By Sally McClaskey, Ohio 4-H Youth Development
What happens when you combine kids, iPads, and 4-H? The result is Clovers CODE, a statewide program from Ohio 4-H that introduces problem-solving, computer literacy and coding through hands-on activities.
Clovers CODE (Creating Opportunities Designed for Everyone), began in Franklin County and since 2019 has grown to include 3,115 4-H youth in 44 counties. As part of its Community Education Initiative, Apple provided the Ohio 4-H Youth Development Program with devices, programmable robots, and professional learning and support.
As part of Clovers CODE, the Warren County Tech Creators began meeting in the spring with a group of middle school age youth. According to 4-H educator Steve Brady, Clovers CODE expanded their initial interest in technology.
“This was more than just playing a computer game,” Brady said. “By exploring the iPads and using the Everyone Can Code curriculum, they learned how to write code to create an app, program a robot and explore video editing.”
Ben Dirksen, 14, joined the Tech Creators at the urging of his aunt, a 4-H advisor who heard about the club. “She thought it would not only be fun, but good for my resume!” Ben had taken coding, robotics, and other tech classes in school, but the focus in Tech Creators was a bit different.
“This club was more hands-on,” Ben said. “We used iPads and Spheros (robotic toys) to learn coding.” Those activities and working in a group environment offered him an important lesson. “This taught me about teamwork and how to work with technology and other people.”
Tech Creators also gave Ben and other members the opportunity to teach one another.
“We had one member of the group who told us they knew nothing about technology. We worked together and by the end of the program he was teaching newer members of the group.”
The skills Ben learned have come into play with the start of the school year.
“There’s not a single job where you work by yourself, and I keep hearing that in my engineering class. With Tech Creators we were able to accomplish a lot as a group.”
In Marion County, Clovers CODE was introduced to third and fourth grade students through Boys and Girls Clubs. In addition to the computer skills they acquired, 4-H educator Margo Long saw another important benefit. “Some of the kids started the program thinking it was like school and didn’t want any part of it. At the first session I asked them to give me just 20 minutes, but as soon as they got their hands on the equipment, they didn’t want to quit. They built important relationships with one another by working together on these projects.”
4-H Clovers CODE is set to reach even more youth this fall. In September, 4-H professionals from 14 new counties will meet with current program participants at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.
“Our first-year counties will showcase their successes and share what works,” said Dr. Mark Light, Leader, Ohio 4-H STEM and Digital Engagement Specialist. “We are excited to see how the new counties will introduce their youth to Clovers CODE.”
The next phase of the program will focus on creativity with youth learning the skills needed to share stories though digital drawing, photography, video and music.