, West Virginia State University Extension Service brings research-based knowledge to you through innovative programs, expert advice and a wealth of dependable answers to the questions important to West Virginia. We are the primary outreach arm of WVSU and part of the land-grant mission of teaching, research and extension. Our efforts focus on Community and Agricultural Resource Development and Resilient Youth and Families. Within those overarching program areas, our efforts encompass the following:
4-H Youth Development
The 4-H emblem is recognized all over the country as a symbol of pride. Its mission of cultivating America's youth to lead us in a Revolution of Responsibility has been embraced by the efforts of WVSU Extension Service and our 4-H Youth Development program. We’ve adopted a non-traditional approach to our programming efforts, focusing on expressive arts initiatives and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) education. Current programs include the following:
4-H Family GROWTH
The 4-H Family GROWTH literacy program represents (G)ardening, (R)eading, (O)pportunity, (W)ellness, (T)eamwork and (H)ealth. It provides youth in grades K-5 the opportunity to be involved in gardening during and after school with parents and other adults, reading books that relate to health and gardening, exploring the world with outdoor activities, and enhancing wellness through physical activity, nutrition and teamwork.
4-H Performing & Creative Arts Summer Camp
This free, low-key, non-competitive day camp is for young artists ages 9 to 16. Participants can choose their own creative and performing arts projects and activities pertaining to the following tracks: digital photography, culinary arts, video and music production.
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Beats, Rhymes & Life
This expressive arts program is not what you would expect to see in a traditional 4-H-sponsored after-school program. Held at the Roosevelt Neighborhood Center on the East End of Charleston, youth learn about spinning records on two turntables while matching the beats for the first time, producing music using the latest software, and putting it all together in the sound booth using their own vocals.
Health, Sciences & Technology Academy (HSTA)
The HSTA Summer Forensics Institute is a residential summer camp that teaches participants about forensic science with a mock-murder scenario. Youth learn techniques including DNA analysis, thin-layer chromatography, handwriting analysis, fingerprint analysis and drug analysis as they attempt to figure out “who did it?” HSTA is a program of West Virginia University targeting 9th-12th grade students. Only students that are already involved in the year-round HSTA program are eligible to attend the Forensics Summer Institute.
Summer Transportation Institute
STI is a day program that introduces students to the transportation industry. Since 1 in 7 jobs in the United States is in the transportation sector, STI offers participants the opportunity to explore the career choices available in transportation and to engage in a wide range of activities that are both educational and enjoyable. Field trips, projects and guest speakers provide firsthand experience with everything from air travel to highway construction. Incoming 7th
grade students are eligible to apply.
Youth Mentoring Program
The 4-H Mentoring Program targets youth ages 10-14 and their families. We use culturally appropriate, early-intervention strategies during interactions such as one-to one and group mentoring, involvement in 4-H clubs and family activities. The program is designed to increase youths’ interpersonal competence, improve their academic performance and strengthen family relationships.
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Interested in volunteering with 4-H programs at WVSU? Complete our Volunteer Form
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Agriculture & Natural Resources
We are committed to providing research-based educational programs and technical assistance to farmers, commodity groups and agribusinesses, and to providing horticultural and pest management assistance to West Virginia. We focus on alternative agriculture; sustainability; urban forestry; cold storage/post harvest technology; and community, youth and adaptive gardening. We offer hands-on workshops throughout central and southern West Virginia, reaching gardeners of all ages and experience levels.
Workshops are offered based on needs and requests and may be delivered as a single workshop or developed into a multi-class series, with lectures, hands-on demonstrations and onsite observation to enhance every participant’s education experience. Sample topics include composting, container gardening, reuse, cold-frame construction, irrigation, rain barrels and mushroom production.
The Backyard Habitat is a hands-on interactive display that introduces preschool and elementary kids to agriculturally based topics through independent learning opportunities. Designed as stations, youth are encouraged to interact in various scenarios such as a farmers market, flower garden and a campsite where their imagination is left to lead them in constructive play. Based on the themes introduced through the Junior Master Gardener program, the intention of the display is to open the minds of both youth and adults to the world of agricultural education.
