Benton County 4-H Wildlife Stewards focus on outdoor education

More students in Benton County schools are going outdoors to engage in science learning thanks to the re-energized 4-H Wildlife Stewards program, made possible by passage of the Benton County 4-H and Extension Service District in 2017.

“Through the support of teachers, we are seeing a growth in the hours of instruction and number of students engaging in real world science outside the classroom door. Our goal is to increase environmental literacy among Benton County youth,” said Maggie Livesay, retired Extension 4-H faculty who led 4-H outdoor education in Benton County.

In 2018-19, 20 classrooms from six Benton County Schools were registered with the 4-H Wildlife Stewards program – a 40% increase from 2016-17.

“We credit this increase to new resources that enabled establishment of additional opportunities, direct teaching with students and more communication and opportunities for teachers,” Livesay said.

And teachers say it’s working.

“Teachers indicated the program helped make science real and helped students meet educational standards in the areas of science, research and data collection. Students gained life skills in presentation, communication and teamwork,” Livesay said.

Fifteen teachers reported they spent an average of 22 hours of time throughout the year on the lessons, and engaged 643 students in outdoor natural science education.

Actions completed in the 4-H Wildlife Stewards program include:

  • Providing two professional development workshops annually. Teachers receive professional improvement instruction from university and local experts on topics like reptiles, amphibians, birds and insects and outdoor science investigations. Modeling shows educators how to get lessons to resonate with youth. Partnerships with Oregon Natural Resource Education Program and William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge kept costs affordable.
  • Providing educational consultations to teachers, two $200 grants for tools and student supplies, and access to more than 30 Natural Science Learning Kits developed by 4-H faculty and staff. Trained volunteers and staff provide annual classroom visits and in-classroom support.
  • 350 students attended the annual 4-H Wildlife Stewards Summit and 300 students attended hands-on learning activities at 4-H Member School Science Nights.

“We have been able to alleviate some of the barriers teachers faced,” Livesay said.

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