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Why Horses?

Why Horses?

Individuals gathered around horses at a show.

A 4-H family gathered together at a show.

Are you looking for another way that you can aid your child in becoming a healthy well-adjusted adult? You help can them by allowing them to enter a relationship with a horse. Most kids are naturally drawn to horses and may benefit greatly in what they can gain from them. Some life skills learned from caring for equine are character building, healthy living, leadership skills, and responsibility, just to name a few. Plus, if your child is out at the barn caring for their horse, they are less likely to be stuck on their phones on the couch. Therefore, their physical health will benefit from doing chores and riding as well. Horseback riding offers many aerobic-exercise benefits such as building muscles, boosting balance, and increasing coordination and flexibility. Lifting saddles, water buckets, and cleaning require physical movement as well as gives a sense of self accomplishment of “I can do this all by myself.” When youth are responsible for the care of a horse, it teaches them to put others needs above their own and they learn empathy.

Youth sitting on horse

Emily, 4-H member, sitting on her horse, Slyder.

Did you know 4-H has a horse program? The goal of the program is to teach and provide young people with an opportunity to participate in activities that foster the love for the animal and achieve their goals. The activities are designed to improve citizenship, sportsmanship, horsemanship, character, competitive spirit, and discipline while making youth aware of life around them. When thinking about the 4-H horse program, there is the potential for participation in horse judging, public speaking, demonstrations, hippology and quiz bowl. Participation in these activities can help a youth improve in many areas to gain a better education and they don’t have to necessarily have a horse. There is also horse showing for those who own a horse. Showing equine will connect youth from all over the world as horse family while teaching them to prepare, build the courage to compete, enjoy the rewards and deal with disappointments. Hopefully, the disappointments will drive them to succeed and work harder while furthering their leadership skills. Afterall, taking control of a thousand-pound animal to work through challenging tasks will require skills that promote a child’s self-competence.

If you are looking for something new to spark an interest in your child, consider the 4-H equine project.  Horses are fun, help teach great life skills, and kids adore them. They will keep youth positively engaged during their difficult years from pre-teen and into adulthood. If you are unsure of what your county has to offer in the way of equine 4-H programs, give your local UF IFAS County Extension Office a call and they will help you or connect you with someone in the field or visit http://florida4h.org.

*“Please note pictures were taken prior to our challenges with Covid-19 and we remind people to social distance and wear a mask for the personal safety of self and others.”

4-H Chick Chain: Ready for Your Next Challenge?

4-H Chick Chain: Ready for Your Next Challenge?

Each year in Northwest Florida, 4-H hosts a 4-H Chick Chain Project. During this project, youth select their birds, raise their birds, attend educational workshops, and show their birds at a final show. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic placing a new emphasis on fresh from the farm food products, the 4-H Chick Chain project is a great way to launch into raising chickens or to start a new project. This year, the project is going one step further than previous years by adding more opportunities for youth to share about their projects through a demonstration or illustrated talk and the chance to explore building a business through an entrepreneurship challenge.

 

Demonstrations and Illustrated Talks
4-H youth posing with her show bird at a show.

4-H youth, Tucker Padgett, posing with her show bird at a show.


Participants will have the chance to share a demonstration or illustrated talk focusing on their chicken related experiences at the 4-H Chick Chain Competition. The best part is that presentations made at the Chick Chain event can be perfected and carried on to other competitions such as County Events, District Events, and 4-H University. Through a demonstration, youth will show the judges how to do something, while with an illustrated talk, youth are explaining a situation or topic while using a visual aid such as a poster, PowerPoint, or physical object. The best part of this opportunity is that youth are encouraged to talk about their chickens and chicken experiences. After all, it is the 4-H Chick Chain Project.

