NEW YORK (AP) — The National 4-H Council is growing in a new direction – online – by launching its e-learning platform Clover with a collaboration with Netflix and its new movie “Spy Kids: Armageddon,” the organization announced Wednesday.
Jill Bramble, who took over as president and CEO of the National 4-H Council in August, said she wants the new platform to be the digital equivalent of the in-person experience that 4-H has provided to young people for more than 120 years.
“It allows us to keep kids where they are — whether they are in Manhattan, New York or Manhattan, Kansas — and still offer highly relevant and engaging content for young people to prepare for careers of the future,” Bramble told The Associated Press in an interview. “The skills that they will need to be successful look very different than they were for us.”
Clover features more than 220 online educational activities for students, ages 5 to 18, developed by 4-H’s partners in the Cooperative Extension System and its network of land grant universities. The topics covered range from farming to space exploration, from financial literacy to stress management – all designed to inform and empower young people.
The innovation, Bramble says, comes in the way the Clover platform engages with the students by using gamification and entertainment, which led to the collaboration with Netflix.
“It was a natural alignment,” she said. “When you think of the intent behind ‘Spy Kids,’ those kids are tackling some of the world’s most pressing issues and they’re doing this through coding and gamification. We wanted to align that with what we see is possible through Clover.”
Encouraging interest in coding and other STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) disciplines has become increasingly important throughout education, especially after students’ science and math test scores declined during the pandemic.
Bob Hughes, director of K-12 Education for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation’s United States Program, recently told The Associated Press that improving STEM education is a high priority for the nonprofit, which is not connected to Clover, but last year donated $1 billion to improve math education in the next four years.
“Math is a such a gatekeeper for future success — and not just success for becoming a physicist, but for your day to day life,” Hughes said. “It’s a very tough subject for many kids. It’s emotional for many kids. And if they don’t succeed in mathematics, they can start to develop a mindset and an identity that suggests that not only are they not good at math, but at other academics as well. So math is fundamental.”
Clover was developed to help with those fundamentals by increasing students’ exposure to subjects like math and science in a less stressful, more entertaining way, Bramble said.
“The pandemic was an inflection point showing what kids need today,” she said. “We feel that Clover can support a way to catch up, but it can’t do it alone. It’s so valuable to have an in-person program that goes along with it — the mentoring aspect that comes with 4-H. It helps bring that sense of belonging that helps a young person catch up to where they need to be.”
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