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Three Family-Friendly Activities to Prepare for Hurricane Season

Hurricane Michael was the first ever Category 5 hurricane on record to impact the Florida Panhandle.

Are you ready?  The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season began June 1. The official hurricane weather season continues until November 30, 2019. For Florida residents, it is never too early and not too late to prepare for this year’s hurricane season.  NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released a forecast prediction reporting a 40% chance of a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season and a 30% chance “above normal” indicating a range of 4-8 hurricanes, including 2-4 hurricanes of category 3 or higher.  With this information provided as a means to increase disaster preparedness awareness, it is imperative that our families take action now to minimize the anxiety, stress, and hardships that occur when a disaster strikes. The following information details three family-friendly disaster preparedness activities to complete during the month of June to be hurricane ready for the 2019 season followed by useful informational links.

 

Build a Disaster Preparedness Bucket

complete disaster bucket

The contents of a disaster bucket assembled by Wakulla County Emergency Management Director Jennifer Nagy.

One annual activity that families can do together is “build a disaster preparedness bucket.”  Families may prepare large plastic storage containers with lids for hurricane snacks and other necessary items. In a storm situation where conditions may require you to move to safety, preparing a 5 gallon bucket with a lid full of recommended essential items will provide a portable, easy-to-store alternative that the whole family can use. Buckets may be purchased at local hardware or home improvement stores. In your area, organizations like your local city or county emergency management department or the Red Cross may offer a bucket giveaway program with pre-stocked disaster preparedness kits.


Talk About Your Communications Plan

As a family, decide who will be the point of contact for all members to contact in case of emergency.  This activity is an excellent way to engage your child in critical thinking and problem solving. The person or people should be located outside the impacted area – a grandparent or other relative or family friend in another state would be one possibility. Provide each family member with a laminated contact list – with emails, phone numbers, and addresses – that can be kept in disaster preparedness kits, saved in phones, or stored in wallets and backpacks.  Local business supply stores, mail or copy centers in your area may offer laminating services to make waterproof contact lists for safe storage and easy reference.


Have a “Meals To Ready” Taste Test Dinner

After a disaster, your family may be without power for several days or longer. To enjoy safe, hot meals, one option is “meals ready to eat” also known as MREs.  MREs are a complete, filling & nutritious way to feed your family. MREs can be purchased online or in the camping section of stores like Bass Pro or Wal-Mart. These meals have a long shelf life and can be stored for months until needed. Some MREs include built-in heaters while others require boiling water to prepare. Camping MREs tend to be an entrée only. Military style MREs will have most, if not all, of the following components: entrée, side dish, bread, spread, dessert, cold drink mix, instant coffee, spoon, condiments, napkin, moist towelette, and a flameless ration heater.

Completing an MRE taste test as a family planning activity will help you determine which products your children will eat when the time comes to use the MREs. The taste test can be fun for the whole family – have everyone taste and then rate each meal or meal component on a scale of 1 to 5 – with 5 being the best possible in flavor and food quality. When you get ready to purchase a supply of MREs, you will know whether your family is going to prefer lasagna to white chicken chili and can shop with confidence!

For more information about hurricane season preparation or 4-H programs in your county, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.


Resources 

Greg James Grows Community Pride by Volunteering

People choose to volunteer for a multitude of reasons.  In the case of Wakulla County 4-H volunteer Greg James,  there seem to be few reasons why he wouldn’t want to volunteer to meet a need in his community – especially if it helps youth.

Why Greg Volunteers

“Volunteering in my community is very important to me. I believe serving your community in some fashion helps create a sense of pride, belonging and ownership. I think it’s important to provide our children a positive environment in which to grow. Volunteering for 4-H allows me to foster that environment.”

Man and girl on the set of a TV show to promote a 4-H event.

Greg James joined a 4-H Club member to promote an upcoming community event.

Thirty Years of Investment 

While Greg (and his wife of close to 30 years, Karen) live in Sopchoppy, there are few areas of the county where Greg’s volunteerism has not had an impact.  While Greg and Karen’s children have grown up and left the county to pursue college and careers, involvement with area youth has remained a constant in his life since moving to the county in 1995.

In his professional life, Greg wears two hats – he serves as the Wakulla County Finance Director and the Deputy Clerk of Court.  Some community members may know him best as the minister of the Sopchoppy Church of Christ.

On almost any given day, Greg can found serving his community – as a volunteer cross country coach, stirring a pot at a Low Country Boil charity event, cleaning up the coastline or lending time to a local civic committee.  For the last two years, Greg has served in a leadership role with the Wakulla County 4-H and Extension Advisory Councils, and he started a 4-H Finance Club last summer to help local teens learn financial management skills.

Hands On Leadership 

Youth showing a chicken to a man.

Greg observes a 4-H Poultry Club member demonstrate chicken handling at a community event.

