Illinois youth leaders become global changemakers

Posted8/26/2021 4:12 PM

Members of the Illinois 4-H Youth Science Ambassador Team created and presented a youth-led presentation focused on the causes of climate change, the science of the carbon cycle, and the impact our food choices can have on our environment to an audience of their Brazilian peers from the Federal Institute of Mato Grosso do Sul in late June.

The presentation was part of the Ag Innovators Experience National 4-H grant program titled "Curbing Our Carbon Appetite."


Youth presenters shared complex scientific ideas in an understandable way to promote scientific data and show how it can influence solutions to real-world problems.

"I have realized the amount of real-world challenges that the agriculture industry is currently experiencing and how we, as humans, have the potential to educate others in the community about them and come up with solutions," said Krish Nangia, a DuPage County 4-H youth science ambassador and program presenter.

"To be aware of how your actions and the actions of those around you can impact the environment, and to know what steps we can take to improve our surroundings and reduce the rate of global warming is so important," said Supriya Anand, a fellow DuPage County 4-H youth science ambassador and program presenter. "I could not miss a chance to help others understand the importance of protecting the current environment and climate."

Presenters gained experience in sharing a scientific and data-driven message, but also in adapting that messaging to a global audience.

"My program focus was teaching how to make a carbon-friendly lunch with typical, everyday foods. But the food choices offered in the activity were predominantly traditional American foods, and we knew that most of the food choices would not create a relatable meal for a Brazilian audience," Supriya said. "I am from an immigrant family, so I understood this firsthand.

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"We adjusted the program to also ask the Brazilian students to assess the carbon footprint of their typical foods. It created a comprehensive and interesting discussion."

Overall, the program helped the youth not only share their message but become stronger presenters no matter the audience as well.

"This experience has given me the continued lesson about the need to adapt when teaching an activity to a group," Krish said. "This workshop had everything, from an audience who had learned English as a second language to the challenges of facilitating an interactive activity in a virtual manner. As a group, we had to adapt and modify our activities such that it is easy to understand and engaging."

The presenters also gained a perspective of themselves as global citizens with common goals.

"We had a great conversation with the students about problems that both the United States and Brazil experience due to climate change and the alteration of the environment," Supriya said. "For example, the extreme wildfires in the Amazon and California last year were a consequence of excessive greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. This experience emphasized how the issues that this program is addressing are truly global."

The Curbing Our Carbon Appetite program will continue to focus on ways to include a broader audience and may help pave the way for future collaborations.


"I can say with confidence that our youth presenters demonstrated what is best about Illinois 4-H," says Mark Becker, University of Illinois Extension 4-H youth development specialist. "I'm looking forward to our next opportunity to work together as this was a great way to build a bridge with youth from Brazil who are interested in how they can have a positive impact on climate change. "

Learn more about the Ag Innovators program and Curbing Our Carbon Appetite at the National 4-H website.

The Ag Innovators Experience reaches more than 7,000 youth in select states with an annual interactive activity that challenges youth to apply critical thinking and STEM skills to address a real-world agriculture challenge. This year's 4‑H Ag Innovators Experience is the Curbing Our Carbon Appetite Challenge. The 2021 4‑H Ag Innovators Experience, Curbing Our Carbon Appetite Challenge, teaches 4‑H youth the importance of taking actions that can reduce atmospheric carbon. Participating youth learn about ways they can help reduce their carbon footprints by completing the Carbon-Friendly Lunch Challenge along with other activities they can do at home with their families and friends to benefit their community.

Illinois 4-H is the flagship youth development program of University of Illinois Extension and administered through the College of Agriculture, Consumer, and Environmental Sciences. 4-H grows true leaders, youth who are empowered for life today and prepared for a career tomorrow. The hands-on approach in 4-H gives young people guidance, tools, and encouragement, and then puts them in the driver's seat to make great things happen. Independent research confirms the unparalleled impact of the 4-H experience, demonstrating that young people are four times more likely to contribute to their communities; two times more likely to make healthier choices; two times more likely to be civically active; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs.

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