TechGYRLS Sustainable Agriculture Overnight Camp

Final report for YENC18-126

Project Type: Youth Educator
Funds awarded in 2018: $2,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2020
Grant Recipient: YWCA Kalamazoo
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Manager:
Dr. Grace Lubwama
YWCA Kalamazoo
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Project Information



Below you will find a summary of our project: 

1) Teaching Sustainable Agriculture 

As part of the programming, participants learned how local farmers use technology such as drones to aid them in monitoring the landscape and how they use mapping to responsibly utilize resources, save money, and increase profits. Participants were given a demonstration of an Unmanned-Aerial Vehicle (UAV) by a field tech from the KBS Long-term Ecological Research program and were then given the opportunity to see the drone up close and ask specific questions regarding how the technology assists farmers. Participants were also able to build their own paper drones from the National 4-H Youth Science Day 2016 drone kits. Closing conversation centered around future career aspirations and the types of careers that are available in sustainability and agriculture.

2) Educational Approach and Learning Outcomes

Staff utilized a project-based educational approach focused on giving participants hands-on learning experiences such as drone building, building robots from ‘junk’ drawer items, and interacting with the animals in the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary. By providing youth with these personalized and self-led experiences, they increase their interest in STEM, learn to value their own ideas, and are able to productively and confidently engage in STEM activities.

3) Conclusions

Through project-based learning, TechGYRLs participants learned about and engaged in sustainable farming practices; these experiences challenged the participants to think in different ways which led to an increased desire to learn more.


4) Outcomes

As a result of this educational program, participants gained an interest in drones and robotics which prompted the TechGYRLs program to explore the FIRST Robotics Tech Challenge. This will function as an after-school program where participants will be able to build, program, and then showcase their robot at local competitions. Programming will begin winter/spring of 2019 and will culminate at the end of May 2019

Project Objectives:

YWCA Kalamazoo TechGYRLS Sustainable Agriculture Overnight Camp seeks to demonstrate relevance of sustainable agriculture in the lives of youth being served. The camp will create positive experiences related to sustainable agriculture, in particular the use of technology, careers in science and agriculture and establish a connection between the farm and food on the table. With these skills, youth can support themselves, friends, family, and community members in addressing barriers they may be experiencing.


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Educational & Outreach Activities

1 Curricula, factsheets or educational tools
1 On-farm demonstrations
2 Tours
2 Webinars / talks / presentations

Participation Summary:

1 Farmers/ranchers
15 Youth
1 Parents
6 Educators
Education/outreach description:

Participants started their experience at YWCA Kalamazoo by participating in youth development and team building activities before boarding the bus to Kellogg Biological Station (KBS.)  Upon arrival at KBS, participants moved into cabins and took a walk to explore the grounds and do more youth development opportunities on the way to the dining hall. During lunch, the menu highlighted locally sourced foods, including beef from the KBS Pasture Dairy Center.  After lunch, participants went to the field for an Unmanned-Aerial Vehicle (UAV) demonstration by a field tech from the KBS Long-term Ecological Research Program.  Participants were able to ask questions about the use of drones for monitoring the agricultural landscape. This encouraged responsible utilization of resources to their fullest capability and allowed for discussion about aiding farmers by increasing profits through precision application of chemicals and fertilizers.  Conversation was centered around the types of jobs that are available in agriculture.  After the UAV demonstration, participants were able to build their own ‘drones’ and use them in a series of missions to understand real world application.  The drone kits were from the National 4-H Youth Science Day 2016. To end the evening, participants went to dinner and then had time to reflect on the day.  They were guided in thinking about personal identity and career aspirations. 


The second day began as participants expanded their robotics skills in an activity called ‘junk drawer robotics’ where they build practical robots out of everyday/junk drawer items. Participants traveled to the KBS Pasture Dairy Center where they learned about dairy farming with robotic milking machines.  Participants were able to view the robots in action and learn about the care and the daily operations of the cows in the dairy herd.  They learned about the quality of life choices that farmers make when integrating technology into their work, freeing them to do other things on the farm or spend time with family. For most of the participants this was the closest they had ever been to a cow and their first time on a farm. Participants also spent time exploring around the barn and participating in youth development games as they got used to the sights, sounds and smells of the agricultural landscape. After lunch the group took a trip to the Kellogg Bird Sanctuary where participants learned about the stewardship/ecological side of the KBS landscape by exploring the trail around the lake, observing the captive waterfowl, birds of prey and upland game birds that live at the sanctuary.  Participants also did some water quality surveying by sampling the lake to collect macroinvertebrates for identification and observation. Participants departed KBS by bus and returned to the YWCA.  Along the drive and before parent pick up, participants reflected on their experience (journaling, group sharing, etc.)

Learning Outcomes

15 Youth reporting change in knowledge, attitudes, skills and/or awareness
Key changes:
  • Sustainable Farming

  • Recycling

Project Outcomes


It is at the core of YWCA Kalamazoo’s mission to promote programs that serve populations made vulnerable by things out of their control, such as their socio-economic status, race and gender. It is our recommendation that SARE continue to fund opportunities for youth; specifically, youth of color.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.