University of Maine Cooperative Extension recently launched its new 4-H Tick Project, a community science program where youth collect, identify and learn about ticks while contributing to university research. In this project, children and teenagers have an opportunity to explore ticks and tick-borne diseases and understand the connections between climate, ecosystem change and public health. The program which is led by 4-H professionals in Hancock County, is open to K–12 youth across the state.
Youth involved in the project collect tick specimens in their local area and submit them to the UMaine Extension Tick Lab for identification and disease testing. The data collected by students allows the Tick Lab to better understand tick populations and the distribution of their associated pathogens.
For the 1,400 youth in 11 counties that are involved in the program, these types of project-based learning initiatives like the 4-H Tick Project allow them to build knowledge and skills through active, hands-on participation, promoting a deep understanding of the subject matter and helping develop practical skills that can be transferred to other areas of life.
The project is a collaborative effort with 4-H, the UMaine Extension Tick Lab, the Maine Forestry Tick Survey and Learning Ecosystems Northeast, a NASA-sponsored partnership focused on building the climate and data literacy youth need to become the next generation of climate stewards. Hannah Carter, associate provost of online and continuing education and dean of UMaine Extension, said that “Through these partnerships, we can engage more students in a broader learning community where they can connect with diverse perspectives and build the skills needed to become tomorrow’s leaders.”