 

Entrepreneurship Challenge

This new experience is designed to walk participants through the documentation and setup of a business plan focusing on chickens, over multiple years. Each year, participants focus on a different aspect of owning and operating a business. At the Chick Chain show, participants will present their plan to judges. For youth who are interested in the entrepreneurship challenge and more similar opportunities, youth are encouraged to check out the Florida 4-H Gator Pit which offers educational workshops and the chance to interact with entrepreneurs throughout Florida.

 

Try it Out

Chickens pecking at feed offered in a feed pan.

Chickens pecking at feed offered in a feed pan.


This project is open to Florida 4-H youth in Northwest Florida. Registration will be open October 1, 2020 through 4-HOnline with the show taking place on March 20, 2021. Interested in getting involved? Visit FL 4-H Chick Chain or ask your local UF IFAS County Extension Office where to get started. This project offers a chance for every level of youth to stretch their comfort level focusing on one of the best topics out there… Chickens!  So join us, learn something new, teach us something new, and make some awesome chicken loving friends.

 

Are You Ready For The Mars Base Camp Challenge?

Are You Ready For The Mars Base Camp Challenge?

Youth exploring 4-H STEM Challenge-Mars Base Camp Challenge

Are you ready for the Mars Base Camp Challenge?

The 4‑H STEM Challenge, formerly known as 4‑H National Youth Science Day (4‑H NYSD), is an event that we look forward to every year. In the past, this has been a single day event but now the 4-H STEM Challenge typically starts October 1 and continues throughout the month and beyond.  This event is designed to ignite a spark in youth so that they take a stronger interest in science, technology, engineering and math through hands-on learning.  For well over a decade, 4-H has developed creative STEM challenges to engage youth in the engineering design process and assist in the development of essential life skills such as critical thinking and problem solving through teamwork.

This year’s 4-H STEM Challenge, Mars Base Camp Challenge, was developed by Google and Virginia Cooperative Extension.  The 2020 4-H STEM Challenge is designed for youth to explore the topic of a mission to Mars. The challenge is appropriate for youth ages 8-14.

Mars Base Camp Challenge consists of four activities, each of which relates to at least one of 4-H’s core areas:  agriculture, STEM, healthy living and civic engagement.  The four activities can be facilitated separately, together or in any combination, making it flexible to incorporate into your schedule.  In addition, most of the activities do not need any form of technology, allowing for internet-free programming.

Up For The Challenge!

Feeling a little nervous about facilitating it in your club or classroom?  Don’t be!  You don’t need prior experience with STEM to bring Mars Base Camp to your 4-H program. All the activities have been designed to make it easy for everyone, including teen leaders to facilitate.  Facilitator guides and checklists are available now to assist in the teaching process.  And remember, since we use a guided approach, we give our youth direction and allow them to use their inquiry skills to find solutions through the experiential learning experience!

Mars Base Camp Challenge Resources

4-H has made the 2020 STEM Challenge accessible for everyone.  If you are unable to participate in the Mars Base Camp Challenge through a club or classroom this year, youth can also participate in the challenge by way of a family kit or online.  At this time, the National 4-H website is even offering $5 off each Mars Base Camp kit, thanks to the support of our 2020 national supporter, Toyota! For more information, visit https://4-h.org/parents/4-h-stem-challenge/#!2020-challenge

Online Activity: Youth can participate with INSIGHT FROM MARS, the online portion of the 2020 STEM Challenge.

Educator Kit: Includes materials for 12 youth to participate in the offline activities at the same time. Kits can be used in spaces where physical distancing can be followed.

Family-sized Kit: Includes materials for 1-4 youth to participate in the offline activities at the same time from inside the home.

We hope you enjoy your mission to Mars!  To learn more about additional STEM 4-H programs and events, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.

Wildlife Outdoor Leadership Focus (W.O.L.F.)

Wildlife Outdoor Leadership Focus (W.O.L.F.)

Environmental education can be a very broad topic. The study of how living organisms interact within their environment can be very complicated, especially when we factor in the human element. An Okaloosa County 4-H program Called Wildlife Outdoor Leadership Focus or (W.O.L.F.) was created to address the human dimension of natural resources. Basically, this is a youth conservation program dedicated to making participants aware of the importance of natural resources recreation and to apply the art and science of natural resource management. W.O.L.F. has three main objectives.

