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DIY Gratefulness Tree Tutorial

My original tree, using paper leaves.

My original tree, using paper leaves.

Have you ever heard the saying, “take time to stop and smell the roses?”  With the hustle and bustle of daily life, this can be easier said than done!  However, according to several studies, being intentional about gratitude can benefit you both physically and mentally.  A Gratefulness Tree is a fun and creative way to help you be more intentional about the what you are grateful for.

I learned this project many years ago and I keep the first rendition (pictured on the right) which was really simplistic in my office as a constant visual reminder to count my blessings. The four H’s of 4-H, Head, Heart, Hands, and Health, are incorporated into this project, so consider this for a future 4-H club meeting activity as well!

These are the supplies you will need to create your tree.

These are the supplies you will need to create your tree.

Items needed for this project:  Small branch(es) with leaves removed, vessel of choice, foam, sand, or soil to stabilize branches, pebbles for additional weight and stability, needle and thread to hang the leaves, leaf pattern and colorful paper, or purchased leaves. You will also need a gel pen or superfine marker to write on leaves, rubber bands, tape, and decorative seasonal napkins or florists’ moss to the base of the tree.

Even though this DIY project is presented in the month of November, this project can be done at any time during the year. On Thanksgiving Day or any designated day, have each family/club member and guest take a leaf off of the tree to read out loud.

Use tissue paper or florists' foam to secure the branched in your decorative container.

Use tissue paper or florists’ foam to secure the branched in your decorative container.

The comings and goings of our daily lives can consume us at times.  It can become easy to focus on the negatives or challenges we face because they cause of some sort of discomfort and forget to think of those things or people that bring joy and comfort to our lives. I hope this intentional project on gratefulness helps us all to “smell the roses” more often.

What do some of my leaves say? Well, here are a few examples of the things I am grateful for; food, good friends, willingness to forgive, sight, faith, family, and shelter. I will display the newest tree (pictured on the left) in my home and just like my first one it will gain more leaves over time.

Use a gel pen to write what you are thankful for on each leaf

Use a gel pen to write what you are thankful for on each leaf

Use decorative napkins, fabric, or even florists' moss to cover the base of the tree.

Use decorative napkins, fabric, or even florists’ moss to cover the base of the tree.

This is what your Gratefulness Tree will look like when you are done.

This is what your Gratefulness Tree will look like when you are done.

5 Ways To Celebrate Gratitude

Not much can make one happier that the warm scents of pumpkin spice, twinkling festive lights, and the joyous spirits that the holiday seasons bring many families.  As the Thanksgiving holiday season approaches and we find ourselves dashing from one from one festive event to another, it becomes a wonderful opportunity to pause with our family members and reflect on how we can continue to apply one of our very important 4-H essential elements, generosity, into the holiday season to demonstrate simple acts of gratitude, that being that one is thankful for the kindness of others.  Research supports that individuals are observed to be happier, healthier, and have a more positive outlook when they practice being grateful on a regular basis (Berrena, 2016).

4-H supports the life skills of nurturing relationships and concern for others through generosity.  Gratitude is just one of many ways that we as a 4-H family can foster generosity, compassion, and kindness for others.  By helping our children recognize and thank those that are important in their lives and also by appreciating what they currently have available to them, it will make their best better, even on challenging days.

Expressing gratitude should be a daily act and does not have to be complicated or costly.  In fact, expressing gratitude can be quite fun and can also be a creative outlet and even incorporated into a family togetherness project.  For the sake of the holidays, below are five festive ways that you and your family can express gratitude in the coming days.

  1. “I am thankful for…” Statements – Expressing gratitude can be as simple as sharing what you are thankful for aloud to others. Start a daily habit of having each member of your family create a “I am thankful for…” statement.  Remind your family as you begin this activity that they can share their grateful statements with others throughout the day.
  2. Colorful Place Mats – If you are looking for a creative outlet for your family, putting crayons to paper to design colorful place mats are a wonderful way to capture their gratitude! Simply grab some construction paper, crayons, and instruct the children to write, “I am thankful for…” at the top of the paper.  Then design away!  Once done, you can easily laminate the artwork so spills can be wiped away during the holiday meals.  These lovely gratitude place mats will become keepsakes for years to come!
  3. Acts of Kindness – When you and your family can, it is always great to give of your time to others. Organizations such as food pantries or homeless shelters can always use assistance.  You can easily find individuals in your community that may need special assistance with getting firewood or even holiday shopping. If your time is limited, contact an organization to see what other needs they have such as food or monetary donations.
  4. Tree of Thanks – Another creative activity you and your children can easily put together for the dinner table and add to it throughout the holiday season is the Tree of Thanks. Simply gather a tree limb of whatever size you prefer for your table piece and provide your family with paper leaf cutouts and crayons.  Each evening before dinner, have your family decorate a paper leaf with something that they are thankful for.  During the dinner meal, have a family discussion on gratitude and what the leaf means to them.  When the discussion is done, hang the leaf on your Tree of Thanks.  At the end of the holiday season, your family will have a beautiful display to be proud of!
  5. Thoughtful Notes – Handwritten notes are still wonderful ways to express how much you are thankful for others. Even better are notes that are handmade by children!   It takes little time, a blank sheet of paper, and a few crayons to create a thoughtful note to give to someone.  Make a point this holiday season to tell someone just how much they mean to you in the form of a written note.  I guarantee you the note will be cherished for years to come!

So, remember, gratitude is all about the positive attitude.  It is a gift not only for the person you are sharing it with but also, it is a gift for yourself.  Focusing on what you do have increases your level of happiness.  Go forth, apply generosity, and be grateful this holiday season!  Happy Holidays!


Berrena, E.  (2016).  Practice Gratitude.  [Online], Available at:

Florida 4-H Chick Chain “Egg-celence”

Youth unable to keep chickens at home were able to participate through Cooperative Coops at County Extension Offices. Photo credit: Heather Kent

Youth unable to keep chickens at home were able to participate through Cooperative Coops at County Extension Offices. Photo credit: Heather Kent

On Saturday, October 29th, 4-H’ers from across the panhandle suited up in their 4-H Show gear, loaded up their chickens and ventured off to the inaugural Florida 4-H Chick Chain hosted at the Walton County Fairgrounds. This project was piloted last year with Alabama 4-H and is now an annual small animal science project offered here in the panhandle.

The objectives of the project are to help youth learn poultry nutrition and care, to develop communication skills, to develop basic record keeping skills, and to develop responsibility.  Over 80 youth participated and have been raising their pullets since May.  Over the summer, they participated in webinars and workshops to help prepare them for the show and complete their record books.  Some youth participated individually, some youth shared pullets with their siblings (making it a family project).  Youth not able to have chickens at their home were able to participate through a Cooperative Coop.  Cooperative coops are housed at the Extension Office and youth have the opportunity to sign up for shifts to help “rule the roost” by feeding and watering the chicks, monitoring their health, changing bedding, and cleaning the coop.

Youth were judged on poise, confidence and how they handled their birds.

Youth were judged on poise, confidence and how they handled their birds. Photo credit: Heather Kent

On Show and Auction day, youth experienced many opportunities to showcase their “egg-celent” skills they learned through the Florida 4-H Chick Chain project. First, youth were required to check-in their birds at registration with the Agriculture Inspector. This was the final step in determining if the youth had followed all the proper bio-security measures to keep their chickens happy, healthy and disease free. Next, youth participated in a skill-a-thon to demonstrate what they have learned about breed identification, poultry anatomy, and how to set up a brooder properly. During the show, youth demonstrated their knowledge and communication skills with confidence.  Youth were judged on how prepared they were to answer questions about their project and how well they handled their birds.

Youth kept records of their project and books were judged and displayed during the show.

Youth kept records of their project and books were judged and displayed during the show.

Do you have a passion for poultry?  If so, consider sharing it with 4-H as a volunteer.  4-H needs volunteers to help teach life skills through projects like this by sparking a lifelong interest in learning,  Contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit

Helpful Resources:

Junior Showmanship 1st Jena Putnam
2nd Sheldon Sparks
3rd Jake Rinehart
4th Cass Dillard
5th Ashlynn Peebles
Intermediate Showmanship 1st Katie Ballard
2nd Adrienne Murray
3rd Lily Smith
4th Isaac Hosford
5th Kailey Pettis
Senior Showmanship 1st Mary Ballard
2nd Klarissa Williamson
3rd Ashlynn McDevitt
4th Myra Miles
5th Jayla Kindlespire
County Best of Show Grand & Reserve HOLMES G – Joshua Ernst
R – Emily Ernst
JACKSON G – Nathan Ziglar
R – Beau Miles
JEFFERSON G – Jake Rinehart
R – Ashlynn Peebles
LIBERTY G – Isaac Hosford
R – Millie Revell
OKALOOSA G – Lily Smith
R – Kaelen Chenard
SANTA ROSA G – Cayden Smith
R – Cat Proud
WAKULLA G – Adrienne Murray
WALTON G – Krista Laviolette
R – Leannah McDevitt
WASHINGTON G – Cole & Cass Dillard
R – Lillian, Sheldon Sparks & Natalie Taylor
Breed Best of Show Grand & Reserve BRAHMA G – Lily Smith
R – Cole & Cass Dillard
DOMINIQUE G – Jake Rinehart
R – Krista & Julie Laviolette
LEGHORN G – Beau Miles
R – Mary Ballard
POLISH G – Lillian & Sheldon Sparks, Natalie Taylor
R – Nathan Ziglar
R – Jenna Putnam
WYANDOTTE G – Jayla Kindlespire
R – Kaelen Chenard
Overall Grand & Reserve (New) G – Lily Smith
R – Beau Miles
Overall Grand & Reserve (Returning) G – Emily Ernst
R – Myra Miles

Teaching Youth Citizenship this Election Season

4-H youth practices parliamentary procedure for club meetings.  Photo Credit: UF IFAS Bay County Extension

4-H youth practices parliamentary procedure for club meetings. Photo Credit: UF IFAS Bay County Extension.

No matter what your political beliefs, there’s one thing we can all agree on: We have been inundated with election coverage. In November 2016, a new president will be elected to serve a four-year term, so now is an ideal time to start teaching kids about the presidential election process. Even though they may not be quite old enough to vote, kids can still benefit from learning about elections and how they can take part in the political process. Chances are that your child has noticed campaign signs, television commercials, news coverage, T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons and conversations about the election. You may even hear them reciting what you say about each candidate.

Florida 4-H has a wonderful project that can help youth understand their government. It is Exploring Citizenship – My Government Unit 6. The My Government‖ project helps youth learn about our democratic form of government and understand the importance of citizen involvement in the government. It will also help youth find ways to get involved in government. 4-H Club officers are the beginning of the process learning basic parliamentary procedure. Another wonderful opportunity is the 4-H Day at the Capitol Program that provides youth with an opportunity to learn more about their state government and experience the political process first hand.  During the day, participants will hear from public officials, participate in educational workshops, and see their congressmen in action.
4-H also has an outstanding teen program, 4-H Legislature, in Tallahassee annually. Senior 4-H’ers, ages 13 to 18, develop their skills to debate, analyze legislation and speak publicly, all while making new friends. At this civic educational event, youth can sponsor a bill, amend, or lobby it, then debate the issues on the Capitol House and Senate floors. The 4-H Legislature Program enables youth to understand the basic principles of democracy.

Democratic government requires citizen participation. Each citizen has a responsibility to stay informed on public issues, to express an opinion on these issues, and to make sure that government stays sensitive to the desires of the people. In the United States, only a small group fulfills this responsibility. To most people, voting is the extent of their participating. After election time they wait until the next election to become active again. Many citizens never become active even to register or vote.

Don’t be a “let someone else do it” citizen. Get involved! Make sure your democratic government represents you and other citizens and make sure your child understands what it means to be a citizen of the United States. For more information visit our website . 4-H is one of the nation’s most diverse organizations and includes people from all economic, racial, social, political, and geographic categories. There are no barriers to participation by any young person. Participants are given the opportunity to engage in activities that hold their personal interest. If you wish to volunteer or for more program information contact your local Extension office.