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 –
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.”
Youth grooming a horse. UF/IFAS Photo: Sally Lanigan.
Across Florida, 4-H clubs have adopted creative ways to stay connected while social distancing
practices are in place. The Wakulla 4-H Bits and Bridles Horse Club, like other 4-H clubs across Florida, ceased in-person activities in mid-March. During the regular program year, the Wakulla 4-H Bits and Bridles Club met monthly for a club meeting that included activities focused on equine science, leadership development, and hands-on skill building. While horseback riding was not a part of every club meeting, most club meetings included some sort of hands-on activity with horses. Club leaders who already had an active Facebook group for their club families, considered how to stay engaged in the face of a prolonged pause in hands-on, face-to-face meetings.
In Wakulla, the 4-H Bits and Bridles Horse Club has established a welcoming, inclusive environment for both youth with and without horses of their own. After the pause on in-person programming went into effect, Bits and Bridles volunteer leader, Julie Dennis, communicated with youth members and their families via email, sending the following message: “Given the current need to promote safety in our community, we’ll be taking a pause from in-person Bits and Bridles Meetings. Don’t worry though, as soon we can, we’ll get back to our monthly meetings. In the meantime, let’s use our Facebook group as a way to stay connected!”
Julie’s communication was followed by a series of video and photo sharing by adult volunteers and youth members in the private Facebook group for the club, including a challenge to demonstrate a horse-related skill with or without a horse at home. Youth were asked to post, with parent permission or assistance, at least one thing to the Facebook group that they were doing while at home to learn more about horses. The instructions urged youth to post a picture or video engaged in an activity to learn more about horses.
Group members responded by sharing videos demonstrating how to practice several skills with items they had at home: roping livestock and how to use different types of tack. Other youth shared videos demonstrating how to properly care for horse hooves and how to groom a horse. Several youth demonstrated riding activities.
Four Ideas to Stay Engaged with 4-H at Home
Activity ideas were provided to parents to share with youth members. The ideas below were collected by club leader, Julie Dennis, and reviewed by 4-H Agent, Rachel Pienta. Each activity is shared below using language close to or similar to what was shared with 4-H families via email.
Learn a new drill or pattern.
If you have a horse, work on riding in a circle and just the same steps every time at a walk, trot and then collected lope. Dirt lots make a great place to do this because you can retrace your steps and see where your horse has been. Once you master this exercise, work on a serpentine or start by making a small circle and then gradually get bigger. For ideas, get your parents to help you use Pinterest and type in “Horse Drills.” The possibilities are endless. Get someone to take a video and share with us on Facebook!
If you don’t have a horse, you can participate too! Now is the time to get that barrel pattern down. This website has a great summary of the barrel pattern. You can also try your hand at the pole bending pattern. Find some objects at your house (rocks, chairs, whatever you can find outside) and set up these patterns. Then run them yourself & ask a parent to take video for you!
Learn how to clean your tack while practicing the parts of a saddle.
Dry leather can get cracked and brittle.
Spring cleaning! Break out your tack with some good saddle soap and get to cleaning. Remember, this is an important part of being safe when you ride. Dry leather can get cracked and brittle. Anyone who has been around horse shows long enough has seen what happens when an off billet strap breaks. You wind up in the dirt! Not only is this a safety hazard but it can cost you an otherwise very nice run. These are two very good reasons to make sure your tack stays clean.
If you don’t have a horse – there are still ways to learn! There are videos that you can learn from online. Ask a parent to help you search for videos on YouTube.
Start your 4-H Horse Project Record Book!
Now is the time to start on horse projects. A very popular and great project for all kids whether or not you own a horse, is to complete the 4-H Horse Project Record Book. This can be downloaded online. If you don’t have a horse, you can still participate. Make up your horse’s name and then research the information you’ll need to complete each section.
In the case of our club youth, members were encouraged to use online resources to research prices for supplies. Youth without a horse were offered a match with a 4-H Bits & Bridles mentor.
Youth coloring a horse diagram activity sheet.
Build Horse Curriculum into Homeschooling.
The National 4-H program has great curriculum available for all age ranges online. Try building in one horse lesson a week and then keeping a journal about what you’ve learned. This activity can be a great way to keep learning through the summer too!
For more information about 4-H clubs and activities in your community, or to volunteer with 4-H, please contact your local UF/ IFAS County Extension Office.
