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Volunteer Spotlight: Sheeja George & Missy Briggs

Volunteer Spotlight: Sheeja George & Missy Briggs

Youth sitting at desk

Missy Briggs, volunteer, helps lead a discussion during Leadership Club

At the beginning of the 4-H year, the Leon County Leadership Club was in need of two new club leaders. Sheeja George and Missy Briggs both stepped up to fulfill the role of club leaders and Leon County 4-H is lucky to have them! Sheeja is an Agricultural Scientist at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy. Missy is a Senior Performance Consultant with Capital City Bank in Tallahassee. They both have exceeded expectations and are everything you’d hope for in a 4-H Volunteer. You would never guess this is their first year leading a club!

When asked why she chose to volunteer with 4-H Sheeja expressed, “I feel strongly about using my time and any talent or resources that I have for things beyond self and family. Over the years this is a commitment we have shared as a family. That’s what keeps me motivated to volunteer in general.”  Missy shared, “I enjoy volunteering with the 4-H Leadership Club because I am encouraged by the drive, teamwork, empathy, and respect the youth show for themselves, for each other, their community, and their world.”

Three adults standing shoulder to shoulder

Volunteer, Sheeja, stands with Allison, 4-H Agent, and Bobby, guest

Leadership Club took on a major project this year with the guidance of Sheeja and Missy. This project was the Leon County 4-H Olympics. At the first club meeting, the members decided they wanted to host a brand-new event called the 4-H Olympics. Sheeja and Missy embraced the idea and successfully guided the members through the planning process. Each member had a specific role and all major decisions were the result of a group vote. During the “411 Teen Talk” radio show on WFSU, club member Stephen Hayes stated the most important thing he has learned from Leadership Club this year is how to work with people who have different ideas. Sheeja and Missy made sure that each club member had a voice in the planning process and during the day of the event. In an effort to raise money for the 4-H Olympics, Sheeja spent an entire Saturday with a few club members hosting a bake sale at the Leon County 4-H/Tropicana Speech Contest. The two club leaders were able to secure a guest motivational speaker during the event, which made the day even more special.

Youth in group for photo

Club members after the 4-H Olympics

The first Leon County 4-H Olympics was a success and that could not have been accomplished without the two wonderful volunteer club leaders, Sheeja and Missy. They exemplify what it means to be a 4-H volunteer by growing true leaders in their community. Sheeja expressed “I thought the 4-H club would be a great avenue to work with youth and impact their lives in whatever little way I can in areas of life that will be important to them as they become young adults. This includes leadership, public speaking, being collaborative and team-players.”
Leon County 4-H is looking forward to see where Sheeja and Missy take Leadership Club next year!

To all of the volunteers in the district, thank you for all you do.  Learn more about volunteering with Florida 4-H or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension to learn about 4-H in your county.

Service Learning Versus Community Service

Service Learning Versus Community Service

Valentines Day Cards scattered on a table

Valentines Day Cards for the Tallahassee Senior Center

From participating in a park clean up to sewing dog beds for the local animal shelter, many 4-H members are actively involved in community service projects as part of their 4-H club experience. 4-H members pledge their hands to larger service, making community service an important part of club membership. 4-H has historically given back to the community by encouraging young people and adults to volunteer. Giving back to the community allows members to learn the value of helping others, develop leadership and communication skills, feel empowered, grow their decision-making skills, and much more.

But, are these members involved in service-learning? What is the difference between a community service project and service-learning? How can you turn a club community service project into service-learning?

 

 

A group of teens pose for a picture behind food collected to be donated

Leon Camp Counselors collected over 1,300 lbs of produce.

COMMUNITY SERVICE

Community service is work done by an individual or group that benefits others. This work is typically done in your own community, to directly benefit the members in your community. Examples of this type of service are conducting food drives, planting a community garden, creating holiday cards for nursing home residents, or helping serve meals at a shelter.

 

 

 

Leon teens took a break from gleaning to pose for a picture.

