MSU Extension, CVM collaborate on 4-H course
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Problem-solving and critical thinking are two prerequisites for competent animal care, and a new curriculum will help 4-H’ers learn those skills.
The Mississippi State University Extension Center for 4-H Youth Development and the MSU College of Veterinary Medicine collaborated on the Caring for Animals 4-H project. It is targeted toward 12- to 15-year-olds and designed to develop knowledge of the relationship between people, animals and the environment.
More specifically, students will learn how animals contribute to society as companions, service providers and sources of food and fiber. They will also learn about invasive species, adequate living conditions and nutritional needs for domesticated animals, and the diversity of careers related to animals.
Brainstorming for the curriculum began when David Smith, now the CVM interim associate dean, was a faculty member at the University of Nebraska. The U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute of Food and Agriculture Competitive Grants Program awarded funds to the program after his arrival at MSU with an objective that included providing education to 4-H’ers about how to care for animals.
“The project provides information about caring for pets, including the history of human interactions with animals, selecting pets, providing for their care, and the social and environmental interactions that are related with animals,” Smith said. “Each chapter also discusses how the issues presented are also important to wildlife and food-producing animals. Critical thinking is encouraged in the questions that follow, which are intended to be thought-provoking and open-ended.”
He said the project also emphasizes that the commitment to caring for an animal might be long-term.
“Some questions contribute to life skills because they require effective communication to share ideas. Some questions foster math or scientific thinking,” Smith said. “One activity in the curriculum is to calculate the cost to feed a dog for a year, which requires some math skills and then some awareness that keeping a pet requires a financial commitment.”
Cobie Rutherford, Extension instructor with the Center for 4-H Youth Development, said the center will incorporate the new curriculum into a planned MSU Extension program and use it to support the state’s current and future 4-H activities.
“We’re excited to add this new curriculum to our center’s library,” he said. “The College of Veterinary Medicine is a huge asset to our university, state and stakeholders. This program will help broaden their impact and reach to 4-H members across Mississippi and the nation and will introduce youth to one of the most dynamic DVM programs in the world.”