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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.”

Spring Break Boredom Busters with 4-H!

Spring Break Boredom Busters with 4-H!

It’s finally here!  Like many of us, you’ve probably been counting down the days since Christmas break for the next hiatus from the chaotic school day routine.  Now, with Spring Break upon you…what are you going to do with the kids while working or running errands that have piled up and marking off that “to do” list?  It’s time to “phone a friend,” your Positive Youth Development friends (aka 4-H Agents) that is!

Set yourself up for success this Spring Break by planning some fun projects to complete with your youth.  Many of these projects they can do independently, or with a group of friends, or tackle with the whole family.  4-H makes learning FUN through experiential learning opportunities the whole family can enjoy!

4-H PROJECT LEARNING

Walton County 4-H’er during his container gardening Demonstration at County Showcase!

4-H members can choose from more than 50 projects that focus on science, engineering and technology, animals and agriculture, food & nutrition, outdoor adventures, marine science, public speaking, art and wildlife.  4-H learning is experiential- or “hands on learning,” where youth get to interact with the curriculum or subject matter being taught/explored.

Ultimately, youth learn life skills and use these skills to give back to their communities. Youth set goals, keep records and can participate in events and activities on a county, district, state, and national level to expand their learning!  They can explore the various projects and programs 4-H offers and choose one that interests them.

4-H has three major priority programs:   ScienceCitizenship & Leadership, and Healthy Living.  Please check out the resources available in each of these areas and consider exploring other aspects with your local 4-H program.  Your local 4-H office may be hosting “day camps,” or daytime activities over Spring Break which youth can register for and spend the day in a safe, inclusive environment exploring with youth their age!

Below are a few projects youth can dig into with many simple household items.  For a greater challenge, expand on these projects so that youth can create their own demo to share with their local 4-H program during club meetings or County Showcase to earn more credit, experience, and leadership within their clubs!

GARDENING

A perfect project for youth of all ages…the newspaper pot!  Not only are you recycling, but you can learn about propagating plates, soil science, and so much more with some extra research.  Turn it into a family challenge to see who can make theirs the fastest, the most decorative, the largest…the possibilities are endless with this project!

http://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/4hn/files/2015/04/HANDOUT_PottedPlantColorPrint.pdf

HEALTH

In the midst of all the wacky weather lately, take some time to explore different aspects of one of our H’s…Health!  The links below are just a few within a series of activities focused on Healthy Living.  In the “Let’s Go Green”  series, youth will learn how to create safe alternatives to chemical cleaning solutions and YOU (the guardians) get to benefit as they “test” the effectiveness of these cleaners throughout the house.  Make it a challenge…encourage them to test different areas, the kitchen, the bathroom, the windows…have you caught our major hint yet?  Additionally, youth can expand on their learning by using the link below to create their own newspaper to showcase their findings.  Utilize the “Headlines for Health Introductions” to explore more activity options like “Let’s Go Green.”

Make a Newspaper:  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/4H/4H28000.pdf

4-H is one of the nation’s most diverse organizations, open to all youth, ages 5-18, and available in every community. For more information on how youth can join or the many 4-H projects available, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org today.

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.

Out of Destruction Comes Something of Beauty

Out of Destruction Comes Something of Beauty

Succulent garden at entry of NSA-PC Youth Center

In September 2018, Ms. Bettina started the 4-H Garden Club at NSA-PC in Panama City, Florida. She had big plans for the garden and couldn’t wait to get started. These Navy youth, led by a caring adult staff member, started their 4-H journey. Then Hurricane Michael came, which devastated the area on October 10, 2018 and could have easily derailed all of their plans. Instead, the storm allowed youth to start with a clean slate and a renewed sense of vigor in rebuilding the garden at the NSA-PC Youth Center. The youth redesigned some of their beds using debris from the storm.

When the Youth Center reopened following the storm, most of the outdoor areas were off limits to the kids due to damage from the storm. That meant that the playground and other outdoor activities were not available. However, the 4-H Garden Club was allowed to function and allowed the youth itching to be outside and yearning for a way to cope with the devastating effects of Hurricane Michael to come together as a team and, along with Ms. Bettina, a garden to restore a sense of balance and ownership.

Whimsical garden bed designed by NSA-PC youth

The kids were eager to get started planning, implementing, and maintaining the new garden area. They created a plan for different types of gardens within their facility spaces. They researched which plants were best suited for the season and zone as well as which flowers would attract pollinators, because they hoped to see hummingbirds and butterflies. Ms. Bettina says that the kids came in every day asking if they were going to get to work in the garden. It created a healthy, active, and creative outlet for all involved. Soon the garden began to take shape with imaginative details and originality everywhere you looked.

All visitors to the Youth Center are welcomed by exquisitely maintained flower beds that surround the entrance to the building. The youth have created and maintained a beautiful area that enhances the building and greets visitors with beauty and color. These raised gardens are filled with hardy greenery as well as seasonal color and elevated containers that hold a cascade of many varieties of succulents.

NSA-PC youth recycled old materials to create a new space to hold their flowers.

The 4-H Garden Club at NSA-PC is a perfect example of how sometimes a storm that seemingly derails plans actually presents an opportunity for growth, learning, and creating something more beautiful. Ms. Bettina’s 4-H Garden Club could not have come at a more perfect time. The gardening activities allow the youth to get outdoors while learning about different types of plants and how to care for them. Many students initially joined the Garden Club to get outside after the storm due to the playground closure. Youth participating in the 4-H Garden Club at NSA-PC have learned about more than just the science of plants; they are learning to work as a team with improved communication skills in order to continue maintaining their garden as well as environmental awareness and recycling by taking used items to make new treasures for their flower beds.

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 interests while being guided by adult volunteers. If you would like to learn more about 4-H programming in your local area, or how to get involved as a 4-H volunteer, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.

RESOURCES

For more tips and ideas to help build your personal garden, visit http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ as there are many documents available to help build your personal gardens.

This article was written by Jennifer Sims and Paula Davis.

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.