In service to 4-H, Greg give his financial expertise and his hands – figuratively and literally. To celebrate the success of the 4-H Chicken Champs Club, he made people-sized chicken figures that have become a popular photo opportunity at 4-H events. His most recent undertaking is still in progress – refurbishing old metal bleachers by hand for the 4-H Archery Club range.

Sali Polotov, a Future Leaders Exchange Program student from Tajikistan, is a member of the 4-H Finance Club and shared his thoughts on learning with Greg as club leader.  “He is a great leader and speaker. Every time I go to Finance Club, I explore something new. He explains difficult things so easily. Also, he has a great collection of foreign coins!

Greg wasn’t introduced to 4-H until his own children were growing up and completed swine projects.  “Now that I know all of the great programs 4-H offers, I wish I had been more involved.”

As a volunteer leader, Greg also works to recruit more volunteers to help grow 4-H programs. His advice to anyone who thinks they might want to volunteer is simple – “Don’t wait!”

Make a Difference with 4-H – Volunteer

Greg said, “I would ask that (people) stop thinking about it and just do it!  Our 4-H program depends heavily on volunteers, and what we are able to accomplish is only limited by the number and caliber of our volunteers. Please volunteer and make a positive impact on your community and our kids!”

For more information on how to become a 4-H volunteer in your community, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.  To see how 4-H is positively impacting the lives of Panhandle youth, follow us on Facebook.

awards event

Greg James prepares to swear in new 4-H Association leaders for 2019.

Additional Resources:

Hosting Exchange Students with the 4-H Academic Year Program

The 4-H Exchange Experience in the NW District 

Two exchange students pose for a picture.

Sali and Gregor received a brief orientation to  4-H and life in the United States soon after their arrival.

Wakulla 4-H welcomed two international students via the Future Leaders Exchange Program at the beginning of September. The students, who are living with volunteer host families this school year, have become active 4-H members during their stay.   Sali Polotov is from Tajikistan and is interested in studying geological science. Gregor Johanson is from Estonia and is interested in the performing arts.  Both students attend 11th grade at Wakulla High School.

Eye Opening Experiences 

Since their arrival, they have been part of the 4-H District III Council and attended Leadership Adventure Week where Gregor led a workshop on trust and communication.

During a recent interview with the 4-H Academic Year Program (AYP) FLEX students, Sali and Gregor reflected on their experiences at the midpoint of their year. Gregor shared it had always been a dream to study overseas. He saw an Instagram advertisement and decided to apply. He did not know about 4-H and learned about it after being accepted to the Academic Year Program. Since coming to the United States, he said has experienced some surprises.  He was surprised by the American “addiction to fast and unhealthy food”  and he has observed “that it seems to be more prevalent in rural areas.”

“There have been a lot of things that have surprised me, good things and bad things. Some of the good things include much friendlier and welcoming customer service, as well as a wider range of options for everything everywhere.”
– Gregor Johanson

Sali shared that he was motivated to come to the United States because he wanted to see the reality versus what was depicted in movies he had seen in Tajikistan. While Sali said that he knew nothing about 4-H before coming to Florida, he has enjoyed the opportunities to participate in 4-H clubs, special events and volunteer work.

People gather in front of hurricane relief supplies they collected.

Sali Polotov joined other Wakulla 4-H members to deliver relief supplies to the NFREC office after Hurricane Michael.

One thing that surprised Sali about American life was how “American people love holidays.  They do all of their best to spend an unforgettable moment.”  Sali shared he has especially enjoyed his experiences volunteering in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael, snorkeling with manatees and celebrating Christmas with his host family.

Both young men are looking forward to an upcoming trip to Disney World and having more adventures with 4-H before their year in the United States concludes.

The Future Leaders Exchange Program (FLEX)

Since 1993, the FLEX Program has provided scholarships for high school students from Europe and Eurasia to spend an academic year in the United States while living with a family and attending an American high school. Florida 4-H partners with the FLEX program through the States’ 4-H International Exchange Programs. Students have opportunities to engage in both short-term summer programs and academic year exchange experiences. Nearly 60,000 youth and families have been positively impacted by international exchange through States’ 4-H programs since 1997.

The FLEX program is a competitive, merit-based scholarship program funded by the U.S. Department of State. Students gain leadership skills, learn about American society and values, and teach Americans about FLEX countries and cultures. The primary goal of the FLEX program is to improve mutual understanding and develop and strengthen long-term relationships between citizens of the United States and other peoples and countries. There are currently 17 countries that participate in the FLEX program:  Armenia, Azerbaijan, Estonia, Georgia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Moldova, Mongolia, Montenegro, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Ukraine.  Not all 4-H AYP students come to Florida through the FLEX program and students may come from other partner countries.

