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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.”

Senior Spotlight: Dartanion Hope

Senior Spotlight: Dartanion Hope

a group of smiling campers with dart.

Dartanion worked to make camp fun for everyone.

When I think of Dartanion Hope, I have to smile. His is a life story riddled with challenges, the kind you read about in books or watch on TV docudramas. But he doesn’t focus on the negatives. He’s a happy kid with an infectious positive outlook on life and something of a mischievous nature. If I were to describe him in single words, I’d use ones like helpful, kind, thoughtful, independent, unassuming, nonjudgmental, and amazing – in the truest sense of the word.

Even with a bright future and military career ahead of him, Dartanion, or Dart, as we call him in the 4-H world, is in fact, a true success already. He would thank his mom, but I try to remind him that she can’t make his choices for him. He has chosen and continues to choose to be the person he’s become. I think his mom would agree.

If I’m being honest, it’s hard to measure how much 4-H has meant in determining the person Dart has become. A little? A lot? It’s tough to say, because he’s a measure of so many great experiences and opportunities – track, cross country, church, you get the idea. But 4-H certainly has been a place where we’ve seen the manifestations of a natural leader come into play. I’m definitely going to tell people he’s one of my 4-H’ers, like a proud mama would claim her own son, whenever I get the chance.

couselors and staff work to untangle fishing gear

Dart works with others at camp to help untangle fishing gear prior to a sports fishing class.

Dart started coming to 4-H day camps when he was young. Eventually I got him to Camp Timpoochee for county camp week. He was a rambunctious tyke with unbelievable stories like having to be extracted from a fork in a tree by the local volunteer fire department using the jaws of life. He’d become so tightly wedged into the gap, he couldn’t get out otherwise. Or the time his front teeth were knocked out when his older brother practiced a wrestling move on him and didn’t realize he’d accidentally rendered him unconscious and dropped him face first into the floor. These stories, which were frightening to a young 4-H agent, I later found out from his parents, attending firemen, and physicians, were not tall tales, but were indeed ALL true. I probably should have been more scared to take Dart so far from home for a whole week, but we made it!  And he came back again and again until he became a camp counselor, the best counselor I could have asked for.

Dartanion and other senior counselors with their senior counselor grommets.

Dart as a Senior Counselor at Camp Timpoochee

You see, during Dart’s first year as a Camp Counselor, I had just lost one of the most respected and dependable male camp counselors in Calhoun County 4-H due to graduation.  As summer camp approached, I was a little worried how my crop of ALL first-year counselors would pull it off without his leadership. But Dart rose to the challenge. It was one of those rare and gratitude rendering experiences, when a person truly turns on their responsibility gene and shocks you with their maturity and poise. He was such an impressive counselor that he was invited back to state open enrollment camps as a counselor. This is an invite only gig. You have to impress camp staff and the resident director during your county camp week to get the ask, and he got it more than once. He totally deserved it. He was conscientious, fun, and made sure all of his campers were included. He became one of my most requested counselors by campers and parents, and they were sad to see him receive his senior counselor grommet last year.

It wasn’t his last trip to Timpoochee though. Thankfully, his busy schedule worked out so that he could join the NW District Teen Retreat Planning team with three of his camp counselor friends. Not only was he on planning calls with other district teens, but he spent extra hours planning and leading two different workshops for attendees with his county peers. He volunteered the group to stay late after meetings to help me double check plans and make decisions.  They made extra trips to the office to help me pack and load equipment. And on that weekend, they did A LOT of running for me to help make sure things went well. He wasn’t the only super star of the weekend by any means. That entire planning committee was chock full of them. But once again, he was a standout leader. I was proud of him and hugely grateful for this last chance to shine with 4-H before his graduation.

group of youth in funny poses with cleaning supplies

Dart logged hundreds of service hours, but he never once acted like it was work.

I’ve been very blessed in my career to be impressed by a lot of young people. And today is no exception. I want Dart to get the praises he so deserves.  Dart deserves to hear again that I am proud of him; that Calhoun County 4-H is proud of him; that he has lifelong friends in 4-H regardless of where life takes him; that we wish him all the best; and truly, that he is a prime example of how 4-H takes the best and makes them better. Congratulations Dart! We absolutely wish you the best of luck!

To find out more information about 4-H programs that can offer essential life skills such as independence, organizational skills, and goal setting, to your children or to volunteer with 4-H, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.

