CONCORD -- Eight Contra Costa County 4-H clubs joined others across the United States to celebrate 2013 National Youth Science Day and National 4-H Week by planning community parks.
"It is an opportunity for 4-H'ers to become geospatial thinkers as they design and map their ideal park," said Connie Jauregui, 4-H California Policy Advisory Committee member said.
"Our nation is falling behind other countries in the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. Youth experiences like this can change that."
Starting with a topographical map of eight acres, including a hill, planning teams considered geographic information systems, natural resources, hydrology, roads, facilities, structures, waste disposal, recreational uses and more in each design.
Teamwork was a critical element in the success because each element must fit when combined with the next, according to junior leader Nicholas Arroyo, student at Orchard Park School in Oakley.
"This is a good way to increase our mapping skills," said Martinez resident Anthony Cannon, 15, a teen leader and student at College Park High School in Pleasant Hill.
Acknowledging that he is not an expert topographer, Anthony ably interpreted the 4-H Maps & Apps Youth Guide designed by Colorado State University Extension, and kept the 8- to 14-year-olds on task during the planning session at the Concord Moose Lodge.
Courtney Turner, 13, of Pleasant Hill, was eager to get started.
"I did some cave mapping with a laser scanner at Lava Beds National Monument."
The 4-H kids would love to see the Contra Costa County Fairgrounds updated, said Jauregui.
They used the event as an opportunity to put their ideas on paper to possibly present to county planners, Nicholas said.
Land planning is the latest addition to a list of skills kids acquire through 4-H.
"Our projects are usually entered in a county fair," Delta Diablo Club leader Brenda Vales said. "Photos, clothing, paintings, quilts, woodworking, baking, preserves and livestock are the kinds of projects that the kids do all on their own."
Parents and kids talked about ideas for the park plan and how much they appreciate the 4-H programs.
Parent Zimiz-Loya-Carretero said, "I think the kids benefit from the hands-on type of learning."
Her son Oswaldo served as Claycord Club treasurer and learned to manage accounts and do club banking.
Patricia Gomez said her son Christopher, 11, has learned dog training, target shooting and science projects.
Six-year Claycord 4-H Club member Araceli Carrillo-Medrano is typical of 4-H kids who have become good public speakers.
"I have really seen (members) skills grow," her mother Sonia observed.
With more than 300 members from Orinda and San Ramon to the Delta, Contra Costa 4-H clubs work within a UC Davis program and are supported in part by the U.S. Department of Agriculture 4-H program.
For 4-H in Contra Costa, visit www.4-h.org or call 925-706-2981.
Contact Dana Guzzetti at email@example.com or call 925-202-9292.