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Mother-Daughter Duo Making a Difference!

Volunteers across the panhandle make a difference in the lives of young people in their communities by simply sharing the things they love.

June Clemons and Peg Frith are a mother-daughter team who can do anything!  From time to time, they’ve volunteered for 4-H, but the first time I asked them to help me teach a small sewing project during a cooking day camp, I knew I’d struck gold.  Anyone can learn to sew but having the patience to teach it…that’s a whole other story.

It took me a couple of years to talk them into leading a sewing club, and honestly, I think they talked themselves into it.  The holdup wasn’t a lack of desire to help; it was hesitancy to commit to something but not being able to follow through.

In fact, Peg’s advice to anyone thinking about becoming a 4-H volunteer is:

“I’d tell them it can be hard to find the time to plan, organize, and implement meetings, but it’s very rewarding.  If you commit, see it through.  Don’t disappoint the children.”

June emphatically said, “Do it!”

So why do June and Peg commit their precious time to 4-H?  They first got involved because they had positive experiences as 4-H’ers and wanted to pass on the skills they learned.  But now, it’s the kids they work with that keep them coming back.  They both said that “teaching useful, lifelong skills to children and just enjoying being with them as they learn,” is their favorite part about volunteering with 4-H.

I asked June and Peg if they thought their 4-H work was making a difference.

June says, “All you have to do is see the joy in their faces upon completing a task to know how it affects the members.”

Peg added, “I get to see firsthand their sense of accomplishment.  And the fact that they keep coming back to class tells me that the club is making a difference in their lives.”

As further evidence that June and Peg are making a difference, club parents have shared their children not only come home from their sewing club meetings excited to show what they made that day, but they have also started stitching up seams in their clothes and stuffed animals.

As a 4-H agent, I can tell you that the independence and mastery displayed by these young club members is exactly what we’re looking for from our 4-H’ers, and good club leaders help them achieve it.

Are you wondering if you have what it takes to make a difference in the lives of young people in your community? 
You don’t have to be an expert.  You don’t have to have kids or grandkids of your own.  You don’t have to have been a former 4-H’er.  You just have to love something enough to want to share it with the next generation.  So what’s your passion?  Pass it on!

There are many ways to volunteer with 4-H, and we need you – from fair exhibit and public speaking judges, to club leaders, chaperones, camp nurses, and more.  To pass on your passion and help the youth in your area Grow in 4-H, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office to find the best volunteer role for you.

 

Wildflower Seed Bombs: For those who garden AND those who don’t!

Two youth make wildflower seed bombs.

Wildflower seed bombs are a great indoor or outdoor project with unlimited potential for learning.

Wildflower seed bombs are the perfect project for kids itching to get outside.  Even if you don’t have a green thumb or you don’t have outdoor space or the weather isn’t cooperating, you can make seed bombs that will help beautify roadsides, vacant areas and neighborhoods.

Give Them a Toss!

These little beauties don’t get their name from any explosive properties but from the fun you have “launching” them around your yard or neighborhood. As you toss them into places that  aren’t frequently mowed, you beautify your neighborhood and provide an invaluable food sources for native Florida pollinators like bees, wasps, butterflies, and more.

Even though you may be more fond of some pollinators than others, there’s no doubt we need them all. Their pollination services are critical to fruit development in many of our fruiting crops. So if you like squash, cucumbers, melons, almonds and so much more, here’s what you can do to help:

Gather Your Materials

  • Air-dry clay
  • Wildflower seeds
  • Potting Soil

Make Your Seed Bombs

  1. Pinch off a small amount of air-dry clay – enough to make a ball about the size of a bouncy ball or about 1″ diameter.
  2. Work equal parts seeds and soil into the clay and form it into a ball.
    Amounts really are up to you. More seeds = more flowers.
    But, too much soil will keep the ball from holding it’s shape. If this happens, add more clay and either have a bigger bomb, or divide it into two smaller bombs.
  3. Store them in a cool dry place and let them dry out completely in an air-tight container until you’re ready to spread some wildflower cheer.
  4. Now for the fun part!  Toss them where you want flowers to grow.

Things to Consider…

  • The air-dry clay acts as a binder only. It’s natural, non-toxic, and when wet, it will soften and allow the seeds to grow.
  • Before storing in an airtight container, allow your seed bombs out to dry completely.  Even a little moisture will allow the seeds to sprout.
  • Be careful when throwing your seed bombs.
    1. Don’t hit people, animals, or other anything else with them – just the ground.
    2. Throw them where areas don’t get mowed very much.  Some people throw them out along roadways or in abandoned lots. If these places are mowed regularly, they won’t last long if they even get to bloom.
    3. Get permission if you’re throwing them in public places.

Resources

Gardening is just one of the many Florida 4-H programs.  To see what programs are available in your county, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension office, or contact your 4-H Agent about starting a gardening program in your county.

Give More Than “Stuff”

Child and adult cooking

Cooking together makes memories that last longer than gifts.  Photo:  Monica Brinkley

This is one New Year’s resolution that I can get behind –
give less stuff and give more self.  We’ve just wrapped up December – a month of massive giving. We gave gifts, we made charitable monetary donations, and we’ve overdone “bake-and-take” as I call it. It takes a lot of expendable income to give so many things, but you can choose to manage your resources wisely throughout the year and give through acts of service instead.