SERVICE-LEARNING

Compared to community service projects, service-learning is a method of teaching youth that fosters a deeper connection to the project. Service-learning merges a meaningful community service project with purposeful learning and reflection. Here’s an example: if youth serve lunch to veterans, they are providing a service to the community and that is considered a community service project. For that same project to become a service-learning project, additional learning and reflection opportunities are included. Youth would be involved in the planning process and would work together to select the service-learning project based on the needs of a community. Before serving lunch to the veterans, youth could learn about the challenges and issues facing veterans in the community from a guest speaker or they could conduct research independently to present at a club meeting. After the project, youth reflect on the experience of serving lunch to the veterans and share any feedback or results with the community.

Successful Service-Learning Projects Include Four Steps:
Step 1: Assess

Club members work together to identify and assess needs in their community. Youth can have a brainstorming session or take a club field trip to assess needs in-person. After identifying multiple needs, club members will take a vote on the best option for their service-learning project.

Step 2: Plan

This step will take the most time. It is important to schedule the appropriate amount of time to plan the project. This can occur during a club meeting for small projects or over the course of multiple meetings for larger projects. Use the information gathered during step 1 to develop a plan, timeline, list of supplies and roles and responsibilities for each team member. It is a good idea to identify potential problems that might occur. Safety and risk management procedures will need to be addressed during this step. Club volunteers can guide this youth-led process, but it is important to let club members take the lead in planning.

Step 3: Conduct Service Project

Time to complete your service project! The day of service is rewarding and exciting. Make sure you have the supplies needed and roles are assigned appropriately.

Step 4: Reflection

During and after the service project, it is important to pose reflection questions to the group and individuals. This allows youth to think about their project and draw a connection to the bigger picture. Why is the service being completed important? What have you learned from it? Has it taught you a new skill or changed your mindset about something? Most importantly, now that you have learned from the project, what are you going to with your new knowledge? Reflection can be through group discussion, journal writing, photographs, or multimedia presentations.

For more information on service-learning projects or other 4-H programs that build essential life skills in youth, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.

4-H Day at the North Florida Fair

4-H Day at the North Florida Fair

4-H Day at the North Florida Fair, held on Saturday, November 17, 2019, was another successful day for our local youth. This event connected 4-H members and their families with each other from over ten counties. During this day, 4-H friends and family attended the fair in droves to compete in contests, enjoy fair rides, and sample their favorite fair food items. 4-Hers are recognized at a 4-H Awards Ceremony and then find themselves off to a fun-filled day of thrilling rides, laughter, and friendships in a sea of 4-H green!  4-H member, Gabby Graff, expressed her favorite fair rides this year as “zero gravity, the claw, and ring-of-fire.”

4-H members had the opportunity to compete in five different contests this year: STEM Challenge, Consumer Choice, Agriculture Judging, Horticulture Identification, and Wildlife Ecology. Members put their life skills developed through 4-H to work by displaying critical thinking, teamwork, and problem solving during these contests. 4-H member, Miles Gillespie shared that “preparing for the fair and memorizing information for the contests, I learned about patience and discipline. While at the fair competing, I learned more about patience, plus it was an exercise in keeping my composure under pressure.”

Did you miss this year’s 4-H Day at the North Florida Fair?  Catch up on all things 4-H related at the fair below, along with the individual winners for each contest.


STEM CHALLENGE

Youth are building a structure with craft supplies.

Leon County 4-H Members work together to build their structure in the STEM Challenge
Photo by: Allison Leo

The topic of the STEM Challenge Contest this year was building hurricane safe structures. All youth competing in this contest were placed on a team based on their age division. A limited amount of materials were provided which included items such as straws, tape, paper, and popsicle sticks. The structures were awarded points based on their height and ability to withstand hurricane wind speeds generated by a fan. “The STEM Challenge was fun because I was able to work together with friends while I participated in an engaging and challenging activity” 4-H member Miles shared.

Junior Team:
1st place – Genevieve Gillespie and Caleb Roberts (Leon)
2nd place – Brook Barrios, Craig Barrios, Eliza Prince (Holmes)
3rd place – Ava Peck, Emily Flowers, Travis Archibald, Hunger Hulbert (Gulf)

Intermediate Team:
1st place – Pedro Teck, Alexis Cooper, Landon Cameron (Holmes)
2nd place – Corbin Roberts, Ander Gillespie, Miles Gillespie (Leon)
3rd place – Lydia Bowman, Cat Proud, Kaylee Dunlap, Alan Bray Crews (Escambia)

Senior Team:
1st place – Katherine Ballard, Rashidi Joseph, Robert Burnham (Escambia)
2nd place – Isabella Teck, Seth Smith, Hunter Hoskias (Holmes)
3rd place – Ethan Roberts, Sophia Laver (Leon)


CONSUMER CHOICE CONTEST

Group of girls are working on a project together.

