4-H Science on the Move takes learning to a new level

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By Denyse Clark, Reporter

Chester County has obtained the S.C. 4-H Science on the Move travel trailer that is housed locally but belongs to the entire Upstate of South Carolina. What's more amazing is that the contents of this trailer are more than anyone could ever imagine. This week, the Fort Lawn Community Center hosted the Chester County 4-H “Club Science” Day Camp for youth ages 9-14. Robin Currence, the Chester County 4-H agent, said the experience with this project is unlike anything the local 4-H has ever done.
“It's one of the best things we've had for 4-H,” Currence said. “I think if we do this right, we can change the face of 4-H.”
Katie Rishebarger, coordinator for Science on the Move, said the response to this trailer has been “overwhelming.”
“The trailer is like a library,” she said. “It's all self-contained.”
As Rishebarger makes presentations, communities are learning how much education can come from this portable trailer and its contents.
“We have robotics, rocketry, wind power and alternative energy, health science, plant and animal life, environmental science and GPS/GIS projects,” Rishebarger said. “It's not the truck, now, it's the concept.”
Rishebarger, a graduate of Winthrop University with a degree in Science Communications, loves science, she said. She has been in 4-H since she was five-years-old and has worked for 4-H since age 15.
“Robin has been my mentor for most of my life,” Rishebarger said. “It's great to be an adult and to work side by side with her.”
During the “Club Science” day camp this week, the campers built robots, rockets and even took a trip to Landsford Canal State Park where Rishebarger taught them about water insect identification.
“I think the best thing is I get to teach these kids the same things I got to learn when I was their age,” she said. “You get to see the aha moment when it finally clicks what you're doing with the science. I basically get to show them how much I love science too.”
Rishebarger said the Science on the Move travel trailer is an enhancement to classroom instruction while children are on summer break.
“Teaching in this kind of environment, outside of school, instills an excitement for learning so that it's fun instead of work,” she said.
Stuart Rochon, an engineer with GE and a parent volunteer at the day camp, helped campers on Thursday to launch the rockets they built earlier this week.
“He helps with our rocketry club and likes to test different size rockets,” Rishebarger said of Rochon. “We fondly refer to him as the rocketry, research and development engineer. He's a great example of a parent who has an interest in science and goes beyond helping his own kids to helping other kids.”
As the campers launched rockets in an open field, Rishebarger said if they put these rockets together correctly, that when the rockets came apart in the air, a parachute would  extend and bring the rocket back to the ground.
Matthew Bennett, 9, watched his rocket blast off into the sky then shared what excited him about this adventure. ,
“Just seeing it go into the air and seeing the string pop off,” he said. “I liked the sound it made and I thought I saw a spark when it went off.”
Thomas Hailey, 11, also enjoyed making his rocket and said, “It was fun just watching it go off.”
Fort Lawn Community Center Director Libby Sweatt-Lambert watched as the campers launched their rockets and said the center was delighted to host this day camp.
“This is awesome!” she said. “It's one of the best things we've had at the community center since my arrival. I hope that the communities and businesses will support this so we can get it out to the vast tri-county community.”
Currence agreed.
“It's going to take funding,” she said “People need to put the funding behind it because it will benefit them and their community.”
Currence then again stated that this is the new face of 4-H for a new generation.
“That's the beauty of 4-H,” she said. “We're not locked into anything.”