Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Educational Leadership and Policy Studies

First Advisor

Norman W. Powell

Abstract

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs are a national priority. The increase in the number of jobs that require a STEM-minded workforce raises the demand for education systems and communities to focus on fostering the development of STEM competencies of students. American youth are not gaining the skills necessary to compete in the global workforce. This study investigates how Kentucky 4-H minimizes the barriers of accessing STEM programs for youth in grades 4-8. Barriers of accessing STEM programs investigated are: lack of funding and resources, time, professional development, integration across curriculum, and out-of-school experiences. 4-H is the largest youth development organization in the world. Areas of national focus in 4-H curriculum include: STEM, agriculture, citizenship, and healthy living. This study surveyed all 120 Kentucky counties via an online questionnaire in October 2017. Sixty-five county-based 4-H professionals responded. The instrument contained Likert-type and investigative questions probing STEM-related programming offered within the county 4-H program. Questions within the instrument investigated the use of national science standards, national 4-H standards, and barriers identified through existing literature. The study found that 4-H professionals implement the use of national science curriculum and 4-H curriculum as they offer STEM programming within their county, which is predominately funded by Cooperative Extension monies. 4-H programs utilize experiential learning approaches through interdisciplinary lessons in STEM that empower youth to develop competencies related to the Essential Elements of Positive Youth Development, The Engineering Design Process and The Experiential Learning Model. This research can be utilized in the future to expand STEM programming opportunities for youth in Kentucky.

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