How to Get Involved with the 4-H AYP Program:

Families can become qualified to host an international student for the 10 month Academic Year Program by applying at https://states4hexchange.org. For more information, contact Georgene Bender, Florida 4-H AYP Coordinator, UF/IFAS Extension Faculty Emeritus – gmbender@ufl.edu.

For more information about this program or other 4-H programs in your county, contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office.

Additional Resources:

Pin a Holiday Memory with Homemade Magnets

Magnet craft holding a photo on a refrigerator.

Here’s an example of a decorated clothespin magnet holding a photo.

Slow Down to Savor the Season

The weeks leading up to the gift-giving holiday season can be hectic and stressful. Full social schedules and crowded stores can make Christmas seem like an expensive chore. One way to restore some of the joy of the season and regain some valuable family time is to make thoughtful giftsathome.

Craft a Gift That Everyone Can Use

Every year, the postal service brings glossy family photo cards to my home from friends near and far. Our family likes to make them part of the festive décor for the holiday season by displaying them with homemade  r refrigerator magnets. This magnet craft is one you can make with your entire family or at a 4-H Club meeting and give them as gifts.

 

foam cut out and scissors for a craft activity

Foam board cut outs can be glued to the clothespin to make fun magnets to give as gifts.

Basic Items to Get Started

Square wooden clothespins
Glue
Scissors
Adhesive magnet strips
Craft foam sheets
Markers
Glitter
Ribbon

 

We have decorative magnets and like to rotate them with the season.  Decorative details are limited only by your imagination and the weight that the magnets will support. Trial and error with magnet strength is recommended and is a great way to spark a STEM discussion while creating art together!

Follow these simple instructions: 

  1. Measure the magnet strip to cover the “back” of the clothespin.
  2. Cut to length.  (Adults may need to help younger kids with this.)
  3. Attach the magnet strip to the “back” of the clothespin.
  4. Add decorations or art work like foam cutouts to the “front” of the clothespin.

Gift Ideas 

  • Packaging the magnetic clothespins with a family photo or a child’s artwork.
  • Using a decorated clothespin magnet to hold a gift tag and include with a larger wrapped gift.
  • Giving cookies or other baked treats? Clothespin magnets make great recipe holders!

4-H is a great place for your child to express their creativity.  For information about 4-H in your county, please click here.

Additional Ideas & Resources for Clothespin Magnets

DIY Clothespin Magnets!

https://www.diynetwork.com/how-to/make-and-decorate/crafts/how-to-make-refrigerator-magnets-from-clothespins

Teachers Gifts: DIY Magnetic Clothespins

Hitting the Mark – 4-H Shooting Sports Volunteers Ready to Lead!

4-H Volunteers learn and practice the pre-shot routine so they can teach it to their youth.

4-H Volunteers learn and practice the archery pre-shot routine so they can teach it to their youth. Photo: Julie P. Dillard

Ready to Lead

Sixteen 4-H volunteers joined ranks with one of Florida 4-H’s largest projects by earning their Level One Shooting Sports Instructor certification September 8.  Training participants included 4-H volunteers and UF/IFAS Extension staff from Escambia, Holmes, Jefferson, Marion, Wakulla, Walton, Union and Alachua counties.  What sets 4-H instructor training apart from other shooting sports trainings is the focus on youth life skills and positive youth development as opposed to focusing only on skill mastery.

About Florida 4-H Shooting Sports 

The 4-H Shooting Sports Program teaches young people safe and responsible use of firearms, principles of archery and hunting basics.  Lifelong skill development is one of the main benefits of involvement in the 4-H Shooting Sports Program and applies to both youth and adults involved in the program.  Specifically, the 4-H Shooting Sports Program is designed to:

  • Provide youth proper training in the use of firearms, archery equipment, and other areas of shooting sports.
  • Provide thorough instruction in shooting sports safety.
  • Develop life skills such as self-confidence, personal discipline, responsibility, and sportsmanship
  • Create an appreciation and understanding of natural resources and their wise use.
  • Provide volunteer instructors safe and proper instructional techniques.
  • Show volunteer leaders how to plan and manage 4-H Shooting Sports Clubs.  (Culen et al, 2018).

Resources for Success

Establishing eye dominance is one of the first tasks of new member.

Establishing eye dominance is one of the first tasks of new member. Photo: Julie P. Dillard

It’s important to equip agents, volunteers and youth with the tools they need to succeed in the Florida 4-H Shooting .  To assist you in organizing the county shooting sports program, here are some resources from the 4-H State Shooting Sports Committee and Environmental Sciences Action Team:

State Match Information, Rules and Risk Management

Youth Project Books

Getting Organized

To learn more about your county shooting sports program, contact your local 4-H agent.

Wakulla 4-H Shooting Sports Club Leader, David Pienta, takes aim during shotgun instruction.  Volunteers practice peer teaching to get ready to teach 4-H youth.