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February 24, 2006

4-H, engineering create math, science curriculum

In his recent State of the Union address, President George W. Bush brought the issue of improving math and science education to the forefront of national debate by calling for more funding for math and science education. It has long been acknowledged that keeping students interested in math and science is a challenge for teachers, who must compete with videogames and iPods for students’ attention.

A February 13 U.S. News and World Report article, “Did Bush Do The Math?,” cites a recent study that shows that close to half of all 17-year-olds in America do not have the basic math skills needed to hold a production associate’s job in the automobile industry.

At North Carolina State University Dr. Eric Klang, associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering, and Dr. Ed Maxa, associate professor and 4-H youth development extension leader, have joined forces to create a math and science curriculum that has no trouble holding the attention of students of all ages.

Drawing on the roar and excitement of motorsports, Klang, faculty advisor for the Wolfpack Motorsports team, has partnered with the national and North Carolina 4-H programs to develop a prototype math and science curriculum that teaches students the principles of math and physics. “On Track for Learning” is designed as an education tool that follows students from elementary grades through high school.

“This project has been a great collaboration between engineers and the 4-H program,” says Klang. “Engineers have the math and physics background, and 4-H provides the curriculum development expertise. The result is a first-rate curriculum that is hands-on and exciting for students.”

Based on national math and science standards, the prototype curriculum brings the two disciplines together by emphasizing experiential learning through motorsports-related experiments. According to Klang, the program would dovetail with an undergraduate and graduate program in automotive engineering, giving students incentive to pursue a college degree.

The lessons in the curriculum include “Friction: Friend or Foe?” and “Energy Conversion: Form-Shifter.” In the lesson on friction, students study the forces that govern the performance of a racecar and learn how friction is a key factor in the motion of the car. The lesson then also gives common examples of friction that people encounter in daily life, such as the friction between shoes and sidewalk. The full curriculum is broken into four categories: matter, motion, force and energy.

“This is a unique program that will address many of the current deficiencies in math and science education at the K through 12 level,” says Klang. “With more funding for developing and expanding the curriculum, we could have a unified curriculum for all grades.”

Work has already begun with middle school students and teachers. The first On Track for Learning event, which was held in fall 2005 at the Mooresville Dragstrip, involved approximately 50 fifth graders from a Statesville charter school.

The event was organized by John Moloney, manager of Penske Technology Group, based on the education program developed by Klang and Maxa. The students learned about friction, aerodynamics, and elapsed time and velocity as they apply to a dragster. The students met National Hot Rod Association (NHRA) driver Tisha Wilson, a high school student who competes in NHRA events. Wilson demonstrated her driving skills in her NHRA dragster.

“The event was a great success,” says Klang. “The students were able to apply the lessons from the curriculum and watch the principles of physics at work on the racetrack.”

-J. Weston

Posted by Natalie at 02:24 PM

February 21, 2006

Bowles, Oblinger visit Eastern NC

Bowles and Oblinger photo
President Erskine Bowles, left, and Chancellor Jim Oblinger visit the lab at CMAST in Morehead City. (Photos by Becky Kirkland)

“I’d really like to listen today.”

From Morehead City to Kenansville, Erskine Bowles carried this message forth – and repeated it intently – throughout his Jan. 31 tour of Eastern North Carolina. The new University of North Carolina system president visited four cities that day, to learn more about how N.C. State’s research, extension and economic development programs serve the needs of North Carolinians.

“What are your priorities?” he asked throughout the tour, making clear his priority for the day: get the word straight from the horse’s mouth.

Bowles was accompanied by N.C. State Chancellor James L. Oblinger, College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Dean Johnny Wynne and North Carolina Cooperative Extension Director John Ort, among other campus leaders.

Three of the four stops on Bowles’ tour showcased research, teaching and extension programs of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. And, he wasted no time getting down to business at each stop.

After a visit to the Naval Air Depot at Cherry Point to learn about programs in the N.C. State College of Engineering, Bowles headed to Morehead City and the Center for Marine Sciences and Technology (CMAST). The 51,000 square-foot marine laboratory, situated just along the banks of the Bogue Sound, strives to make North Carolina’s seafood industry safer and more competitive. Bowles toured toxicology and fisheries resources labs, visited Carteret County Extension offices and held a town-hall style meeting with the center’s faculty and staff, community leaders and other stakeholders.