Objective 1 – Learn the Importance of Natural Resources

The W.O.L.F. program starts by explaining why these natural resources are important. For example, outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife viewing contribute over $25 BILLION to the state of Florida. People are very passionate about their outdoor activities. Florida hunters average nearly $3,000 per person on hunting expenditures per year! Our state has a vast stakeholder interest. Nearly 6 million people participate in wildlife/fisheries activities every year in Florida. The L in W.O.L.F. stands for leadership. Local, state, and federal leaders make important decisions every year regarding natural resource management. Teddy Roosevelt, our 26th President of the United States, established 230 million acres of public land for all to enjoy. Government still protects many of our natural resources today. Florida is home to 175 state parks.

Objective 2 – Apply Theory and Practice Conservation

W.O.L.F. participants receive hands on practice of being a conservationist. The program teaches 4-H members the science and art behind wildlife management. Florida 4-H has a virtual Wildlife Outdoor Leadership Focus (W.O.L.F.) Day Camp were youth can learn at their own pace. The camp has 5 sections: Woods and Fields, Freshwater, Saltwater, Survival, and Biologist life. Each day has videos and activities that offer a daily challenge. W.O.L.F. campers learn about wildlife/plant identification, and what specific wildlife species need to survive. Furthermore, we show youth how our actions, intentional or unintentional, affect the environment we live in. The virtual day camp also covers basic biology of mammals, birds, fish, and reptile. Participants are encouraged to go out with adult supervision and see what’s going on in the great outdoors.

The final activity is the wildlife challenge where campers must be a wildlife biologist for a day. 4-H members are given a scenario with three wildlife species that the landowner wants to manage on a piece of property. The camper must evaluate the property based on the requirements that the 3 wildlife species need in order to survive. The camper completes a wildlife management plan. They look at the best management practices given to them during the course and decide if the property is a habitat for the desired wildlife species. If it is not, they must offer a solution. For example, the landowner wishes to have more northern bobwhite quail on the property but the land is covered in mature hardwoods. The campers are expected to make a recommendation. They learned that quail need shrubs, native grasses, and forbs.

Objective 3 – Career Development and Multi-Science Approach

The W.O.L.F. program also sparks awareness about the professionals who work with our natural resources. Participants virtually meet biologists, wildlife officers, and other natural resource professionals. Each career video will explain how they help our environment. Campers will get to see what it would be like if they had their jobs.

Let 4-H introduce you or your youth to the Wildlife Outdoor Leadership Focus (W.O.L.F.) program. The program does not just stop with wildlife and fisheries science careers. The program explains many more sciences. 4-H members will learn about soil science, forestry, engineering, math, agriculture, and technology to name a few. The only thing your youth will need is a love for the outdoors. If you are interested in W.O.L.F. Camp, please reach out to your local UF/ IFAS County Extension 4-H Agent. The W.O.L.F. program will also be available as a virtual project in Okaloosa County.

Citizenship/Leadership Through Science

Citizenship/Leadership Through Science

Image of Fishstory website

The Fishstory website where you will do your citizen science activities.

4-H members and volunteers are always seeking new ideas for hands-on learning experiences as service activities to positively impact our communities.  With covid-19, some community service opportunities have been limited due to social distancing and other restrictions.  However, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Florida Sea Grant have a new opportunity for 4-H members to get involved virtually.  This opportunity is a citizen science project that would be a great way to build your community service hours and learn something new about fish in the process!

Are any of you into history, helping with research, and like fish? If you answered “yes” to any of these, please consider working with the FISHstory Project! The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Florida Sea Grant needs help with a citizen science project to help fill gaps in fisheries data using historical dock photos.