Leon County 4-H members receive instruction on the Consumer Choice Contest
Photo by: Allison Leo

The Consumer Choice Contest measured the ability of youth to be smart shoppers. The item categories this year were event venues, tents, jeans, and breakfast cereal. 4-H members had the opportunity to compete in this contest as an individual or on a team. Each individual or team was provided with a “situation card.” Based on the criteria provided in the card, members were asked to review four different choices of each item and rank them from best to worst, based on the criteria. After they were finished ranking, they had to justify their selection through an “oral reasoning” section.

Junior Individual:
1st place – Tessia Brookins (Jefferson)
2nd place – Chloe Bray-Crews (Escambia)
3rd place – Patrick Parrish (Jefferson)

Intermediate Individual:
1st place – Abigail Bray-Crews (Escambia)
2nd place – Taylor Anderson (Escambia)
3rd place – Samantha Hall (Jefferson)

Senior Individual:
1st place – Izzy Kent & Alyssa Gray (Escambia)
2nd place – Ryan Young (Escambia)
3rd place – Sydney Henderson (Gilchrist)


AGRICULTURE JUDGING CONTEST

Youth in fair ring with cow for judging purposes.

4-H members participate in Agriculture Judging
Photo by: Allison Leo

During the Agriculture Judging Contest, individuals and teams were tested on their knowledge of beef, poultry, hay, corn, soybean, and oats. Youth competed both as individuals and on teams with their age division. Agriculture judging consists of analyzing a product (i.e. cattle, soybeans) and measuring it against a standard. Members were asked to analyze four different choices of each item and rank them from best to worst based on the standards.

Junior Individual:
1st place – Emalee Souders
2nd place – Hunt Williams
3rd place – Dullus Deadwyler

Intermediate Individual:
1st place – Peyton Ditter
2nd place – Liz Newman & Dylan Gunn
3rd place – Caylee Crooks

Senior Individual:
1st place – Kayla Daimler
2nd place – Adli June Elliot
3rd place – Stephanie Hasty


HORTICULTURE IDENTIFICATION CONTEST

Youth judge plants and record answers on clipboards

4-H Members, Ethan Roberts and Sophia Laver record their answers during Horticulture Identification
Photo by: Allison Leo

Members were provided with over 60 horticulture specimens to identify. The specimens were divided into four separate categories. Those categories were ornamentals, fruits & vegetables, flowers, and foliage. The specimens were laid out on tables, each bearing a number that corresponded to a scoresheet that listed over 100 plant names. This contest replicates the state contest held each year in June.

Junior Individual:
1st place: Ethan Thornbury (Leon)
2nd place: Genevieve Gillespie (Leon)
3rd place: Chloe Bray-crews (Escambia)

Intermediate Individual:
1st place: Miles Gillespie (Leon)
2nd place: Taylor Anderson (Escambia)
3rd place: Alexis Green (Wakulla)

Senior Individual:
1st place: Isaac Brooks (Washington)
2nd place: Katie Ballard (Escambia)
3rd place: Sophia Laver (Leon)


WILDLIFE ECOLOGY CONTEST

Youth is looking at wildlife species on table.

4-H Member Gabby Graff competes in the Wildlife Ecology Contest
Photo by: Allison Leo

During the Wildlife Ecology Contest, members were tested on their knowledge of Florida trees, mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They identified the various items through pictures, physical specimens, and audio sounds. 4-H Member, Sophia Laver, shared that the Wildlife Life Contest is her favorite because “being able to look at a leaf and identify it immediately is the coolest thing. I love the challenge of it and being able to say that I can do these amazing things that no one else is really taught. All the competitors are really supportive of each other.”