“I have a great love and appreciation for this part of North Carolina,” Bowles said. “[The marine sciences] industry presents such a great growth opportunity for our state and our people. It has tremendous potential.”

Bowles took time to speak with nearly every researcher in each of the labs, chatted with Extension agents about their programs, and even passed on a sit-down lunch to extend his tour and focus on the issues being presented to him. (It should be noted, however, that Bowles enjoyed the homemade seafood lunch prepared by Family and Consumer Sciences agents once he had a moment to sit down during the meeting).

Next stop: the Cunningham Agriculture Research Station in Kinston, where research is conducted on major North Carolina field crops such as tobacco, corn, soybeans and cotton. The station also serves as headquarters for the North Carolina Specialty Crops Program, a unique partnership between N.C. State, North Carolina Cooperative Extension and the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop alternative crops and marketing systems for farmers wishing to expand into niche markets.

Bowles listened intently as Extension personnel and researchers described their programs, from aquaculture to storm water practices. And, just as he’d done in Morehead City, Bowles asked the group for their priorities and ideas on how the university system could play a role.

“I’ve learned that the best ideas come from those working in the field,” he said. “Agriculture is such a big part of North Carolina and its economy. I want to make sure that I understand your priorities and how I can help you.”

He also stressed the importance of securing a solid future for North Carolina agriculture by embracing change and capitalizing on opportunities to expand into new markets.

“I believe we are looking at a bright agricultural future here in North Carolina. There are huge markets and the potential is here,” he said. “But there are enormous changes taking place in the economy. With the loss of tobacco, we have to move toward new crops, opportunities and markets. If we’re going to be competitive globally, we need to make investments in agriculture.”

Bowles ended his day at a reception in Duplin County with members of Cooperative Extension’s State Advisory Council, held at the new Duplin County Agriculture Center. The former chairman of North Carolina’s Rural Prosperity Task Force opened his remarks saying, “I am so thrilled to see this facility. It is about time rural North Carolina got something nice.”

Erskine Bowles

State Advisory Council Chairman Wanda Denning opened the meeting with Bowles by describing how SAC’s 31 members provide leadership for the state’s 20,000-member advisory leadership system. In every county, advisory leaders help Cooperative Extension design, implement and plan programs to meet identified local needs. Denning also pointed out that Extension’s advisors were instrumental in advocating for the state’s $3.1 billion higher education bonds approved by voters in 2000.

Bowles described his six priorities for the UNC System. They include preparing K-12 teachers, developing relationships with the state’s community colleges, keeping universities accessible and affordable, retaining and graduating students, ensuring quality education and recruiting and retaining great faculty.

Bowles recently spent nine months in Asia, overseeing tsunami relief. He described seeing classrooms of Chinese first graders studying mathematics on computers – in English. Contrast that with the reality that only 18 of 100 eighth graders in North Carolina today will earn a four-year college degree.

“That was okay in my era when there were plenty of low-skilled, moderate income jobs,” he said. “We have to get more people better educated in America in order to compete.”

Bowles outlined some of the strengths and challenges that lie before the university system. He described the state’s strong support for higher education at the rate of $2 billion per year, but added that the state’s budget faces enormous pressures from rising Medicaid costs. The state universities’ $1 billion research budget comes mainly from federal resources, which also face tremendous pressures, he said.

“What are your priorities?” he asked throughout the tour, making clear his priority for the day: get the word straight from the horse’s mouth.

He also wants to keep the state universities’ tuition as low as possible. “Here we face an enormous challenge at a time when we have fewer and fewer resources,” he said.

What did Bowles learn about Cooperative Extension during his tour? “I have been living in the past of what Extension does today. I didn’t know you were in urban counties,” he said. “You are doing a zillion different things to make a difference in your communities.

Bowles said he would like to meet with Extension’s state advisors on a regular basis. “Let me know how I can make your job better,” he told the advisors. “I want to see those resources get to where they are needed. Thank you very much for all you do.”

--S. Stanard and N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 02:03 PM

February 17, 2006

4-H, FCS departments to merge July 1

In keeping with the spirit of Cooperative Extension’s change management and marketing initiative, the departments of 4-H Youth Development and Family and Consumer Sciences will become one department within N.C. State’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences on July 1.

