In 2013 the New York State Fair (NYS Fair) opened an exhibit in the Grange Building celebrating its history. That exhibit included a video created by 4-H Youth Development showing 4-H presence at the State Fair over the years (see below).
If you go beyond the tag line and sound bite (or twitter text) and listen you will hear the growth and development that takes place when young people are engaged in 4-H. This is just one of many potential news stories that captures adult and youth perspectives. Public events simply give youth opportunities to demonstrate their skills.
On a historical timeline, this extension program is quite young. 4-H Dog Care and Training program activities began in 4-H in New York between 1952 and 1965. It was not until 1963 when Dr. Harold A. Willman (Cornell University Animal Science Department Professor) published the second edition of “A 4-H Handbook and Lesson Guide” which included a plan for developing a 4-H Dog Obedience Training Course. Weekly lesson plans (using evidence based principles and practices) are still valuable today!
From what I have been able to glean from historical files, it was not until the 1970’s that a NYS 4-H Dog Show was held at the NYS Fair under the direction of Dr. Dennis A. Hartman (Animal Science Department Professor). Dr. Hartman was also commissioned by the National 4-H Council to revise several publications he prepared in NY in 1977 with the help of several 4-H volunteers in our state. Those publications were revised in 1983. For all NEW 4-H Dog instructors, the University of Wisconsin revised the basic obedience lessons again in 2004.
Although knowledge content can be shared “on-line”, nothing replaces actual hands-on skills practice when learning how to manage time and resources, cook, drive, dive, fly, play music or care for other living things.
Clarence Pagham began work as a county agent in the Broome County in 1956 and after 26 years of service retired in 1982. He currently lives in Florida, but by sheer coincidence happened to drop by the Broome CCE office on September 12. This also happened to be the day of an Extension Reconsidered event in Broome. Given this fortunate confluence of events, and the availability of a video camera we were fortunate enough to be able to sit down with him, and some friends, after the official event for an interview.
During our conversation we discuss in agricultural extension in Broome county during his tenure and beyond.
While we are considering the future of extension here in New York State it is important to remain aware of, and build upon, the vital and inspiring work of the past. It is all to easy to create an imagined past that is sometimes tenuously connect to the actual past – narrowing our view of the work of extension to be something neat and tidy that strongly supports a particular outlook. Documents such as the Extension Methods Handbook from 1926 capture a diversity of extension work that may be unknown to some today.
A quick scan of the contents of the Extension Methods Handbook reveals the expected ( Poultry, Gardening, Dairy, etc.) and the surprising (Rural Engineering, Community Dramatics, Playground Demonstration and more). So, as we consider questions such as “How can Cornell Cooperative Extension continue to be relevant, engaged, accessible and valued in its work with New York State Families and Communities?”, it is worth spending a little time with our history so that we can know the traditions, the methods and ways of working, that may have fallen by the wayside these past few decades. There may be hidden treasure there that can help us as we re-consider.
Save the date! During the afternoon of October 8, 2014 plan on coming and participating in the capstone event of the Extension reconsidered project in New York State. We’ll be gathering in Barnes Hall here at Cornell University for an afternoon of stories, theater and discussion as we wrap up the project. Minimal PowerPoint and maximum dialog is our clarion call for this event. Staying true to our theme of “Join the conversation” there will be plenty of opportunities to interact and engage with friends and colleagues who are passionate about the future of Cooperative Extension.
The afternoon will be (loosely) divided into three chapters. During the first we’ll present a snapshot of some of the key moments from the project. Chapter two will consist of a performance by Civic Ensemble (plus a few special guests) woven from voices that have contributed the conversation around Extension Reconsidered here in New York State these past few months. And chapter three is an open invitation to dialog.
We’re anticipating a dynamic, thought provoking afternoon and we’d like you to join us!
I’m the new Director of the Northeastern IPM Center, which is located on the Cornell campus. As our name implies, we cover the 12 states from Maine to West Virginia and DC with information and programming related to IPM or integrated pest management. Our vision is to commit to improving quality of life: healthy people, functioning ecosystems, and sustainable communities through effective pest management.
Much of what our Center does is similar to what Extension does and the exercise that is being conducted in part by CCE to reconsider Extension is both exciting and fearful. The question of how can CCE continue to be relevant, engaged, accessible, and valued in its work with NYS families and communities in the 21st Century is similar to the one that I have been asking in regards to the Northeastern IPM Center. Why would we ask this question and what do we expect to learn? A myriad of responses arise, such improving our image, reaching a wider audience, forging into new territory, and the list goes on. It is important to remember that Extension is different. What do I mean by this? If you take an historical view of Extension, you will see the very first programs were focused on education and providing knowledge to farmers and rural folks about growing crops and feeding people. Research was conducted and results were translated to practical information upon which clientele made decisions and could think about what they were doing and ways to do it better or more efficiently.
The early days of Extension were designed to make people think. Fast forward to today and the approach has largely remained the same, but society has not. There is an increasing demand for quick and simple solutions with the click of a mouse or use of an app that does not require a lot of thought. It is more difficult in this day and age to engage the general public in thinking critically and in a systems manner to address many of the problems and issues that now have expanded beyond just agriculture. Because we want quick answers and more private sources are willing to provide them, Extension, with its focus on knowledge generation and dissemination, is not always out in the front and is often slower to respond, which puts us in a less than desirable position in today’s increasingly competitive world.
There will never be a time when education and knowledge is not important, but the bigger question beyond CCE being relevant, engaged, accessible, and valued in its work with NYS families and communities in the 21st Century is how are we, including the Northeastern IPM Center going to maintain our focus on producing and disseminating knowledge and not loose our impact because the solutions we provide require systems thinking and broad approaches. More than anyone else, Extension contributes to a science literate society, which benefits everyone for both the short- and long-term. Can we maintain or dare I say expand this? We have to. There is no other option and I have some ideas on how.
A conversation with Marvin Pritts of the Department of Horticulture at Cornell University. During this conversation we discuss the work of Extension, from a campus perspective. We also touch on the value of international experience, democratizing agriculture and more.
While there is a history of using the arts in extension work, it is often not the first thing people think of when the think of our work. But there are elements of theater in much of the educational outreach we do – even if it is not defined, or thought of, as such. Leading an engaging workshop can be a performance art. If we think back to the educators in our lives who had the most impact it is easy enough to identify the “theater” of teaching at work.
And sometimes the theater is explicit. Compost Theater is one example of a deliberate and constructive use of ‘theater arts’ as an educational tools. Compost Theater was born in the Tompkins County Cooperative Extension Compost Education program. With a 3 member cast, Compost Theater happened in a diversity of locations with audiences drawn from across the life span.
For those of you looking for more information on theater – particularly a thread called “Popular Theater – and it’s use in educational programming a starting point would be Bates, R. A. (1996). Popular theater: A useful process for adult educators. Adult Education Quarterly, 46(4), 224-236.