National 4-H’s signature program, the 4-H STEM Challenge, inspires youth around the country to take an interest in STEM topics and careers. This year’s challenge, designed by Rutgers University’s Cooperative Extension team, teaches kids how to use STEM to explore Earth’s Ocean and how it relates to all life on the planet. Explorers of the Deep is a collection of three activities that equips youth with skills across a broad range of topics, including ocean science, data interpretation, communication, physics, and aquaculture. Youth will apply their knowledge, creativity, and innovation to learn about science, technology, engineering and math topics through this year’s theme, which focuses on ocean exploration, marine science, and the connection between climate change and our ocean. The UN has recently endorsed an Ocean Decade activity submission for the 2022 STEM Challenge. The learning goals and efforts surrounding the STEM challenge are in accordance with the United Nation’s proclamation of a Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development to; “support efforts to reverse the cycle of decline in ocean health and gather ocean stakeholders worldwide behind a common framework that will ensure ocean science can fully support countries in creating improved conditions for sustainable development of the Ocean.”
In addition, on Saturday, October 15, Rutgers Cooperative Extension teamed up with Cooperative Extension NYC 4-H at Cornell University to bring educators from across two states to the New York Aquarium and the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), for an immersive full-day professional development (PD) experience. The educators were introduced to the STEM Challenge Explorers of the Deep through hands-on activity demonstrations of the Ocean Explorers Augmented Reality board game, Ocean Expedition with model ocean gliders, and Ocean Communicator activity. The PD workshop was an opportunity for educators to not only learn how to disseminate the kit in their communities, but a chance to apply the Ocean concepts to real world applications in content and displays experienced throughout the aquarium.