The merger was announced Feb. 16 by Dr. Jon Ort, director of North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service. (Dr. Ort's message -- opens in PDF) Dr. Marshall Stewart, head of the 4-H Youth Development Department, and Dr. Sandy Zaslow, head of the Family and Consumer Sciences Department, announced the change to their staffs that morning. County agents in both programs received the announcement by email.

Stewart and Zaslow said their faculty and staff members had reacted well to the news. Stewart will head the new department, which will retain both department names. Zaslow, who also announced on Feb. 16 her intention of retiring from the university in October, will serve as Extension’s associate director of family and youth programs. When she retires, the title will be added to the title of department head and state program leader for the combined department.

“We began strategic dialogue about the future of CALS departments at the dean’s retreat in October 2005,” Ort said in his announcement to Extension. “When Dr. Sandy Zaslow notified me of her retirement this fall, it made sense strategically to think about how we might move ahead with bringing these two departments under one administrative umbrella.”

Stewart read Ort’s prepared statement to his faculty and staff. “They were positive,” he said. “This had been in some people’s minds for a number years and so seeing it was not a total surprise.”

Zaslow and Stewart praised Ort and Dean Johnny Wynne for their efforts to move the merger along and address concerns that employees would likely have, including leadership, department name and titles. Employees of both departments will retain their rank and titles. And both disciplines will continue to have their distinct identities on campus and in county centers.

Zaslow said the merger news, coupled with the news of her retirement, came as a double
surprize for campus and field faculty and staffs. She shared with them that “when they wake up on July 2, their world will seem very much like it was on July 1 – and that was the intent of both department heads.

“Marshall and I have a very strong commitment to making this a positive transition for all our employees. We are very aware of the strong program identities and brands that agents, their associations and their foundations have worked to develop. Each program has many assets and resources to bring to the table,” Zaslow said.

“We believe there will be a synergistic effect that will occur from new opportunities to collaborate and be advocates for youth and family issues,” she said.

Zaslow was pleased that an associate director’s position had been created for youth and family programs and that she will help set the direction for that position to benefit youth and family programs. In the Cooperative Extension Service at N.C. State, there has been an associate director’s position for agricultural programs.

“Adding an associate director’s position truly indicates the value that Dr. Ort and Dean Wynne place on youth and families and their relationship within agricultural programs,” Zaslow said.

She looks forward to working with Stewart in merging the two departments. “I really want Marshall to be successful and for the programs to be successful,” Zaslow said. “Our intent is to look for the best environment to support and sustain the programs.”

Both programs have traditionally shared some programming initiatives. The Expanded Foods and Nutrition Education Program includes youth and adult components and has faculty in both the 4-H and FCS departments. And with growing concern over the issue of child overweight/obesity, the two departments have discussed collaborating on the issue, bringing together their strengths in youth programming and nutrition education.

“This puts Extension, the college and the university in the strongest position to address families and youth,” Stewart said. “Statewide, no one has the network of paid staff and volunteers focused on these issues that Extension has.”

The combined department also will have a stronger academic component, Ort said in making the announcement. FCS and the Department of Human Environmental Science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro are creating a master’s degree program in parenting education. Dr. Karen DeBord, FCS associate professor of child development, has been active in the initiative and serves as the department’s director of graduate programs.

In addition, 4-H Youth Development has created a youth development leadership specialization within N.C. State’s College of Education. Courses are taught by faculty in 4-H Youth Development.

“The degree programs that we bring to the table and the one that 4-H offers bring new opportunities for our agents to earn advanced degrees,” Zaslow said.

Stewart and Zaslow praised each other, as well as Extension and college administrators for creating a smooth plan for the merger. “Sandy has been a champion for this,” Stewart said. “She sold me on it. She wanted to create a structure that will endure, and this will endure.”

“Marshall is a perfect match, with his energy, enthusiasm and genuine commitment to both programs,” Zaslow said. “Our vision has been the same from the beginning.

“This is a very bold step forward, and I salute Dr. Ort’s leadership to support us and for the vision to create an associate director’s position for youth and families,” she added.

“I wanted to credit Jon (Ort) and administration for having the courage and foresight to put us in a stronger position,” Stewart said. “They led the charge, and I appreciate their vision.”

Questions or comments? Scroll down to post your response. Online News will work with Stewart and Zaslow to answer your questions.

