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Learning, growing and giving back. Why Sharon Davis loves helping youth explore animal science in 4-H.

Did you know that 67% of all Minnesota 4-H'ers participate in an animal science project?

Sharon Davis has been working for over 30 years with Minnesota 4-H specializing in livestock education for youth. Most recently, she began a new position as Extension educator and Science of Animals Director, she focuses on educational programming and policy.

"It's important to help guide youth learning so they can raise, feed and care for their animals. 4-H animal science projects are a great way to promote engagement, self-directed learning and science skills in young people."

In the show ring, 4-H youth exhibit the knowledge and skills they've built working with their animals. But youth learning doesn't begin and end in the show ring. Raising an animal in 4-H is a continuous cycle of growth that extends for months and even years for some youth. It's a learning cycle where Sharon invests her leadership and knowledge every single day.

Learning transferable skills

Working together with the core animal science team, Sharon coordinates and develops the educational foundation of the Minnesota 4-H animal science program. This includes workshops, training, judging experience and livestock camps, along with those well-known and loved animal shows at the county and state fairs.

Raising animals is a learning process for everyone involved. Families learn and grow right alongside the 4-H youth who's participating in the animal science program. Sharon recognizes how much this program builds teamwork, decision making skills, and a youth person's sense of responsibility and work ethic. Raising an animal can be transformational.

"Part of my job is helping adults and youth recognize the skills they build in animal science projects. They're learning skills that are transferable to other areas of their life as well."


Growing in the summertime

Campers enjoyed learning about the rabbit project
at Livestock Day Camp in Waseca
4-H camps offer Minnesota youth unique opportunities during the summer months. One of those is 4-H's Livestock Day Camps, which Sharon helps coordinate in six different locations across the state.

"Our camps allow youth to learn more about a species of livestock, like beef, sheep, dairy, poultry and swine. They explore nutrition and animal health, proper care, showmanship and fitting too."

An especially unique part of these camps is a visit in the University of Minnesota's Biosecure Entry Education Trailer (BEET) to learn about biosecurity from Extension's poultry and swine teams. It's a traveling, interactive learning station that focuses on animal health, and how to prevent spreading diseases between animals and humans.

Giving back to others

Summer camps are one of the many educational outreach events Sharon helps to plan, coordinate and facilitate throughout the state. The whole point, shares Sharon, is to use animal science projects as a vehicle to build skills and a desire to give back to others.

"I really enjoy 4-H for the individual learning that youth can get in the program. I love to watch them take a project, grow and learn, and then turn around and help others. The whole aspect of learning, growing and sharing—that's what sets us apart."

4-H is great for exploring new ideas and building skills for life.
Interested in learning more about animal science?
Check out our website on animal science events, or ask your county extension office about local livestock education programs this summer!

By Mariah Jean Larson
University of Minnesota student
Steele County 4-H alum

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