Who can participate? Families and youth ages 16+, or younger youth with an adult mentor who is working with them for the sessions. If you are under the age of 16, you will need your parent to register with you. It is a very simple registration process. First, register for FISHstory at https://scistarter.org/fishstory. Then, click on the https://safmc.net/safmc-fishstory/ link to begin helping count and identify fish in the historical photos.

This project will train you as a citizen scientist to identify and count fish using historic fishing photos from the 1940-1970s, prior to when dedicated catch monitoring began. This is a two-part project. The first part is to simply count the number of fish in the photo. The second part is to identify the fish in the photo. Everything is done online using Zooniverse, so there would be no travel or cost to participate in this project.

Data collected with your help will provide a picture of the fishery in the earlier years. This will help scientists understand the fishing industry prior to dedicated monitoring programs.  It will also help improve our understanding of the fishing of several iconic species over the years. This data will be used to help accurately estimate stock productivity from 1940 to 1970 when for-hire fisheries off the Atlantic coast of Florida were gaining popularity. Your help is needed to fill these data gaps to help evaluate assumptions about stock productivity. The historic photos, untapped sources of this important biological data, can help do just that. Analyzing the photos will help provide better information of what people were catching during this time period, seasonality of their catches, and possibly estimate a rough catch per angler, which can provide insights on the health of fish populations during that period.

4-H helps youth to learn the skills needed to lead the positive change in their communities like this one.  This is done through hands-on learning opportunities that explore citizenship, community development, and personal growth.  For more information on community service 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.

Finding Treasure by Stepping Outside!

Finding Treasure by Stepping Outside!

Youth holding up picture

4-H Virtual Plant Science Camp Bingo Game

July 6th of this year was supposed to be the first day of our 4-H Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Day Camp with Leon and Jefferson Counties participating.  Due to the pandemic, all of our Florida 4-H face to face camps were cancelled this summer due to safety concerns for the students and the instructors.

In spite of everything that has taken place since March of this year, there is still some good news! Even though we are in the middle of a pandemic, there is an outdoor classroom in YOUR backyard that has plenty of room for young people and parents to explore. While most youth have spent more time than they probably want to with their families confined, within the four walls of their home, there is no time like the present to explore wildlife and gardening opportunities that await just outside the door. Youth that spend time outside exploring the great outdoors have the unique opportunity to stimulate their senses while engaging in “hands on” educational activities without even knowing it.

4-H provides countless opportunities for youth to gain a better understanding of how all organisms are interrelated and how they can become environmental stewards at home, school, and in the communities in which they live.  What are some of the benefits of converting backyards to outdoor classrooms?

I’m glad you asked…here are just a few!

 

1. Healthy lifestyles are encouraged –
2 kids planting a tree

Youth planting an orange tree after participating in Virtual Plant Science Camp

Active time spent outside may help address some of the health issues we are seeing in children today such as obesity, attention deficit disorders, and depression.

2. Nature deficit disorder decline –

Exposing students to nature and allowing them to learn and play outside has shown to foster sensitivity, appreciation, and respect for the environment.  It combats “nature deficit disorder” …and it can be a lot of FUN!

3. Critical-thinking skills enhanced –

Exploring what is in the backyard and starting a garden provides opportunities for experiential learning outside of the classroom and enables students to make connections that can be applied to the real world.

4. Responsible action is taken to better the environment –

By exploring outdoors either by planting or just observing nature, youth begin to understand how their decisions and actions affect the environment. It is from this point they can begin to obtain the skills necessary to address complex environmental issues as well as ways we can take action to keep our environment healthy and sustainable for the future.

 

So even though we are in the midst of a pandemic, there may be opportunities to make lemonade out of the  COVID-19 lemons we find ourselves in by unmasking the opportunities that await in our backyards!

For more information about 4-H in your county, find your local UF/IFAS Extension office or visit http://florida4h.org.

*“Please note some pictures were taken prior to our challenges with Covid-19 and we remind people to social distance and wear a mask for the personal safety of self and others.”