The Watauga County Cooperative Extension held the third year of Watauga LEAD - Leadership, Environment, and Agricultural Discoveries, with great success. The rising 7th-8th female students, nominated by their school science teachers, were highly motivated this summer to explore the High Countries unique natural resources and agricultural heritage through science.
We use the 4-H Youth Development model in designing LEAD to help foster positive youth development and life skills. Through a ropes course session, girls experienced the challenges of problem solving both at the group and individual level. They learned how to work cooperatively with one another to meet a common goal, and mastered the art of communicating and listening during the process. After completing several rigorous ropes challenges, the girls described what they had learned: the importance of trusting one another, the necessity of working together to solve problems, and the value of encouragement to help everyone feel strong and empowered.
The girls were able to associate a career in science by attending a veterinarian clinic. They were able to see a procedure performed on a companion animal. The vet and her staff were remarkable in their discussions with the young ladies. They not only conveyed the day to day happenings at the clinic, but helped them to understand the education involved and the opportunities that are available. I think the girls also received the "I can" understanding from Dr. Roten-Henson, who is a native of Watauga County.
The afternoon horseback ride showed another aspect of animal science. By listening to the "resident cowboy" the girls became excited and yet learned to be calm around the horses. While on the trail ride I heard comments like "I can't believe I am riding a horse all by myself" and "this is so much fun, I didn't think I could do this, because I am afraid of horses". Statements such as these show that the day was fun but still helped build confidence in these young ladies.
Other topics during the week include; Health Science - touring the Health, Leisure, and Exercise Science lab at Appalachian State University. While there they explored different careers associated with health and wellness and the research done on athletes.
During the week the girls also explored the vast connections that are often overlooked in the agricultural setting- insects pollinating crops, the integration of
sustainability to build soils and crops without the use of harsh pesticides and chemical fertilizers, and a hands-on soil experiment designed to show the differences in soil biota from different soil types.
They had hands-on experiences testing stream health; oxygen levels, pH, conductivity, temperature, and studying the biology to determine water quality in an urban area and compare it to a forested area. Up at Grandfather Mtn. the girls helped the rangers with air quality testing on top of the mountain and explored the animal habitats.
The grand finale of the week was a canoeing experience where the girls guided themselves down the New river. They picked up trash along the way and learned that each of us can make a difference in the world when we care. The LEAD girls will continue to meet with scientists for different activities throughout the school year.
The Watauga LEAD camp will be open to new participants next year. For more information about LEAD contact the Watauga County Cooperative Extension at 264-3061.