Community & Adaptive Gardening:
Community gardens are gardens developed within a community setting to provide participants with the skills and resources to produce their own fruits and vegetables, while encouraging the adoption of healthy eating habits. Adaptive gardens serve the same purpose as community gardens, but they are designed to meet the needs of the population by taking into account accessibility barriers, as well as other factors that may limit interaction in a garden setting. We work with low-income housing developments, as well as community and professional organizations, to design and implement gardens in central and southern West Virginia.
Junior Master Gardener:
Developed by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Junior Master Gardener is a comprehensive gardening education curriculum targeting elementary, middle and high-school youth. Our assistant program director is the state coordinator of JMG here in West Virginia.
The SCRATCH Project:
The SCRATCH Project brings together inquiry-based science, real-world technology and outdoor education at the elementary level to prepare children to become problem-solvers, entrepreneurs and live a sustainable lifestyle. SCRATCH youth actively participate in the Junior Master Gardener program and receive various levels of certification based on JMG curricula. The SCRATCH Project also includes development and implementation of several backyard edible gardens, greenhouse production, hydroponic/aeroponic growing and a specialization in high-yield urban gardening for end-product production in support of local foods initiatives in Cabell County. As their garden crops are harvested, youth are learning about business and entrepreneurship by selling their products to local farmers markets and restaurants. Learn more at SCRATCHProject.org
Preschoolers Learning Agriculture, Nutrition, Technology, Engineering, Reading and Science) is an initiative to bring garden-based education to early learners. Extension agents and WVSU students establish school gardens and lead activities in preschool settings, teaching sustainability, environmental awareness and appreciation for outdoor spaces. Lessons are rooted in science, technology, engineering, agriculture and mathematics (STEAM).
Small Fruit Production:
We have developed an educational mini-series covering blueberries, blackberries, fruit trees, grapes, raspberries and strawberries. The primary educational focus is for the backyard gardener to understand small-scale production basics. Workshops focus on disease and insect management and hands-on training of pruning techniques. Participants are also requesting workshops on growing asparagus, rhubarb, kiwi and figs. Urban Orchards are also being established within neighborhoods in Huntington, with these efforts expanding their reach throughout central and southern W.Va.
Sustainable Agriculture Research & Education (SARE):
Since 1988, the SARE program has helped advance farming systems that are profitable, environmentally sound and good for communities through a nationwide research and education grants program. Sustainable agriculture practices address pest management, cultural practices, soil fertility, adding value and farm profitability. At WVSU, SARE funding has been utilized to study sustainable agriculture and provide training opportunities for local agriculture producers.
Our urban forestry programs are made possible through a Renewable Resources Extension Act (RREA) grant to support hands-on workshops across the state. Arbor Day celebrations provide outreach to youth with tree seedlings, educational materials and hands-on learning about the natural resources surrounding us all. Workshops are also offered on alternative forestry and natural resource enterprises. The Memorial Tree Project has been piloted in Ravenswood, W.Va., to develop living memorials to those who have passed on and held a special place in their family member’s hearts. Educational workshops and demonstration sites are being developed focusing on reintroduction of pecan trees to the state’s landscape.
Socially Disadvantaged Farmers Program:
With a focus on serving our veteran, active military and socially disadvantaged populations throughout the state, this program serves to introduce individuals to agricultural topics that could lead down the road toward future employment. Through partnerships with the West Virginia National Guard and the West Virginia Department of Ag, demonstration and educational facilities are being created in central and southern West Virginia to provide hands-on workshops and trainings to introduce new and innovative trends toward increasing agricultural production.
The emergence of the craft beer industry has brought on a nationwide shortage of hops being produced for the industry. This project is focused on hops production in West Virginia with the mindset that the hops produced will be utilized in West Virginia breweries to create a huge economic impact. The project is aimed at trialing several varieties of hops to determine which varieties grow best here, while also working hand-in-hand with the breweries to grow varieties that are the most desirable. The project is funded by a Specialty Crop Block Grant from the West Virginia Department of Agriculture.