Senior Spotlight: Jada Mosley, Jefferson County

Jada Mosley joined 4-H at age nine and has been an active and reliable member to age 18. She has been a proud and energetic member of the Jefferson County 4-H Teen Council. Her bubbling smile and cheerful personality is infectious to other members.  Jada was elected Secretary in 2018-19 and President 2019-20 of the Jefferson County 4-H Teen Council. She was past District III Council Sgt-At-Arms. Per my observation of Jada presiding over the club meetings, she clearly demonstrates that she can run meetings in a productive and orderly fashion using Robert’s Rules of Order. Her leadership skills are superb.

Two youth holding trophies

1st – 4-H University

In 2017, Jada was recognized for her exceptional communication and presentation skills when she received the first-place trophy at 4-H University (state level) for her team illustrated talk entitled “Stay Alive Don’t Drink and Drink.” The past five years, she has participated in county, district, and state (4-H University) doing various presentations.

Volunteerism is the vital component of 4-H, and this young lady devoted over 300 community service hours. A loyal citizen in her community, Jada spends time working on community service projects. Jada volunteers each year with the 4-H Adopt-A-Road roadside cleanup project. As part of the service project during camp counselor training, she helped remove debris and landscape the Jefferson County Senior Citizen Center. She helped bag toys during the holidays for needy youth by participating in the JOY (Jefferson Outreach for Youth) Project. Jada also makes her visits to both nursing homes in Monticello during the holiday seasons. Jada has served as a camp counselor at both day and overnight summer camps for five consecutive years. In 2019, her peers at Camp Cherry voted her as the most dependable camp counselor.    

Youth cleaning up debris after Hurricane Michael

Jada cleaning up debris

Jada was one of our Hurricane Heroes. When Hurricane Michael caused mass destruction to the Florida Panhandle in 2018, Jada, along with her peers, spent the entire day in Bay County moving and piling tree limbs, garbage, debris, and other miscellaneous materials.  These diligent teens worked around utility workers, fallen power lines, utility poles, and even worked in the rain until the job was completed.

Our hearts are content knowing that Jefferson County 4-H has equipped this young woman with tools necessary to be successful post-high school.  She plans to attend Tallahassee Community College this fall and major in Early Childhood Education.

“My most significant accomplishment I have experienced in 4-H was getting out of my shell and being myself.”

Jada said “the thing I’ll miss the most in 4-H would be all the camps I have done. I’ll miss the kids and of course the agents.”  She, of course, will be missed as well.  Jefferson County 4-H wishes Jada Mosley much happiness and success in her future endeavors.

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

Author: John G. Lilly: jgl@ufl.edu
John Lilly is the 4-H Youth Development Agent in Jefferson County

Graduating Senior: Amanda Hachtel

Graduating Senior: Amanda Hachtel

Youth posing with her horse

Amanda Hachtel, 4-H Senior

Amanda Hachtel joined Santa Rosa County 4-H in 2012 at the age of ten.  Her mother, Wendy, started the Southern Stars 4-H horse club in Santa Rosa County.  Her love of horses and animals was a perfect fit for 4-H and Amanda.

Amanda said she has learned a lot in 4-H.  She also says 4-H has meant courage and commitment to her.  Her first summer with 4-H meant 4-H camp and since she was timid and nervous about going to camp her first year, she felt she needed courage to attend camp.  Amanda attended that first year, and the next year, and many years thereafter.  In fact, she has celebrated many of her birthdays during camp weeks at 4-H Camp Timpoochee over the years.

In time, as Amanda got older and became a counselor for new campers, she remembered her first year at camp and how friendly everyone was to her.  She said it was then that she wanted to be a camp counselor so she could “make a difference in kid’s lives the same way my counselors affected mine.”  Amanda has been one of the top counselors every year at camp and also trained many new counselors.

“4-H has given me the courage and ability to make decisions that will benefit me as well as committing myself and my work, not to back down from those plans.”

All of us staff and volunteers here at Santa Rosa County 4-H thank you, Amanda, for all of your years of hard work and dedication to the program.  We see how you have used the skills you have learned through 4-H to set goals for yourself.

As Amanda graduates with honors from Jay High School, she begins a new journey with service still on her mind.  Amanda will be joining the United States Army Reserves.  Her plans include graduating from AIT in Texas and then attend the University of West Florida as an ROTC member and obtain her prerequisites for her veterinarian degree that she will pursue at Auburn University.  Congratulations to you, Amanda.

To find out more information about 4-H programs that can offer essential life skills such as independence, organizational skills, and goal setting, to your children or to volunteer with 4-H, please contact your local UF/ IFAS County Extension Office.

 Special thanks to Prudence Caskey, UF/IFAS Santa Rosa County 4-H Agent, for providing this article and pictures.

