Bringing Nature to Urban Cincinnati: 4-H Style

By Kelsey Pohlman
Outreach and Engagement Communications Intern

Where does food come from? How are we going to feed everybody on earth? These are the kind of questions asked by a lot of kids in Cincinnati - and Tony Staubach is here to answer them.

Since March 2014, Staubach has been working for Ohio State University Extension. He was specifically hired to pilot the 4-H Agri-Science in the City Program in Cincinnati. This program provides education centered on agriculture and environmental sciences for all students at Rothenberg Preparatory Academy and Pleasant Hill Academy in Cincinnati.

How It All Began

A project demonstration with potatoes

Rothenberg Preparatory is in the urban core of Cincinnati, about one-mile south of the University of Cincinnati. For those at OSU Extension it only made sense that this be the place where 4-H Agri-Science in the City would be implemented - and for good reason.

"Students from all walks of life ... have a right to know about their food and they have a right to develop an appreciation for the food system," Staubach said. "4-H Agri-Science in the City is exposing students to the field in preparation for opportunities and challenges that lie ahead regardless of the careers they pursue."

Assistant Director of OSU Extension Tom Archer and Extension Specialist Bob Horton wanted to expand agricultural education for students living in urban areas for a very long time. Thanks to the support of State Representative Jim Buchy, 4-H Agri-Science in the City received funding for the 2013-2014 school year to establish programs in Cincinnati and Cleveland.

"Prior to me starting, [Archer] worked with Hamilton County Extension to develop a relationship with Rothenberg Preparatory Academy. Rothenberg had also entered into a partnership with a community partner that solicited funds and started the Rothenberg Rooftop School Garden. 4-H Agri-Science in the City was excited to work with with these partners so that students could learn about careers in agriculture fields outside of the typical farmer," Staubach said. "After meeting with the teachers ... I learned that the students had a thirst for knowledge of the field."

As program manager, Staubach teaches the students about agriculture in 16 different classes for 30 to 45 minutes each lesson. He also works with the teachers to train them on how they can implement the knowledge into their own classes.

The Lessons

A student with a baby chicken participating in Chick Quest

So what lessons can urban students be taught that will make them understand exactly what agriculture is? This is where 4-H steps in.

With 4-H, Staubach is able to use eight different project books to teach the students about environmental and agricultural sciences. Among them, is the class favorite Chick Quest.

Chick Quest challenges youth to investigate the life cycle of an embryonic chicken egg. They monitor the eggs from the first stage to when they become fluffy chicks. This program is already set up by 4-H to be run as a school enrichment program.

"This is a transformative experience for these kids. It only lasts four weeks, but it feels like an eternity to them," Staubach stressed. "It gets them interested in genetics, life cycles and adaption. They even like to say 'these chickens need shoes' to walk on the hard ground."

Another popular lesson that the kids love? Rockets Away.

This program allows the students to study the science of rocketry through various hands-on experiments, like building and launching bottle rockets. Staubach even incorporates English and language arts into this specific program.

"They love sending it in the air, imagining it goes to Mars, and dreaming about living on another planet," Staubach said of the bottle launches. "I have them dream about what Mars looks like and what the perfect person would look like on Mars.

"All the kids I work with have the knowledge and aptitude to work in this field. Could they teach it, be an attorney for it, do marketing for it? It's so much more than agriculture. And if they want to move on and continue learning about it, they can."


Contact: Tony Staubach, staubach.9@osu.edu