Cold Storage/Post Harvest Technology:
This initiative is aimed at providing farmers with post-harvest education. Participants learn appropriate techniques from pre-cooling methods to storing and moving fresh market produce. While still in development, ultimately the program will include access to walk-in refrigerator units, refrigerator trailers and pre-cooling coolers. Through meeting both the educational and infrastructural needs, farmers will be able to reach additional markets with high-quality produce and adapt to the growing demand for fresh local food.
Community & Economic Development
Making West Virginia’s communities viable, energetic and economically sustainable is the mission of our Community & Economic Development efforts. Primary focus areas are community development and revitalization, regional and local economic development, and small business development. Our current initiatives include: Downtown Revitalization, Historic Preservation, Green Projects, Community Gardens, Small Business Development & Support, Economic Sustainability, Non-profit Development, Economic Analysis, Disaster Preparedness, and Tourism.
Community Development & Revitalization
We work with communities to revitalize their downtown areas by improving vitality, facilitating needs assessments, strategic planning, workshops and meetings, funding research, property redevelopment uses, community clean-ups and more.
Micro-Enterprise & Small Business Development
We continually support small business development, retention and expansion efforts with emphasis on artisan and the creative economy sectors. Services include incubation, mentoring, access to capital assistance, entrepreneur training, management strategies, marketing, counseling on collaborative development, business plan assessment and strategies for expansion.
Regional & Local Economic Development
We help communities develop strategic plans for regional economic projects, work with businesses to determine linkages and development strategies for stabilizing existing market share and developing growth strategies.
We have staff members and programs at various locations throughout central and southern West Virginia, including Kanawha, Fayette, Logan, Nicholas, Raleigh and Summers counties. Visit the Locations section below for the extension agent nearest you.
Many of our CED staff members are supported through a partnership with the New River Gorge Regional Development Authority. Learn more about NRGRDA here
Family & Consumer Sciences
We offer practical information for individuals, families and communities on eating well, managing money, raising children, health literacy and staying active. The primary goal of FCS is to improve the well-being of traditionally underserved families and communities by providing research-based knowledge and principles applicable to their everyday lives.
Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP):
EFNEP is a federally funded educational program designed to assist limited-resource children and families in improving nutritional well-being and health through a series of practical lessons on basic nutrition and healthy lifestyles, resource management and food safety. Adults are taught in small groups. A youth curriculum focuses on providing food and nutrition education to contribute to the personal development of middle-school age youth. This age group is taught in after-school enrichment programs, summer camps, and during the school day in order to strengthen existing educational standards. We currently have EFNEP staff located in Kanawha and Putnam counties.
Our patient-physician communication program, “Can You Repeat That Please?,” teaches participants how to effectively manage their health care visits and includes a comprehensive health history journal to take along. This successful program led to an expanded curriculum targeting a birth-18 audience called “My Growing Gains and Pains.” The program has been successfully administered to a variety of audiences, including a multi-state project using a health history journal targeting military families.
West Virginia ranks fourth among all states in the percentage of grandparents responsible for their grandchildren. The Healthy Grandfamilies Project will offer 120 grandfamilies a series of 9 workshops delivered in Kanawha County, WV combined with social work case management services over a 6-month period. Workshops will be delivered through the WVSU Extension Service Family and Consumer Sciences program in collaboration with the WVSU Department of Social Work, which will coordinate the intervention’s case management component. Learn more about the Healthy Grandfamilies initiative here.
Healthy Lifestyles Cooking Schools:
Diabetes, Heart Disease and Hypertension are chronic health conditions affecting thousands of West Virginians. The WVSU Healthy Lifestyles Cooking School teaches meal planning and food preparation skills that reduce calories, control carbohydrates, modify fats and increase fiber of familiar food recipes.