 

Camp Helped Wakulla 4-H Graduating Senior Become a Leader

Camp Helped Wakulla 4-H Graduating Senior Become a Leader

On the boat at Camp Timpoochee

Leah with other counselors at Camp Timpoochee

Leah Lewis has been a devoted 4-H camper for the last ten years. She attended her first week of summer at the age of eight and was hooked. Leah counted the days and years until she could join the ranks of her heroes – the 4-H camp cabin counselors.

Since ninth grade, Leah has served as a camp counselor – leading a cabin of 4-H youth during a week or more of residential camp. Her service in this capacity has been exemplary. Leah’s accomplishment as a counselor earned her an invitation to serve in a leadership role for the annual Marine Camp. This invite-only opportunity is only given to the best of our 4-H camp counselors.


From 4-H Camp to County and State Leadership Opportunities
Youth sitting at a desk

Leah in the FL House of Representatives chamber in Tallahassee

In eleventh grade, Leah took her 4-H involvement to another level when she became part of our Teen District Leadership Council. She served as president for the Wakulla 4-H Teen Leadership Club and led the club to apply for and complete a 4-H Pride Grant Project to do county clean up after Hurricane Michael.

During her senior year of high school, Leah also served on the 4-H State Executive Board. In this role, she planned the annual Legislative Day at the state capitol. Her efforts helped produced a successful 4-H Day at the Capitol experience for over 800 youth and their families from throughout Florida.

Leah had this to say about the impacts of 4-H on her personal development, “4-H has prepared me for what it’s like to be away from family and being independent for yourself. It’s taught me to think outside the box and allow me to grow as a person.”

Her favorite 4-H experience was attending the Southern Region Teen Leadership Conference. Leah said, “My favorite experience so far has been SRTLC. I enjoyed meeting all kinds of people in the south and I loved giving back to the community with our bag pack project.”

Reflecting on her time in 4-H, Leah’s message to other youth thinking about 4-H offered this advice, “I would tell them that 4-H is a safe place and a second home to anyone. They could learn many activities to help with everyday life and find lifelong friendships!”


Perspective from a Proud Parent

Leah’s mother, Angela, said being part of 4-H did wonderful things for her daughter, “Without a doubt, one of the best decisions I have made was allow Leah to be part of 4-H. The leadership, work ethic, responsibility and team building skills she has learned, will help her in her future endeavors. 4-H has given Leah the confidence and the ability to be able to meet more people and form many friendships. She has obtained important leadership skills and is now confident with public speaking and leading group projects. 4-H has instilled a great work ethic into Leah with projects that require time management, dedication, and hard work. Leah has been a camp counselor for the past 4 years and has worked as a gymnastics coach at IGG for the past 2 ½ years. Leah has really enjoyed being on many committees including 4-H Day at the Capital and CCS. Leah will truly miss being part of 4-H and going to summer camp when she starts college this fall.”

Wakulla County 4-H is proud of Leah Lewis.  From organizing service projects to planning teen retreats for her peers, Leah has shown she has the capacity to lead others. Her work ethic has enabled her to hold a job, play sports, continue an active role in 4-H, and maintain her grades.  We look forward to the many successes she will make in her future endeavors.

To find out more information about 4-H programs that can offer essential life skills such as independence, organizational skills, and goal setting, to your children or to volunteer with 4-H, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.

Summer Just Isn’t Summer Without 4-H Camp

Summer Just Isn’t Summer Without 4-H Camp

For years, kids and teens have enjoyed a week at 4-H Camp and have participated in day camps in their home counties. But this summer, those traditional activities have been put on hold.

graphic instructions to register for summer programs4-H Agents in the Florida panhandle know that summer just isn’t summer without 4-H camps. So, they are bringing summer camp to you with new camps introduced each week through the end of July! Beginning May 18th, registration is open for these virtual summer camps:

  • Range Ready Shotgun Camp
  • Culinary Arts
  • Tailgate Grilling
  • Lead with 4-H – Civic Engagement and Community Leadership
  • Graphic Design
  • 4-H STEM Challenge – Roller Coaster Science
  • Rabbits and Poultry
  • From Seed to Food and Plant to Plate
  • Having Sew Much Fun
  • #Beekeeper
  • W.O.L.F. Camp – Wildlife & Outdoors Leadership Focus
  • And more…

4-H Summer Adventure Camps are open to youth ages 5-18 years old, and you don’t have to be a 4-H member to participate. They are also free of charge!  Our website, pictured above, will give you a description of the camps, intended ages, and registration link. Click to view the camp description and registration page.

To register, you’ll enter your camper’s information, and choose your camps. Once your camper is registered, you’ll be contacted by email by a UF/IFAS Extension 4-H agent with a direct link to the camp page. All camps are formatted to work on computers, tablets, and smartphones.

For more information about 4-H in your county, find your local UF/IFAS Extension office.