Utah 4-H, Google to educate students in a new field — computer science

Google and 4-H announced a new $80,000 grant that they hope will expand computer education around Utah, including to rural areas.

(Jacob Scholl | The Salt Lake Tribune) Public affairs manager MJ Henshaw, center, talks to a room full of 4-H students on Monday, Nov. 6, 2023, at the Utah State University Botanical Center in Kaysville.

Kaysville • When you think of 4-H, you’ll likely imagine students raising cattle or showing prize livestock at the county fair.

But a new Utah 4-H program, in partnership with Google, will allow middle-school-aged kids a chance to grow some different skills: computer programming. Google and Utah 4-H announced a new grant worth $80,000 that aims to increase the amount of computer science education in the state, including in rural counties.

At a coding event in Kaysville on Monday, a few dozen kids sitting behind computers learned how to make their own programmed animations in a 4-H-created platform.

MJ Henshaw, a public affairs manager for Google, said the grant and partnership with 4-H aims to not only make this computer science education available to students along the Wasatch Front, but also available to “kids all the way from Cache Valley down to Blanding.”

Henshaw, an Orem native and Utah State University graduate, said the state’s fast-paced growth and the expansion of tech jobs are big reasons why this type of education is so crucial to students.

“There’s a lot of tech jobs here in Utah, Utah’s a leader in the country in this,” Henshaw said. “But beyond that, I think we’re seeing tech jobs pop up in every (field) — in hospitality, in the medical field and all different fields, so I think (this program) prepares kids for their future careers. They’re going to need to know this basic stuff.”

In a pre-recorded video, Utah U.S. Rep. Blake Moore, whose district covers much of Kaysville, emphasized the importance for younger people to be well-versed in technology early in their lives, adding STEM skills — short for science, technology, engineering and mathematics — can be crucial for finding jobs later in their lives.

“Every industry, from agriculture to healthcare to retail, is in need of workers in STEM,” Moore said in the pre-recorded video. “This is why programs like those offered by 4-H and Google are so important. Students who learn basic coding and technology problem solving are given a competitive edge in the job market, and their opportunities are multiplied.”

The partnership between Google and 4-H, one of the largest youth development organizations in the country, isn’t new. Google announced a $5 million grant to partner with 4-H last year to expand computer science education around the country, according to a news release.