The 4-H booth stood out from others at the Royal Manitoba Winter Fair.
Most organizations had chickens, goats, rabbits or cows on display at the Keystone Centre in Brandon, but 4-H Manitoba had a hair dryer, ping pong balls and empty pop cans.
Volunteers working the booth used the objects to introduce kids to basic science concepts, such as the power of air pressure in an experiment called soda can jump.
Most Canadians don’t associate 4-H with science experiments, but science and technology is now one of the cornerstones of the youth organization.
“Science and technology is one of the four pillars of the 4-H program nationally now,” said Clayton Robins, executive director of 4-H Manitoba.
“Science is in everything we do, we just don’t realize it.”
Elizabeth Jarvis, marketing and communications director with 4-H Canada, said the decision to emph-asize science in club activities and individual projects is paying off.
“The highest growing group last year was science and technology clubs (within 4-H),” Jarvis said.
Robins was initially skeptical about science projects as part of 4-H, partly because he used to work as a beef and forage researcher with Agriculture Canada.
“But I was thinking too high of a level. I forgot how much fun science can be in Grade 4, 5 and 6.”
4-H Canada held its inaugural science fair in Nova Scotia in March. It is separate from school science fairs but also provides a pathway to the national competition.
The three winning projects from the 4-H science fair will now participate at the Canada-Wide Science Festival in Montreal this May.
As well, 4-H has started a leadership excellence of distinction program, which connects members with a mentor in their field of interest.
“We had a winner for science and technology and she was matched with a mentor, Natalie Panek. She’s an incredible woman in the science and technology…. She’s a rocket scientist,” Jarvis said.
“It’s (about) creating those linkages with the science and technology field.”
4-H numbers in Manitoba may be on the rise after decades of decline.
“Our (4-H membership) has leveled out, and in the last couple years we’ve seen a little bit of an increase in membership numbers,” Robins said.
4-H Canada is still collecting membership figures from provincial organizations and should have national numbers by the second week of April.