USDA-NIFA Grant Supports Storytelling Project for N.J. Youth

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. — What does the future hold for food security through agriculture and marine technologies?

New Jersey high school students will discover the answers as part of an innovative USDA-funded 4-H afterschool program that provides youth with immersive science learning through digital storytelling, made in trusting partnership with Rutgers scientists.

Faculty and researchers from the departments of Plant Biology and Marine and Coastal Science (DMCS) at the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences (SEBS) and the Department of 4-H Youth Development at New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station (NJAES), in collaboration with Carlton College’s Science Education Resource Center (SERC), have been awarded a four-year $748,698 USDA NIFA Food and Agricultural Non-formal Education Program grant to make this project a reality.

Starting this fall, the grant, “Food, Agriculture, and MarinE (FAME) 4-H Ag Tech Program,” will support 100 underserved high school youth to direct and produce short Food Systems Solution Science video stories as part of a 4-H positive youth development afterschool program. This program builds upon the innovative science-in-action video storytelling model developed at Rutgers, as well as the recent community impact of our science-in-action film, Fields of Devotion, and the success of the RUCAFE FAME pilot project.

Through a positive 4-H youth development model, the students will be fully supported to create their original short science video stories. Their student-authored stories will feature one or more STEM topics narrated from the youth’s own agrarian/fishing/food production and food preparation perspective and expertise.

The youth-directed science video stories will explore research involving plant genetics and a wide range of agricultural technology, including gene editing, automation in phenotyping and genetic analyses, robotics, and aquaculture to develop climate resilience food crops for farmers and shellfish for fishers. Additionally, innovative greenhouse designs and indoor food cultivation techniques will be explored. These stories, once complete, will be shared with their communities and beyond.

The project is led by Distinguished Professor Jim Simon in collaboration with Rutgers co-principal investigators Dena Seidel, science communication researcher, Marissa Staffen,  4-H agent, RCE of Essex County, Xenia Morin, associate teaching professor at SEBS, and Oscar Schofield, Distinguished Professor and chair, DMCS. Rutgers has partnered with Kerry Vetch and Ellen Iverson at Carlton College’s Science Education Resource Center (SERC) for program evaluation.

This funding highlights the four pillars of Rutgers-New Brunswick Academic Master Plan: community engagement, innovative research, student success and scholarly leadership.

–Rutgers University

Full article at Morning AgClips