First Presenter's Institution

University of Georgia

Second Presenter's Institution

N/A

Third Presenter's Institution

N/A

Fourth Presenter's Institution

N/A

Fifth Presenter's Institution

NA

Location

Meet & Greet Poster Reception (Harborside)

Strand #1

Social & Emotional Skills

Strand #2

Family & Community

Relevance

The Reaching Our Community through Kindness, Education, Togetherness and STEM (ROCKETS) project enables youth with disabilities inclusion opportunities to build positive relationships, heighten skills in science disciplines, and enrich their educational learning experience. ROCKETS project’s skill builder is unique from other workforce preparation development designed for people with disabilities as it focuses on agriculture and STEM education. Activities of the ROCKETS project included the designing, cultivating, and harvesting of a raised garden to build youth’s social and work-ready skills and their independence. The school garden enhanced the Agriculture and STEM education of the students. ROCKETS participants learned about their environment, safe agricultural practices, and the proper use of gardening tools and equipment. Appropriate educational materials and opportunities were provided to participants through in-class sessions. In each session, youth interacted with an adult advisor(s) who facilitated activities and discussions. Following classroom sessions, youth worked in their school garden to water, weed, and harvest. In addition, participants were provided numerous opportunities to experience a sense of belonging through in-school and out of school activities. ROCKETS participants were taught to better understand themselves, become independent thinkers, and feel their lives have meaning and purpose through individual exploration projects, community service projects, and other 4-H activities. Students were also taught how to grow their own food, make healthier/fresh food choices and how to build positive relationships with other youth and adults.

Data collected presented themes of participants’ improvements in positive behaviors with school peer-to-peer interactions and the increase of their agricultural awareness. The data indicated that youth with disabilities learned soft skills and basic gardening practices for growing their own food. In addition, ROCKETS participants indicated a change in behavior and/or attitude towards vegetables after attending sessions and maintaining a school raised garden bed. Sumter County 4-H surveyed youth and found 78.9% washed their vegetables before cooking or eating them with their families and 50.8% made vegetable recipes as part of their meals prior to the start of the ROCKETS project. Those numbers increased to 83.% and 63.3% respectively after the students completed the project. Teacher/Class Sponsor evaluations reflected a positive behavior change among participants as well as an increase in knowledge of the relationship between foods they eat, crops that are harvested and their own health. Sumter County’s community was impacted by the ROCKETS project. UGA Extension’s resources added to the community’s local school system and was a benefit to the youth and their families participating in this unique and integrated project. Collaborations formed through the ROCKETS project increased the capacity of positive youth development, expanded access, and achieved inclusive excellence.

Brief Program Description

This poster session highlights the ROCKETS program implemented in Sumter County Schools through UGA Extension. Through the ROCKETS Project in-school sessions, youth with disabilities are provided additional opportunities to belong to a larger group of youth through the Georgia 4-H Program. The ROCKETS Project focuses on Agricultural literacy and STEM education as content areas to cultivate, recruit and graduate the next generation of a highly-skilled diverse workforce.

Summary

The Reaching Our Community through Kindness, Education, Togetherness and STEM (ROCKETS) project enables school age youth with disabilities inclusion opportunities to build positive relationships, heighten skills in science disciplines, and enrich their educational learning experience. UGA Extension program areas of 4-H Youth Development, Family & Consumer Sciences, and Agriculture and Natural Resources collaborated to implement and facilitate the ROCKETS project model to the youth in Sumter County. Youth living with a disability were encouraged to join in the activities, along with other 4-H youth in adaptive activities and programs in which their skills and abilities are accentuated. Activities of the ROCKETS project included the designing, cultivating, and harvesting of a raised garden to build youth’s social and work-ready skills and their independence. The school garden enhanced the Agriculture and STEM education of the students. ROCKETS participants learned about their environment, safe agricultural practices, and the proper use of gardening tools and equipment. Appropriate educational materials and opportunities were provided to participants through in-class sessions.

Following classroom sessions, youth worked in their school garden to water, weed, and harvest. In addition, participants were provided numerous opportunities to experience a sense of belonging through in-school and out of school activities. ROCKETS participants were taught to better understand themselves, become independent thinkers, and feel their lives have meaning and purpose through individual exploration projects, community service projects, and other 4-H activities. Students were also taught how to grow their own food, make healthier/fresh food choices and how to build positive relationships with other youth and adults. Inclusive and innovative projects, like ROCKETS, provide the participants with unique opportunities to build positive relationships and enhance their learning through doing.

TAKE HOME APPLICATION: Attendees will have an option to receive digital access to the ROCKETS program logic model template, 4-H Common Measures evaluation resource information being utilized and budgets outlining school garden expenses and implementation plans.

LEARNING OBJECTIVES: By the close of this presentation, attendees will be able to identify key components to an effective school garden enrichment program that impacts student achievement, builds work-force readiness skills, and creates a more inclusive environment for youth with disabilities

Evidence

Research exists showing the strong correlation between youth with special needs and sensory gardens (Hussein, H., 2010; Hussein, H., et al., 2015, & Hussein, 2017), but little research can be found that establishes a connection with youth with disabilities and school/community gardens as a tool for workforce skill-building and empowerment to make positive choices thus avoiding risky behaviors. Data collected through the ROCKETS project presented themes of participants’ improvements in positive behaviors with school peer-to-peer interactions and the increase of their agricultural awareness. The data indicated that youth with disabilities learned soft skills and basic gardening practices for growing their own food. More than 65% of students gave their family ideas for healthy meals or snacks. 60% of the students were attentive to how physically active they are each day. Over 50% responded that they planted seeds or plants at home in a garden with their family. In addition, ROCKETS participants indicated a change in behavior and/or attitude towards vegetables after attending sessions and maintaining a school raised garden bed.

Format

Poster Presentation

Biographical Sketch

Crystal Perry is a Public Service Associate with the University of Georgia and serves as the 4-H Extension Agent in Sumter County, Georgia for the past five years. Prior to joining UGA Extension, Crystal worked with delinquent youth placed in the juvenile justice system. She is passionate about serving youth with special needs and those at-risk. She has a Bachelor of Science degree in Education and a Master of Public Administration degree. Drawing on a broad range of experiences to include managing a juvenile tracking program in collaboration with the Department of Juvenile Justice, implementing the Georgia Department of Human Services TeenWork programs, to managing afterschool programs with the Methodist Home for Children and Youth, Crystal also has professional experience and educational studies in health services. Crystal’s background spans the field of youth development, administration and public health with a specific interest in family studies and intervention strategies. She has expanded the 4-H youth development program in Sumter County through traditional and non-traditional methods to include innovative diversity and inclusion programming.

Keyword Descriptors

Diversity, Inclusion, 4-H, Special Needs, Extension, Disability, Gardens, Schools, STEM, Skills

Presentation Year

March 2020

Start Date

3-9-2020 4:45 PM

End Date

3-9-2020 6:00 PM

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Mar 9th, 4:45 PM Mar 9th, 6:00 PM

ROCKETS: Reaching Our Community through Kindness, Education, Togetherness and STEM – A Sustainable Communities Project in Sumter County, Georgia

Meet & Greet Poster Reception (Harborside)

This poster session highlights the ROCKETS program implemented in Sumter County Schools through UGA Extension. Through the ROCKETS Project in-school sessions, youth with disabilities are provided additional opportunities to belong to a larger group of youth through the Georgia 4-H Program. The ROCKETS Project focuses on Agricultural literacy and STEM education as content areas to cultivate, recruit and graduate the next generation of a highly-skilled diverse workforce.