--N. Hampton

Posted by Natalie at 01:20 PM

Valued-added workshop is March 1-2

Capturing Value from the Farm: Extension Programming and Resources for Farm Diversification and Developing Value-Added and Alternative Enterprises will be held March 1 and 2, 2006 at Caraway Conference Center in Asheboro. This is an excellent opportunity for Extension specialists and agents interested in value added and alternative agriculture to interact.

A detailed agenda now posted: http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/value-added. Participants can attend sessions on a wide range of topics, including regulations governing direct-marketed meats, cut flowers, shared use kitchens, organic vegetable cooperatives, craft cooperatives, agritourism.

Register for the event at http://www.cals.ncsu.edu/value-added. You can commute to the event each day or book a room at the conference center. Costs of the conference and travel expenses of North Carolina Cooperative Extension faculty are paid for through a grant with the N.C. Tobacco Trust Fund. (Please register for the event on the conference Web site even if you are not staying overnight.)

Conference objectives are to provide information on resources available to field and campus faculty working with alternative and value added enterprises and to provide a forum for sharing information on value-added and alternative enterprise Extension programs and resources among field and campus faculty.

Posted by Natalie at 12:25 PM

Latest news from N.C. A&T State University

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Posted by Natalie at 12:20 PM

February 10, 2006

Annual Master Gardener luncheon is March 3

Robert Bowden, director of Leu Botanical Gardens in Orlando, Fla., will be the featured speaker March 3 at the 10th Annual Southern Cooperative Extension and Master Gardener Luncheon during the Southern Spring Home and Garden Show in Charlotte.

The home and garden show is March 1-5 at the Charlotte Merchandise Mart. The luncheon recognizes the contributions that Master Gardeners and North Carolina Cooperative Extension horticultural programs make to communities across the Carolinas and Virginia.

Bowden’s topic will be “What’s Hot and Spicy in the Garden – Trends for 2006.” He will talk about trends in outdoor living areas as well as lawn alternatives and colorful, maintenance-free tropical plants.

Tickets to the luncheon are $35 before Feb. 18 and $40 if purchased after that date. The ticket price includes admission to the Southern Spring Home and Garden Show. The luncheon is open to the public. Attendance is not restricted to Master Gardeners.

The show will also feature Extension’s Successful Gardener Learning Center, an exhibit at which North Carolina Cooperative Extension horticultural experts and Master Gardeners will provide a wealth of gardening information. Learn more about Extension’s Successful Gardener at http://www.successfulgardener.org/.

Home and Garden Show tickets only are $7.50 in advance and $9 at the door. Show hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. For more information, contact Southern Shows at 704.376.6594 or 1.800.849.0248 or visit http://www.southernshows.com.

Posted by Dave at 01:31 PM

Cliff Ruth receives horticulture award

Cliff Ruth photo

Cliff Ruth, area-specilized agent in commercial horticulture, has received the Kim Powell Friend of the Industry Award "in recognition for many years of outstanding support, educational planning and implementation; and dedication to the landscape industry and involvement with the Landscape and Grounds Maintenance Association of North Carolina."

The award was named for Powell, who recently retired from his position as horticulture specialist at N.C. State University. Powell worked closely with the state's landscape industry.

Ruth, who is based in Henderson County, has been actively involved in the development of training programs and several industry certifications for the nursery, greenhouse, turf and landscape industries.

He has worked with Henderson County's landscape industry for eight years. Today, the industry is worth more than $140 million in gross revenue and accounts for 2,400 local jobs, making it the county's largest agriculture industry.

Posted by Natalie at 09:24 AM

Wood biomass workshop will be March 13-14

An upcoming conference at N.C. State University's McKimmon Center will focus on "Energy from Wood: Exploring the issue and impactf for North Carolina." The conference will be held March 13-14.

This conference will:
* Present much of the known information about potential impacts and opportunities on North Carolina’s forests from a wood biomass economy;
* Offer an opportunity for diverse stakeholders to explore issues surrounding woody biomass; and
* Prepare stakeholders for the future policy discussions surrounding the use of woody biomass for energy.

The conference will be useful for policy makers, regulatory agency staff, industry (energy, foresters, forest landowners, manufacturing), scientists, environmental interests and local or regional biomass energy users.

For more information, visit the Conference Web site at

North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service is one of the workshop sponsors. Others are listed on the Web site.

Posted by Natalie at 08:56 AM