Making A Difference in Our County
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is working hard for its constituents. The following are examples of Extension’s impact on the county over the past year.
Agriculture and Natural Resources
ANR programs provide research-based information in the area of Agriculture and Natural Resources to all residents. Educational programming is developed and designed to assist individuals in making sound economical environmental decisions that affects everyday life. MC Halbrook, ANR agent for Glynn and McIntosh Counties, served both counties through 4 major program efforts in 2022. These were the Glynn County Master Gardener Extension Volunteers (MGEV), McIntosh County Bee Club, Seed Libraries in both counties, and Egg Candling Certification Courses for both counties.
The Glynn County MGEV program has been on pause while the ANR position was vacant. Since the program’s re-instatement in April of 2022, the MGEVs have logged 74.5 service hours and reached 93 client contacts. While the MGEV program is established in Glynn County, members have volunteered for McIntosh County as well to help Halbrook with her programming efforts in both counties.
The McIntosh County Bee Club was also on pause for a short while. We began meeting regularly again in October of 2022. We currently have 10 active members who are at varying levels of beekeeping experience. The monthly meetings serve as a time to update beekeepers on current educational materials, monthly schedule of tasks, and most importantly, provides a space for beekeepers to share their experiences with others! This Bee Club is open to anyone interested in bees and pollinators, not just those who are current beekeepers.
The Seed Libraries are set up for clients to “check-out” seeds, grow them for a season, harvest seeds from their crop, and then “return” the seeds back to our library. This provides an opportunity for seed sharing and maintaining heirloom plants. Over the course of 2022, we saw a great response from people interested in seed sharing. On Facebook, there were over 10,800 interactions with our posts specifically about the Seed Library. We currently have 10 participants enrolled in the library “system”. Last year, we set up a table at 4 major community events where we passed out seeds and shared info about the library and spoke to 449 people during these events.
Citizens who have backyard flocks and wish to sell their eggs need to have the Egg Candling certification in order to ensure proper food safety. Selling locally produced food cuts down on costs for consumers and sellers alike. This also provides the opportunity to meet the owners of an establishment and instill trust in the product. Having this certification not only allows citizens to sell their eggs, but it also trains them in proper candling procedure to make sure that the eggs being sold are of the highest quality. To meet this need, MC Halbrook collaborated with Haleigh Goodroe, the regional trainer with Georgia Department of Agriculture to provide two certification sessions in 2022, resulting in 59 new certified individuals.
Along with these 4 focus areas, McIntosh County processed 85 soil samples and 16 water samples to help clients gain a better understanding of their soil and water needs. For both counties, Halbrook had over 1,500 interactions with clients through office and site visits, calls, and emails. These clients reach out with questions covering plant diseases, pests, lawn maintenance, agricultural commodities, trees, and more.
4-H Youth Development
In McIntosh County, one of the biggest 4-H successes during the 4-H Agent Lauryn Gilmer's first year in the county was science education and enrichment for in-school club meetings. McIntosh County School System’s Georgia Milestones data indicated a need for science enrichment for local youth. McIntosh County 4-H held 23 in-school club meetings each month for grades four through eight, which totaled 184 club meetings. A total of 424 students in McIntosh County were reached by these meetings. Club meetings focused on Georgia Department of Education (DOE) science standards for each grade level, with interactive, hands-on science experiments and activities that provided students with the opportunity to learn by doing.
The National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) science assessment is designed to measure students’ knowledge and abilities in the content areas of Earth and space science, physical science, and life science. Many students in the United States are still struggling with the desired goal of science proficiency. Student performance is reported by three achievement levels: basic, proficient, and advanced. Proficient on the NAEP scale represents competency in challenging subject matter. Recent science results from 2019 indicate that only 36% of students in grade four scored at or above proficient in science; 35% of students in grade eight scored at or above proficient in science, and only 22% of students in grade twelve scored at or above proficient.
The Georgia DOE’s Spring 2022 Milestones End-of-Grade Assessment indicated that of all the students that completed the assessment (n=125,802), over 60% were classified as beginning or developing learner in science. Additional research provided by National 4-H Council reveals that 63% of high school graduates are not prepared for college-level science, and only 20% of STEM college students feel their K-12 education prepared them for STEM college courses. In response, 4-H has dedicated resources and has renewed a focus on providing hands-on programs meant to engage and excite students in the fields of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. Participating in STEM programming also develops crucial skills for a meaningful understanding of our natural world. The ability to reason, think critically, and question our surroundings are paramount as our nation progresses through the 21st century.
