1914, when the 4-H began in Maryland, more than 38,000 young people have participated not only in livestock, food, nutrition and citizenship programs but also have learned money management, business skills, computers and, now, a program to inspire today's youth to become tomorrow's scientists.
That program, 4-H Adventures in Science, began in 1990 with a goal of promoting scientific literacy and inspiring young scientists to prepare for careers as engineers, doctors and other math and science professions.
Willing volunteers with scientific interest have made the program very popular, according to volunteers Ruthie Hall, associate professor, and Myra Chichester, assistant professor, at Coppin State College's Helene Fuld School of Nursing. The two give their time to this 4-H science program, which began as a pilot program at Coppin through a grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The eight-week sessions for ages 8 to 15 are held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturdays at different locations. One session is held each semester at Coppin. An eight-week session begins Feb. 22 at Christ United Methodist Church in East Baltimore.
Professors Hall and Chichester have coordinated the program at Coppin from its beginning. They also present classes to the children in stress balance, relaxation and first aid.
''We have 60 children this year and six volunteer teachers. Parents are encouraged to attend, and this year we have 20 parents,'' says Ms. Hall, who has been in Baltimore since 1965. She studied nursing at the North Carolina Agriculture and Technical University at Greensboro and at the University of Maryland and has a master's degree in child psychiatric nursing. She has been with the nursing program at Coppin since its inception in 1974.
Ms. Chichester was born in New York City, studied nursing there and came to Baltimore when the Tuskegee Institute brought its school of nursing to Coppin in 1974, she says. She has worked at Johns Hopkins School of Nursing and taught at the University of Maryland. She is on the UM system faculty council and is president of the faculty senate at Coppin.
''Our volunteers teach computer math games, all about tornadoes, telescopes, meteorology, anatomy, electronics and such things as water purification and much more. A paleontologist brings bones to show and discuss, and a veterinarian and a person from NASA have a program. We take trips to local places of interest. Bicycle safety, how to take a pulse and CPR training, for which they can receive a certification, are given,'' says Ms. Chichester. ''And we make crystals, perfume, worm farms and slime, which are things we can't live without. And don't ask me what the slime is,'' she chuckles.
Children who participate get T-shirts and buttons and small gifts for rewards. Parents who do not attend are ''sent much correspondence letting them know what their children are doing and learning,'' says Ms. Chichester.
The 4-H is a partnership of federal, state and county funding. It is administered by the Maryland Cooperative Extension Service, the informal, off-campus educational and public service arm of the University of Maryland system.
Faculty extension assistant Cathlene Brady, who is assistant project director for the science adventure program, says volunteers who will prepare informative programs and serve as role models are very welcome. Call her at 396-4906 to volunteer or to get more details about the 4-H Adventures in Science.