*“Please note the picture was taken prior to our challenges with Covid-19 and we encourage people to social distance and wear a mask for the personal safety of self and others.”
Haley Coons, 4-H Graduating Senior
Haley Coons joined Santa Rosa County 4-H her freshman year of high school as a quiet and shy young lady. Little did she realize she would hit the ground running after attending her first state event, 4-H Legislature.As a 13-year-old young lady, Haley found herself in Tallahassee with 350 other 4-H youth from around the state of Florida. She was overwhelmed with all that was going on. She was able to lean on one of her friends, Jordan, during the busy week and was able to learn the ropes from 4-H members who had experienced the fast pace, encompassing program.
“4-H brought out the best in me and was a big part in making me who I am today!”
As a graduating senior, Haley is a confident, well-spoken, and determined young lady. She remembers her time in 4-H and how many new friends she has made. Haley said, “The people I have met in 4-H have been like family to me and have impacted me in a significant way by showing me what it means to have a 4-H family.” Haley’s family includes people from all over Florida 4-H. Haley improved her leadership and mentoring skills to a professional level while serving as a Camp Counselor at 4-H Camp Timpoochee.
Haley has utilized the skills in 4-H to accomplish many goals already. She has been a dual-enrollment student and will be graduating with her Associates in Arts degree this fall at Pensacola State College. She will then attend the University of West Florida to obtain her Bachelors’s degree. She is undecided on her major at this point. Haley, we are very proud of the wonderful young woman you have become! Congratulations on your graduation and the many accomplishments you have already achieved!
To find out more information about 4-H programs that can offer your child essential life skills, support and guidance from positive adult role models, and educational activities in which they can learn and grow, or to volunteer with 4-H, please contact your local UF/ IFAS County Extension Office.
*Please note Haley’s picture was taken prior to our challenges with Covid-19 and we encourage people to social distance and wear a mask for the personal safety of self and others.”
Often times we think of 4-H programming in the traditional context of agricultural education through school and community clubs. What we often forget is how diverse an audience the 4-H program actually serves. Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola is the home to two youth centers, the NAS Pensacola Youth Center and the Corry Station Youth Center. Every day the staff of these centers welcome and care for military youth in their charge. The staff at these centers work diligently to incorporate 4-H programming into their centers, serving as 4-H screened and trained volunteers. They provide the youth they serve a myriad of opportunities to develop life skills as well as give back to their community.
Youth participate in a workshop led by Santa Rosa County Horticulture Agent, Matt Lollar, during the Try a Day of Camp designed to provide youth a one day introduction experience to the Florida 4-H residential camping program.
The NAS Pensacola 4-H club and the Corry Station 4-H club offer their youth a chance to engage in all aspects of 4-H programming. While some youth may be involved in the 21 day long embryology project, others may be focused on the archery programs, or maybe they are even doing both! Youth from these centers are often engaged in community service projects like volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House or collecting various items for those in need. Not to mention the grilling, hay bale decorating, and fair entries OH MY! To make a complete list of the projects the youth at these centers are involved in would be… exhausting! These clubs facilitate high quality programming through the dedication of the staff at these centers. Without them, these programs would not exist.
Breaking the Mold
NAS Pensacola 4-H Club placed second in the 2019 Escambia County 4-H hay bale decorating contest.
While one might have the mental image of a 4-H volunteer being a parent or relative of a youth already in the program, this is not the case for many of the volunteers with the NAS Pensacola and Corry Station 4-H clubs. These volunteers are unique. They complete the 4-H 101 trainings, participate in county and district wide events, and facilitate some of the best programming Escambia County 4-H has to offer. Yet, could you list one name of a volunteer who is involved in these clubs? While these volunteers run 4-H programs year round and are constantly focused on providing on new opportunities, they are not often as visible as one might expect.
We Need All Kinds of Volunteers
Youth participate in STEM activities during 4-H Club meeting.
These volunteers break the mold of a traditional 4-H volunteer. They serve a tight knit community who face many obstacles the majority of us could never comprehend. Through all of this though, these volunteers provide a sense of stability for the youth they serve. While 4-H programming is offered at Navy youth centers across the nation and the world, the volunteers at NAS Pensacola and Corry Station Youth Centers are exemplary. They even have a national award to prove it! The staff at these centers were the recipients of the 2019 National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Military Partnership Award. In comparison, this award does little to truly recognize their impact on the youth they serve. While youth center staff may not be “traditional” 4-H volunteers, they fill the need of the communities serve. A 4-H volunteer is most effective when they are able to understand the needs of the community and are able to adjust the programming to fit that need. Often times, it is through the volunteers that go unnoticed, traditional and unconventional alike, that the youth we serve are afforded the opportunities that 4-H programs offer year round.
