With many in-person camps canceled for the summer due to COVID-19, Tech on Tap invited STEM education experts to share ideas on how to keep children engaged. The experts were Erika Bonnett, a 4-H program development specialist with Virginia Tech and Virginia Cooperative Extension, and Jim Egenrieder, professor and director of the Virginia Tech Thinkabit Lab in the Washington, D.C., metro area. 

During the June 18 virtual event, Bonnett and Egenrieder discussed strategies for how to engage children of all ages in a variety of activities, including indoor and outdoor, online and offline, and big and small. Alexa Mitchell, the 4-H Virginia 2020 Youth in Action award winner, also joined in to demonstrate an activity and answer questions about her experience in 4-H.

Bonnett polled the group’s comfort level with teaching their children, then walked participants through a “do, reflect, apply” method, which is the core of many 4-H activities. 

“You do the activity, you experience it, you have a good time, and then you process that and you talk about it,” she said. “You talk about what happened during the activity, what worked, what didn't work. Then you apply it and think about how [it applies] to the world around us.” 

“The big word is ‘intentional,’” said Egenrieder. 

He shared ideas about how to integrate science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in unstructured ways in a daily routine, such as when going on a hike or gardening. 

“I also encourage you to solicit proposals and maybe even budgets from the whole family as you plan these kinds of things,” Egenrieder said.

Watch the video of the discussion below.

Resources mentioned during the event:

View the Presentation PDF

4-H at Home Activities

Virginia 4-H Emergency Relief Fund

Arlington, Fairfax, Alexandria 4-H Camp

4-H Congress

4-H Camp Across the Commonwealth

Thinkabit Lab Summer and Saturday Camps   

Virginia Cooperative Extension

April Tech on Tap: Urban Gardening

Tech on Tap Partners:

Port City Brewing Company

Alexandria Economic Development Partnership

Alexandria Library

By Kerone Wetter

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