Erin McGlumphy works for the South Dakota State University Cooperative Extension as the new 4-H Youth Program Adviser for Fall River and Custer Counties. She is a teacher: educated at the University of Arizona, with 15 years of experience in school districts in Arizona, Texas, and Eastern South Dakota.

There is one thing you learn quickly about Erin when talking with her about her work—She is unequivocally enthusiastic about teaching our youth to be active participants: to approach their world with respect, curiosity, and wonder. 

Today's educators are gutsy, passionate, and willing to meet the challenge of positively influencing today's youth. McGlumphy is part of this crowd.

Speaking of salt.

Table salt, kosher or otherwise stated, will drastically affect whatever it touches. It affects plants, animals, and minerals; all in specific ways.

Plants and animals are especially affected by salt. Salt can alter the quality of growth in many species, (and if compounded) can result in long-term harm to freshwater ecosystems.

The salt that counties use on wintry road can cause damage. Similar to table salt, it can eat away at vehicles, roadway infrastructure, or cause ecological damage to freshwater plant and animal life.

Aside from county management officials, who make it their jobs to consider salt—not many individuals take the time to think about it's cumulative effects.

When I sat down with Eric McGlumphy for an interview last Thursday, (National AG Day circled in red on the office calendar), she was reviewing lesson plans for teaching her 4-H youth about just this subject: The effects of salt on local freshwater ecology.

Her plan is to have her kids create bottle biomes—two liter bottles, filled partially with soil and seeded with tender, fast growing plants. Once sprouted, these bottles make for great isolated ecosystems, small in scale, perfect for fast, accurate experimentation.

In this example, students introduce a variety of salt to their biomes. After a few weeks, the damaging effects of the salt on each biome will be recorded. Conclusions will be made then discussed.

Critical thinking and scientific discovery, right in our own backyard.

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With table salt and two liter bottles, McGlumphy and her students can more accurately understand how we impact our local freshwater ecology.

This example highlights the extremely positive benefit of local 4-H and SDSU Cooperative Extension services: Our youth will explore, interact, and learn about a variety of important things—inspired by their immediate surroundings—all important to building a more educated, proactive, and healthy community..

Agriculture, sustainability, outdoor recreation, teamwork, civic responsibility, and community outreach: these items are just a few of what our county's youth are exposed to through 4-H and Co-op Extension programs.

Erin McGlumphy and her extension volunteers are perhaps the best line of defense against our youth becoming bored and disinterested in how our world works: striving to inspire our youth to help our world work better.

4-H works in our schools and after with camps and clubs. There are no grades to keep: just simple, honest exploration and education. Our community is their classroom.

4-H started in 1902 with a simple mission: connect education to country life through hands-on learning. As early programs evolved, educators began to realize something interesting—children were discovering new and different ways of working with agriculture—ways that adults in the farming community were unwilling to accept.

4-H programs became a way for youth volunteers to learn, experiment, then introduce new agricultural technologies to adults.

In 1914, Congress created the Cooperative Extension Service, establishing USDA partnership with land-grant universities, and galvanizing the 4-H's role in agricultural discovery and education.

Our local 4-H is supported under the South Dakota State University's Cooperative Extension program. The SDSU Extension focuses on six areas: Competitive Crop Systems, Competitive Livestock Systems, 4-H Youth Development, Community Development, Food & Families, and Rural & Urban Initiatives.

The work it takes to accomplish 4-H's mission is no small undertaking. McGlumphy is the only 4-H Youth Program Adviser for all of Fall River and Custer Counties.

Support for her mission comes from volunteers and cooperative extension professionals. Parents of youth participants also play a large role in supporting our county 4-H program. Her search for community support is on-going and anyone interested can contact our local SDSU Extension office.

To learn more about SDSU's Extension Services, go to https://www.sdstate.edu/sdsu-extension or contact Eric McGlumphy at our local Extension office at 605-745-5133. 

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