WVSU 4-H Brings Wildlife Education to West Side Youth

Contact: Kimberly Osborne
(304) 766-3363
Dec. 9, 2013
WVSU 4-H Brings Wildlife Education to West Side Youth
Program is latest in University’s tradition of West Side initiatives
INSTITUTE, W.Va. – Lasiyah Ross, 7, may not see too many owls and eagles flying through her neighborhood on Charleston’s West Side, but thanks to West Virginia State University (WVSU) Extension Service, she can tell you all about them.

WVSU 4-H extension agents have been working with first graders at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School since the fall to teach kids about nature, gardening, wildlife and the ecosystem.

“They’re called birds of prey,” Ross said as she demonstrated a wildlife habitat using plush birds, miniature trees, nests and pinecones, one of the many hands-on activities kids participate in during the weekly lessons. “They’re nocturnal, so they are awake at night.”

WVSU Extension Agent Shelley Whittington has been visiting the school since September using curricula such as Junior Master Gardener, a youth agriculture program, and Project Worldwide Water Education (WET), to present science-based information to kids in a fun, accessible format.

“They get excited when they see me,” said Whittington, “And they’re doing really well with the activities.”
Hands-on arts and crafts components are supplemented with storybooks and group activities led by extension staff to aid comprehension. It’s a format that is already showing signs of success.

“The students are learning by doing and by interacting with each other, which at this age is so important,” said Kimberly Mullins, the first-grade teacher hosting Whittington’s program.

Whittington’s work is the latest example of WVSU’s presence on Charleston’s West Side. The University’s Economic Development Center, located down the street from the elementary school along Kanawha Boulevard, has been helping hopeful entrepreneurs launch small businesses for years. The Center was recently renovated into a co-working space where the creative community can access editing equipment, a recording studio, green screen technology and other digital media equipment.

A couple blocks away, along Washington Street, is the headquarters of West Side Main Street, the University’s affiliate program that has worked to revitalize the area’s business community since its launch in 2005.
Lastly, WVSU 4-H extension agents are bringing Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs to youth in the area at multiple community centers and faith-based sites throughout the West Side, reaching approximately 100 children per month.

“As a West Side native myself, I’m proud of the work State has been doing in the area all these years, “said Dr. Ami Smith, the University’s new associate dean and associate director for extension, who assumed the role last week. “As WVSU Extension Service moves into the new year, I look forward to the continued great work we’ll do not only in this neighborhood but throughout all of Charleston and West Virginia.”

Whittington will expand her presence at Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School next year by creating a ‘literature garden’ in the school’s library, featuring kids’ books related to agriculture and windowsill planters, and adding to the outdoor garden beds WVSU Extension Service helped to install at the school earlier this year. She’ll collaborate with Dural Miller, founder of Keep Your Faith Corp., for school garden expansion efforts throughout 2014.

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West Virginia State University is a public, land grant, historically black university, which has evolved into a fully accessible, racially integrated, and multigenerational institution, located in Institute, W.Va. As a “living laboratory of human relations,” the university is a community of students, staff, and faculty committed to academic growth, service and preservation of the racial and cultural diversity of the institution. Its mission is to meet the higher education and economic development needs of the state and region through innovative teaching and applied research.
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