Junior Individual:
1st place: Gabby Graff (Leon)
2nd place: Genevieve Gillespie (Leon)
3rd place: Felix Konikoff (Leon)

Intermediate Individual:
1st place: Ander Gillespie & Miles Gillespie (Leon)
2nd place: Adeline Smith (Leon)
3rd place: Sasha Konikoff (Leon)

Senior Individual:
1st place: Sophia Laver (Leon)
2nd place: Katie Ballard (Escambia)
3rd place: Alyssa Gray (Escambia)

If you would like to learn more about 4-H activities and events like these educational competitions found at the North Florida Fair during 4-H Day at the Fair each year or how to become a 4-H member in your community, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org for more information.

Natasha Makes a Comeback: 4-H Alumni Spotlight

Natasha Makes a Comeback: 4-H Alumni Spotlight

Headshot of female, Natasha Roberts.

Natasha Roberts was a member of Leon County 4-H for over 10 years

Leon County 4-H was fortunate to have veteran 4-H member, Natasha Roberts, return this past summer to work as a University of Florida Intern. “I was a member of this program for much of my childhood, so it was exciting to be a part of it again, except as an intern this time!” said Natasha. She is currently attending the University of Florida, majoring in Agricultural Education and Communication.

Natasha remarked “because of my major, I got to apply a lot of what I’m learning in school during the internship. Becoming an Extension Agent is my dream career, so I’m very grateful for the opportunity I had to work with Extension over the summer and learn from the people who have been mentoring me my entire life”. Natasha’s assigned project for the internship was to develop educational teaching tools for 4-H members with the goal of increasing participation in the North Florida Fair Horticulture ID Contest. She did a phenomenal job and we could have not asked for a better intern!

 

Natasha was able to use the life skills she developed through her years in 4-H to successfully teach youth about horticulture. She developed a variety of study materials, including an electronic identification tool and an interactive bingo game. Natasha led educational workshops for 4-H members in Leon and Washington Counties with the materials she developed. In addition to the development of materials, Natasha created an entire program that can be implemented by Extension Agents and Program Assistants now that her internship is complete.

 

Picture of classroom with projection screen

Natasha teaches a workshop on Plant ID

Natasha put her 4-H leadership skills to work by helping lead multiple days camps and 4-H activities over the summer. She helped lead Plant Science Camp, Culinary Camp, and Mindfulness Camp. She worked with Extension Agents to develop activities for each of the camps. When I asked her what her favorite part about returning to Leon 4-H was she answered “My favorite part of coming back to Leon 4-H as an intern was getting to design educational materials that I had wanted to make while as a member, but simply hadn’t found the time to. It was wonderful to play a part in preparing kids for the competition I had looked forward to every year as a child. I particularly loved getting to play the plant ID bingo games with kids in our county and watching them get excited about horticulture”.

 

Natasha Roberts leads an activity during Plant Science Camp

During her time with 4-H as a youth, Natasha won the State Horticulture Contest and traveled to St. Louis Missouri where she placed 7th in the National Horticulture Contest. When a 4-H member from Wakulla County wanted help preparing for the State Horticulture Competition, Natasha was delighted to help her fellow 4-H member prepare. She dedicated an entire day to helping her peer prepare and they went on to compete at both the State the National Horticulture Contest!

Natasha attributes her experience in 4-H to inspiring her to become a future Extension Agent. She desires “to help provide the same opportunities to others that the 4-H program gave me.” Natasha attributes her passion for community service and leadership to her involvement with 4-H. We cannot wait to see what is next for veteran 4-H member, Natasha!

Inspired by Natasha?  Consider becoming a 4-H Volunteer today!  The process to become a volunteer is simple: visit http://florida4h.org to apply online or visit your local UF IFAS County Extension Office for assistance.

Teaching Mindfulness to Children

Mindfulness is the act of creating awareness of your surroundings, emotions, and physical self in the present moment. It helps you connect to the world around you, while providing cognitive, social, and emotional benefits. Practicing mindfulness is not just for adults. Children can reap a multitude of benefits from learning and practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness equips children with the ability to adjust and deal with conflict encountered in their daily lives. It can also help children foster an optimistic outlook in life, react to stress in a healthy way, and develop a positive self-concept.