In 2021, the Georgia Department of Education’s End of Grade Milestones science test scores for grades 5-8 in McIntosh County showed evidence of a definite need for science enrichment for local youth. Science proficiency scores for McIntosh County were 14.5% in 5th grade and 17.8 % in 8th grade. Proficient refers to the student being prepared to move on to the next grade level of science. The following year in 2022, the End of Grade Milestones science results for grades 5-8 in McIntosh County were improved but remained low with proficiency scores of 30.6% in 5th grade and 34.8 % in 8th grade.
McIntosh County 4-H club held a total of 184 in-person monthly club meetings at the elementary and middle schools for grades four through eight during the 2021-2022 program year from September to May with a focus on science education. Monthly activities and lessons included topics such as entomology, states of matter, weather, natural resource conservation, soil science, herpetology, and energy. Throughout the year, students were provided with many opportunities to participate in hands-on activities such as meeting live giant cave cockroaches, making slime, or creating edible soil profiles. The agent worked in collaboration with classroom teachers to identify standards to reinforce through in-school 4-H programming. Additionally, McIntosh County 4-H was able to collaborate with state 4-H centers to enhance the club meeting lessons. For example, McIntosh County was loaned Camp Jekyll 4-H education animals to bring to McIntosh students for a hands-on herpetology class. Rock Eagle 4-H Center also donated live giant cockroaches to McIntosh County for use in science programming.
Attendance rosters totaled 424 participants across the 184 in-school meetings for the program year. The objective of the science enrichment for in-school club meetings was to reinforce Georgia DOE science standards that were being taught in the classroom by the teachers. The intended short-term outcomes were to provide a hands-on activity that covered a science-related topic for each grade level. Mid-term outcomes were to improve Georgia Milestone scores and student proficiency in science for their grade level. Long-term outcomes are to prepare students for possible STEM careers and to be critically thinking, contributing members of society as adults.
An evaluation survey was distributed to all McIntosh County 4-H host teachers to provide feedback on the content and quality of science activities during 4-H club meetings. The survey consisted of a mixture of Likert scale questions along with open-ended responses. One teacher commented, “I love the lessons because they reinforced concepts from class.” Another teacher responded that “The value of in-school programming is awesome. This county is so spread out that a lot of students do not have the opportunity to be involved in groups and organizations.” Other teacher comments included “The 4-H program enhances the learning taking place in the classroom. She uses the standards to plan her lessons and adds to what the students have already learned.” And “Often time the instructor gives real-world information the students are able to apply to their lives/situations and help them become better learners.” Finally, another teacher also reported that “4-H is a valuable extension of the learning process. It provides students with real applications of the state content being taught in the classroom.”
As a result of in-school club meetings, 4-H students were able to have additional opportunities to learn the science curriculum intended for their grade level. The optimal mid to long-range impact of this program would be to see growth each year in McIntosh County Georgia Milestones science scores as a result of knowledge and understanding gained from 4-H science lessons. Due to the positive teacher response to this year’s in-school club meetings, McIntosh 4-H will continue to collaborate with McIntosh County teachers, principals, and the Board of Education to maintain science enrichment programming in the classroom.
Family and Consumer Sciences
The McIntosh County Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS) Agent assists in addressing real-life issues faced by Georgians of all ages. The agent provides programs and research-based information on obesity, chronic disease, food and financial insecurity, family stresses, unhealthy housing, food safety and preservation, nutrition and more. FACS Agent Michelle May offered many educational programs during her first few months with McIntosh County. In October of 2022, she shared a Nutrition & Arthritis Control Presentation at McIntosh Center for Aging and a Nutrition Label Reading Presentation at The Studio in Darien. In November & December, May presented at the Lions Club Diabetes Awareness Event and offered a Stress Less, Live More Presentation at the McIntosh Center for Aging. To start off the new year, in January 2023, May offered a Benefits of Dairy vs. Dairy Alternatives/Almond Milk Making Demonstration at the Ida Hilton Library and a Mindful Eating and Goal Setting Presentation at The Studio.
Other health programs managed by UGA Extension includes the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP). These classes teach families how to stretch their food dollars, eat healthier meals and snacks, and reduce the risk of foodborne illnesses.
During 2022, The EFNEP Program Assistant, Suzanne Walker, provided 221 adult educational sessions within Glynn, McIntosh and Long County. Of participants that graduated, 93% reported eating more fruits & vegetables and 100% reported comparing food prices more frequently at the grocery store.
Youth programming in Glynn & McIntosh Counties provided 632 educational sessions with 61% of graduating youth reporting increases in practicing safe food handling procedures and 78% reporting an increase in physical activity.
Over the next several months Michelle will continue networking and relationship-building within the community. She will be undergoing extensive training regarding Family & Consumer Sciences programming and the Expanded Food & Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP).