Volunteer Training Needs for Successful 4-H STEM Programs

Karen L Franck, Joseph L Donaldson


Informal STEM education programs through youth-serving organizations like 4-H have the potential to help youth prepare for future STEM careers. Volunteers continue to be an important way to mentor and provide programs for youth with support and guidance from professionals working for youth organizations. 4-H STEM programs present challenges for 4-H professionals and traditional 4-H volunteers who often have limited knowledge and confidence in their ability to teach STEM skills. Recruiting science experts as volunteers to lead 4-H STEM programs is one way to provide these programs, but some experts have limited knowledge about youth development and how to engage youth. Findings from the 4-H Science: Building a 4-H Career Pathway initiative are discussed here related to volunteer training, volunteer recruitment and retention and resources needed for 4-H professionals and volunteers to successfully implement 4‑H STEM programs. A process evaluation was conducted that included focus groups and interviews in 3 states that participated in the initiative. Focus groups and interviews were conducted with youth, parents, volunteers, and 4-H professionals involved in 4-H STEM programs. Themes included the need for volunteer training focused on increasing STEM knowledge and skills as well as pedagogy and youth engagement, the need for training for 4-H professionals related to STEM skills so they could support volunteer efforts, and the need to use diverse methods to recruit science experts and other volunteers for these programs.


4-H STEM; volunteer training; process evaluation; focus groups

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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5195/jyd.2020.856

Copyright (c) 2020 Karen L Franck, Joseph L Donaldson

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