The practice of mindfulness is foreign to many adults, making it tricky to teach young children. The best thing to do is keep the message simple and model the behaviors you are teaching. Being taught by an adult that models mindful behaviors daily will assist kids in mastering the techniques. Below are a few mindfulness activities you can do at home as a family or in a group learning environment, such as a 4-H club meeting.

Zen Garden

A zen garden is a miniature landscape made with items such as moss,

Zen garden created during Leon County 4-H Mindfulness Camp

rocks, and water features. Zen gardens are filled with sand and contain a small rake that you can use to create designs in the sand. The motion of raking the sand creates a sense of calmness. Zen gardens are often found on desks in the workplace because they are known for building focus and reducing stress. Building a zen garden is a fun and easy activity you can do with kids. Use a shoebox lid as the base and collect various stones and other items from outside to fill the box. Small rakes and sand can be purchased at a local craft store.

Mindful Safari

Taking a nature walk around your neighborhood or park is a simple way to exercise your mindfulness skills. Make it exciting by telling them you are going on a “mindfulness safari” and the goal is to see how many different birds, insects, and animals you can find on your journey. By searching for these items, you are fostering an awareness of the world around you. Similar to the mindful safari activity, you can take children on a “sound hunt.” This activity teaches kids to increase their awareness of the sounds in their environment. You can make the “sound hunt” more challenging by asking them to distinguish which sounds are close and which sounds are far.

Breathing

Breathing exercises are an important tool children can use to practice mindfulness. Learning how to control your breath and increase awareness of your breathing can help clear your mind in times of distress. You can practice breathing anywhere and no equipment is needed. Have kids sit on the floor or lie down. Instruct them to close their eye and take a huge breath in, filling up their lungs. Count to three and have them release. Breath activities can be completed sitting or lying down on your back. It is a good practice to have kids place their hands on their belly to feel the breath as it enters and leaves the body.

Mindful Eating

Mindful eating teaches children to understand when they are hungry and when they are full. It is important to eat without distractions, such as the television or your phone. Provide them with a variety of snack items. Ask them to look, listen, touch, smell, and taste the food in steps. They should pause after each step to reflect on what their senses are showing them about their food. First, look at what colors and shapes the item has. Next, listen to see if your food is making any sounds. Then, feel your food and describe the texture. Smell the item and define the scent. Finally, taste the food while paying attention to how the food feels and if the flavors change.

Yoga & Balancing

 

Practicing our “downward dog” pose during Leon County 4-H Mindfulness Camp.

Yoga is a great way to practice concentration, balance, and connection. Kids enjoy trying different yoga poses and stretches. A variety of free educational videos are available online that you can use to help guide you and your child through yoga sequences. Breathing techniques can be coupled with yoga and balancing. If kids do not have a yoga mat, a towel can be used. Practicing yoga shows kids that mindfulness does not always mean you are still or quiet.

Mindful Drawing

It is important to keep distractions to a minimum while drawing. This can be achieved by putting on relaxing music or simple sounds, such as rain falling or waves crashing. There are a variety of different drawing activities you can do with kids to practice mindfulness. If you have different sounds available, you can select a sound and instruct them to close their eyes and think of what that sound looks like to them. Then, have them open their eyes and draw what they heard. You can repeat this activity a few times with different sounds.

Body Appreciation

This activity works best in a group learning environment. Have kids break up into pairs and instruct them to take turns tracing each other on a large sheet of paper. Once everyone is finished, they will focus on their own bodies and write or draw what each body part does for them. For example, they can write “my head helps me think” or “my legs help me run.” Finally, they will write positive words on their body such as “I love to read.” This activity makes kids reflect on all the important ways their body helps them each day. It teaches them to appreciate and love their body.

Gratitude Journal

Gratitude Journals are a simple mindfulness activity kids can complete every day

When we feel and express gratitude to people in our lives, it creates loving connections, builds trust, and makes us feel joyful. Gratitude can be shown by giving someone a hug or telling them how much you appreciate them. Gratitude journals can easily be made at home or you can print off a pre-made template. This version is simple and is a great start for kids: https://researchparent.com/gratitude-journal-for-kids/

For more information on how your family can learn more healthy activities such as these mindful ones, find your local UF IFAS Extension Office and contact your 4-H Agent to explore what 4-H programs are offered in your area.