Extension educator for 4-H youth development appointed in Scottsbluff

Nathan Rice has been appointed Extension Educator in 4-H Youth Development for Nebraska Extension, based in Scottsbluff.

His appointment was announced by Dr. Jack Whittier, Director of Research and Extension for the Panhandle. Rice began his duties in May and will be based at the Extension Office in Scottsbluff. He will serve Scotts Bluff, Kimball and Banner counties, providing support and leadership for regional, and statewide, 4-H youth development programs in science education, animal science, agricultural literacy, career development, community development, and healthy living.

He will work in collaboration with other extension personnel faculty, as well as closely with other Nebraska Extension experts, in addition to individuals, families, schools and communities, including advisory committees and local stakeholders.

Rice received a master of science degree in ag and biological systems engineering from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in December 2018, in addition to a bachelor of science degree in biological systems engineering from UNL in 2016.

From December 2018 until starting in the Panhandle, he was a temporary state program coordinator in 4-H Youth Development, coordinating implementation and delivery of 4-H state programs STEMentors and InMoov. While pursuing his master’s degree, he was a graduate research assistant in the UNL Extension and Biological Engineering Department, leading work on an NSF grant to educate youth about agriculture sustainability and systems thinking through immersive simulation game environments.

A Morrill native, he was very active in 4-H while growing up, including livestock, photography, decorative arts and horticulture, as a member of the Panhandle Livestock Club in Scotts Bluff County.

“We are very excited to have Nathan join our ranks in Extension in the Nebraska Panhandle,” Whittier said. “He has already proven his prowess for 4-H and youth development through his early career as a graduate student and youth himself. His local roots give him an immediate connection and appreciation for the Panhandle culture. Nathan will be a great addition to the Scotts Bluff, Kimball and Banner county 4-H team.”

Rice’s agricultural background includes working on ranches in western Nebraska and he maintains close ties to the area’s ag sector.

Looking ahead to his role as Educator, Rice said he would love to help new 4-H members with any kind of activity, whether traditional or new. This includes livestock projects, especially learning how to feed them and apply nutritional plans, as well as other traditional project areas such as photography and cooking.

He’s also excited about bolstering STEM activities in clubs and after-school settings, such as robotics, game design and programming. There might be opportunities to bring in new tech activities such as aquaponics and nanotechnology, and possibly start 4-H clubs devoted to them.

Rice said he’s also enthused about the opportunity to show young people the “most beautiful part of the state” in the Panhandle and show what UNL researches are doing here in beef production, cropping systems, and other research areas. Ultimately, he would like to get young people interested in pursuing a degree at UNL.