For more information about UF/IFAS Extension programs or to learn more about how you can serve your community as a 4-H volunteer, please contact your local UF/IFAS Extension.
Missy Briggs, volunteer, helps lead a discussion during Leadership Club
At the beginning of the 4-H year, the Leon County Leadership Club was in need of two new club leaders. Sheeja George and Missy Briggs both stepped up to fulfill the role of club leaders and Leon County 4-H is lucky to have them! Sheeja is an Agricultural Scientist at the UF/IFAS North Florida Research and Education Center in Quincy. Missy is a Senior Performance Consultant with Capital City Bank in Tallahassee. They both have exceeded expectations and are everything you’d hope for in a 4-H Volunteer. You would never guess this is their first year leading a club!
When asked why she chose to volunteer with 4-H Sheeja expressed, “I feel strongly about using my time and any talent or resources that I have for things beyond self and family. Over the years this is a commitment we have shared as a family. That’s what keeps me motivated to volunteer in general.” Missy shared, “I enjoy volunteering with the 4-H Leadership Club because I am encouraged by the drive, teamwork, empathy, and respect the youth show for themselves, for each other, their community, and their world.”
Volunteer, Sheeja, stands with Allison, 4-H Agent, and Bobby, guest
Leadership Club took on a major project this year with the guidance of Sheeja and Missy. This project was the Leon County 4-H Olympics. At the first club meeting, the members decided they wanted to host a brand-new event called the 4-H Olympics. Sheeja and Missy embraced the idea and successfully guided the members through the planning process. Each member had a specific role and all major decisions were the result of a group vote. During the “411 Teen Talk” radio show on WFSU, club member Stephen Hayes stated the most important thing he has learned from Leadership Club this year is how to work with people who have different ideas. Sheeja and Missy made sure that each club member had a voice in the planning process and during the day of the event. In an effort to raise money for the 4-H Olympics, Sheeja spent an entire Saturday with a few club members hosting a bake sale at the Leon County 4-H/Tropicana Speech Contest. The two club leaders were able to secure a guest motivational speaker during the event, which made the day even more special.
Club members after the 4-H Olympics
The first Leon County 4-H Olympics was a success and that could not have been accomplished without the two wonderful volunteer club leaders, Sheeja and Missy. They exemplify what it means to be a 4-H volunteer by growing true leaders in their community. Sheeja expressed “I thought the 4-H club would be a great avenue to work with youth and impact their lives in whatever little way I can in areas of life that will be important to them as they become young adults. This includes leadership, public speaking, being collaborative and team-players.”
Leon County 4-H is looking forward to see where Sheeja and Missy take Leadership Club next year!
To all of the volunteers in the district, thank you for all you do. Learn more about volunteering with Florida 4-H or contact your local UF/IFAS Extension to learn about 4-H in your county.
Volunteers from a local bank help teens learn financial management during a 4-H meeting
For more than 100 years, Floridians have been volunteering with 4-H to teach life skills to youth and to help make the best better in their communities. Florida is one of the few states in the southeast where the foundation of our program is built on community and project clubs. These 4-H clubs are where youth get the biggest benefit from 4-H membership and they wouldn’t be possible without our volunteers. There are nearly 10,000 volunteers working with 200,000 Florida 4-H members each year. Our volunteers come from many different backgrounds and walks of life, but they all have one thing in common- a desire to share their passion and skills with the next generation.
We are always grateful for the men and women who work so tirelessly to help youth become competent, caring citizens- but this month, we celebrate them to show our deep appreciation. April is National Volunteer Appreciation Month, and if you haven’t been following us on Facebook, then you’ve been missing our daily videos about how volunteers are impacting lives and communities in Florida. Each day this week, we will be sharing a story of a 4-H volunteer on our blog. We hope you draw inspiration from each of these individuals (as we do).
Engineers volunteer with our STEM Challenge at the North Florida Fair every fall.
If you are a 4-H parent or member, please thank your volunteer this week. A phone call, text, or handwritten note of thanks would make them feel appreciated and encouraged. If you have a skill or passion to share with young people, please consider being a volunteer for 4-H. We have a variety of roles to meet your interests and schedule. To find out more, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.