Williamson County 4-H program remains relevant with steps towards technology
Although “4-H” is synonymous with agriculture, the Williamson County Chapter is taking steps towards STEM courses to expand membership and learning opportunities, and to revitalize the program.
Farming classes are still taught and interest in homestead has surged, county manager Matt Horsman said. But for the past five years, the chapter has focused on expanding its class roster and strengthening its STEM offerings. Now, courses focusing on robotics, 3D printing, engineering and crime scene investigation round out the weekly schedules.
“It’s really more of life skills training,” he said. “It’s teaching with what’s relevant to your community. “
In Williamson County, that means cooking and tech lessons. While it might seem surprising that the program is moving towards something other than animals and gardening, it is really aligned with 4-H’s mission, Horsman said.
Its aim since its inception has been to arm members with life skills, but the program did not identify itself as such and instead took root in agriculture, which Horsman called a “self-challenge. created “. But the limited view of what 4-H offers is changing.
4-H was established in 1902 as a “corn club” in Ohio, and was nationalized in the 1920s. Its popularity grew during World War II. Once the men were deployed, those who remained turned to the club for advice on food cultivation. Many chapters defended the Victory Gardens, which fed families during the war.
The challenges are different today and the program focuses on jobs. People are less likely to work for themselves or in agriculture than before, and jobs in STEM remain strong.
What is offered?
The courses are based on the interest of the members and the willingness of the experts in the community to go ahead and deliver them. Cooking classes were also lacking previously, until members showed interest, Horsman said.
Classes are not just for children. Adults are also welcome. Horsman estimates that the Williamson County Chapter has about 4,000 people attending classes.
Growing your own food and farming was the main focus in Williamson County, an agricultural hub for Tennessee, but over the decades it has turned into a hobby. For a while, interest in farming declined, but in recent years it has grown so rapidly that Horsman said they needed to hire additional teachers.
“They want all aspects of farming to be part of their lives, even if they take up half an acre,” he said.
Classes were traditionally offered from September to May, but to better suit schedules, shorter classes are also offered. Classes are free or inexpensive and typically cost around $ 40 depending on the materials needed.