National 4-H week kicks off with a Youth Science Day experiment

Five children gathered around a table in the Taneytown branch of the Carroll County Public Library, constructing small figures out of modeling clay. The figures were part of a National Youth Science Day experiment which simulated a speeding car collision. The experiment, called Motion Commotion, kicked off National 4-H Week in the county.

"When you drive in a car, do you see your parents talking on the phone, eating or singing to the radio?" Becky Ridgeway, University Of Maryland Extension Carroll County's 4-H Youth Development faculty extension assistant asked the group.


"That's all part of distracted driving. We're going to take a look at what can happen."

According to the National 4-H History Preservation Program, National 4-H Week began in 1945 to promote the program and to recruit new members and leaders. Ridgeway said the Motion Commotion program fits the into science and technology component of county's 4-H program.

"As the times change, 4-H changes too," she said. "The 4-H program is reaching beyond agriculture to meet the growing needs of technology industries."

After the children assembled the clay figures, they placed them into small plastic 4-H cars. Each child took a turn releasing a car down a steep track on a table. A few of the clay figures remained in the car. To demonstrate her point, Ridgeway added a book to the track to simulate a collision. After the addition of the book, most of the children's clay figures fell out of the car or crashed into the windshield.

Mikal Summerlin, 8 of Taneytown, seemed upset his figures did not remain in the car, but said he enjoyed the experiment.

"I liked how we got to make people and test the motion of cars. I love how we got to test reality," Mikal said.

Amy Schildwachter, of Taneytown, brought her children Ben and Emily to the program.

"They like science programs. It's a great thing to do that's very hands-on. Hands-on beats sitting still any time," Schildwachter said.

Emily Schildwachter, 13, said the experiment got her to think about distracted driving.

"I learned you shouldn't be distracted and how to make sure others won't be distracted," Emily said.

Kayta Gonzalez, of Taneytown, joined in the experiment with her daughters Lashay Gonzalez and Brooklyn Garland, 7.

"This is the first time they've done the science program here. For their age, it helps explain a little bit about vehicle safety. It's nice because some of the things they learn here, they don't learn in school," Gonzalez said.

Lashay, 6, said she liked watching the cars crash.

"I like when they went down the big hill and we got to see them crash. I learned I should always wear a seat belt," Lashay said.


After the crash test, Ridgeway tested each child's reaction time by dropping a ruler straight down and instructing each child to catch it. Catch times varied, but did not improve when they were handed a calculator to use while trying to catch the ruler. Ridgeway asked each child to type 4545 while trying to catch a ruler, simulating texting while driving. Each child's time was greatly impaired and in some instances, the child could not catch the ruler.

"They should do that in driver's ed," Amy Schildwachter said.

Ridgeway asked the children what they could do to prevent distracted driving. A few children answered they could not fight with each other. Others said they could be quieter in the car. Summerlin said he could ask his parents to give him their phones so they would be less distracted.

After the experiment, each participant received a 4-H cup, a lollipop and a brochure about 4-H programs. Ridgeway hoped the activity would encourage interest in 4-H.

"It's a fun way to get kids involved. Maybe some of the kids who participate will want to become part of 4-H," Ridgeway said.