I particularly love this idea with small children who may want to buy gifts for loved ones but who aren’t old enough to earn money yet, but it works great for kids of all ages.  Rather than doing coupon books for hugs and kisses (cute and welcome as those may be), I help them arrange to spend part of a day with a loved one instead.  They help with household chores, do some baking or cooking with them, tackle a difficult chore and so on. Not only are they helping with age appropriate tasks, but they’re getting to spend time together and make memories.

I pledge my hands to larger service

Encourage youth in your life to look around during the year and see who needs help and what they can do to help.  Instead of giving more stuff, give more self.

4-H teaches youth  life skills such as planning/organizing, wise use of resources, social skills, and character.  By encouraging 4-H youth to serve in any large or small way they can, we help them build these and other crucial life skills.  Find your local UF/IFAS Extension office to explore how 4-H teaches youth valuable life skills through its project areas..

Happy National Ice Cream Day!

You can see the skepticism on this young 4-H’ers face! Try this activity with your kids and see this same look change to amazement and laughter when ice cream really does come out!

That’s right! It’s National Ice Cream Day, and you know in 4-H we learn by doing.  So let’s beat the summer heat and make some ice cream!

Ingredients

1 c. half-and-half

2 tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3 c. ice

1/3 c. kosher salt

Toppings of your choice

Directions

1.     In a small Ziploc bag, combine half-and-half, sugar and vanilla. Push out excess air and seal.

2.     Into a larger Ziploc bag, combine ice and salt.

3.     Place small bag inside the bigger bag and shake vigorously, 7 to 10 minutes, until ice cream has hardened.

4.     Remove from bag and enjoy with your favorite ice cream toppings.

 

I know this activity doesn’t seem to fall under the heading of healthy lifestyles, but it does support our dairy industry- bonus! – and it’s riddled with science concepts. You can talk to your youth about salt being a catalyst, why we have to shake the bag for it to be creamy, or the awesome invention of ziploc bags and how people come up with ideas like that- aka the engineering design process.

 

But more than this, every time you do something new with your kids, not only are you making memories and strengthening relationships, you are building their confidence too. They are mastering new skills and becoming more independent. They become excited about sharing their new knowledge and experiences which improves their communications skills.  It’s a win-win-win!

So whether you’re home with your own kids, are helping with summer day camps, or are planning club kickoff meetings for the fall, try this easy activity with your 4-H members, and have fun. Because sometimes learning is fun!

Meet A Graduating Senior: Max Scott

Max (far left) along with other graduating seniors at camp last year. Congratulations to all of our grads in the district!!!!

It’s graduation season, and for many 4-H agents, this is a bittersweet time.  On the one hand we are seeing our senior 4-H’ers accomplish big goals and reach out to take hold of their dreams for the future.  On the other hand, it can feel like we’re losing them – or at least in their current roles – the best always seem to boomerang back.

One such 4-H’er that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and who will be missed terribly this summer is Max Scott.  He has developed all 4 H’s (head, heart, hands, and health), and even the sometimes joked about “5th H”…hustle.  But by far, Max will be known for putting his heart into everything he does.

Max is a student in Calhoun County.  He volunteers with 4-H every summer as a Camp Counselor at Camp Timpoochee, a five day residential camp in Niceville, FL.  When I asked Max to share is 4-H story, this is what he said:

“4-H has helped to teach and reinforce many positive qualities in my life such as honesty, hard work, and patience.

I first got involved with 4-H by winning the countywide 4-H Tropicana speech competition in fifth grade. One of the rewards for winning was a free trip to 4-H Camp Timpoochee. I soon learned that one of my best friends was planning on going to camp also, so I went, and there began my 4-H journey.

After several years of attending as a camper, I was finally able to go as a counselor.
The part I enjoy most about being a camp counselor is being given the honor of playing a positive role in a younger kid’s life.”

Max has indeed done just that.  He quickly became the most requested cabin counselor among my young 4-H boys, and just this week an excited camper came in my office to sign up for camp.  He shared with me that last year was his favorite year of camp yet.  I found that interesting since this camper has been for a number of years and it rained all day every day last summer, so I asked him why that was.  His reply? “Because Max was my counselor.  He’s the best.”  I couldn’t help but grin.

As I sat through a rather lengthy graduation ceremony last night for no other reason than to support this young man, I was reminded of just how much he has grown since I first met him as a cautious, shy, 11 year old boy.  Since then, he has been elected to several offices in school organizations, serves on the executive board of the local republican party, has paged at the capital in Tallahassee, earned the honor of being his class valedictorian, and was voted most likely to succeed by both his peers and faculty at his High School.

With his sights now set on law school and perhaps political aspirations, I know that Max is in for a bright and glorious future.  I’m so proud of him and all that he has accomplished.  Surely he will be missed this summer, but I know I will not be surprised to find another young Max in the crowd at camp this year, eager to find his footing and become just as great a counselor as Max was.

To leave you with a few words from the man of the hour, “If I could offer just one piece of advice to other students who are thinking about volunteering with 4-H it would be to just go for it. You don’t have to start out volunteering for a 5 day camp, you can start small by volunteering at a one day camp and if you like it then move on to the longer camps.”

As you can see, Max is always thinking of others and how they can leave a positive influence on the lives of others.

For more information on how you, like Max, can make a positive difference in the lives of youth in our community, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.