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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.”

Graduating Senior: Lawson Mathis

Graduating Senior: Lawson Mathis

Youth posing for portrait

Lawson, Santa Rosa Co Senior 4-H Member

Lawson Mathis joined Santa Rosa County 4-H because her cousin, Amanda, had been a 4-H member for years.  Lawson’s first experience was a state-wide 4-H event known as 4-H University, held in Gainesville,Florida.  She remembers having a broken toe prior to her trip and not knowing anyone but Amanda.  Amanda and Trent, another Santa Rosa County 4-H member, had to help her get around Gainesville all week.  As Lawson recalls, “they never left me behind either!”

Beginning her 4-H experience at such a significant, week-long event, Lawson could have easily been overwhelmed.  Instead, she thrived.  Lawson dived into the 4-H program and learned all it had to offer that week.  Lawson has been in 4-H ever since moving to Santa Rosa County her freshman year of high school.

“Throughout my entire time in 4-H, no one left me out or left me behind for anything.  I have made so many friends and great memories along the way, and I hope I can continue to do so in the future.”

Lawson always been part of the 4-H family.  She served every year as a camp counselor at 4-H Camp Timpoochee and made sure that the same attitude of inclusion continued with her campers.  Because of 4-H, she has made friends from all over the state as well. She has a caring and giving nature that will be hard to replace.  Lawson will be attending Troy University in the fall and majoring in nursing and minoring in American Sign Language.  She plans to be a nurse anesthetist upon graduating with her master’s degree.

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.

*Please note Lawson’s 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.*

Let Freedom Ring

Let Freedom Ring

American Flags along a curb

Celebrate our Freedom

The boom of fireworks, an outdoor concert, a lively parade, the smell of hot dogs on the grill, sweet cold watermelon slices, and a day spent with friends and family, for many, this is what the Fourth of July means. We get so busy enjoying the celebration that we often forget to stop and reflect what the holiday is about.

The Fourth of July is a celebration of independence from British rule and the formation of America. The holiday has been celebrated since 1776 and became an official federal holiday in 1870. The succession from British rule and creation of the Declaration of Independence would not be possible without the formation of a military. In the United States, we are fortunate to still enjoy the freedoms awarded though the Revolutionary War (and military) and work of the Continental Congress. These Founding Fathers of the U.S. paved the way for independence, but our dedicated service members and their families work every day to ensure that our freedom and independence continues. No one loves their country more than a Soldier, Airman, Marine, Coast Guardsman or Sailor; they are willing to sacrifice all to protect and preserve our freedom. They are passionate about their mission and give all they can to serve the U.S. and her citizens.

In a discussion of what Independence Day means to military members, SSgt. Quade, USMC (Vet), states “Military wide, Independence Day is one of the most quintessential days of the year. Not only because of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, but that signature represents the freedoms and liberties that were fought for by all brothers and sisters of all branches and earned through blood, sweat, and tears.” It was interesting to hear his perspective and learn that Independence Day is celebrated all over the world by U.S. Military members – maybe not always with fireworks, but a group picnic-style lunch with hotdogs and hamburgers.

We also have to recognize the many sacrifices made by the military members that affect their family, such as missed birthdays, holidays, family functions, and milestones. What makes the time away tolerable is knowing that back home the active duty spouse is stepping up to the plate and taking care of the family. Children assume different roles within the family to help keep the household running and provide support. Military families are resilient and fluid, adjusting to relocation and changes in family dynamics.

This year, as you celebrate the Fourth of July, I hope you enjoy fireworks, grilled hot dogs, and a cold slice of watermelon. During your celebration, I encourage you to take a moment and thank military members and their families, many who are 4-H members, for their efforts and sacrifices in protecting our freedoms so we can enjoy independence every day.

UF/IFAS Extension and 4-H are proud to be a part of the military family – 4-H works with military youth centers across the nation and overseas to create some consistency for youth in these situations.  For more information about the 4-H opportunities available in your county, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.

Special thanks to Jennifer Sims, 4-H Military Partnership Coordinator, UF/IFAS Bay County, for providing this article and picture.

Graduating Senior:  Madison Fendley

Graduating Senior: Madison Fendley

Youth standing in front of livestock trailer and display of ward ribbons.

Madison standing in front of some of her award-winning efforts in 4-H

Madison Fendley joined Santa Rosa County 4-H in 2010 at the age of eight.  In the beginning, her passion was showing rabbits and chickens.  As she grew up, her interest in raising livestock grew as well.  After raising show-quality dairy goats for many years, Madison had been in the show ring numerous times.  With this experience, Madison shared her knowledge with youth that were new to showing livestock.  She could always be seen in the show prep area, working with youth that were inexperienced and nervous.  Madison became one of Santa Rosa County 4-H’s best mentors for youth, new to the showing world.

Madison has learned a lot about hard work and dedication through her 4-H goat project.  Thinking back, Madison stated, “I feel accomplished for growing my goat herd from just a few brush goats when I started over ten years ago to nearly a completely registered show quality herd now.”  She said she always enjoyed helping grow the goat show at the Santa Rosa County Fair and helping teach other youth about showing goats.

“I’ve loved working with the younger kids in our club and watching everyone grow and branch out.”

Youth hugging her livestock project

Madison and her livestock project

Madison has made a difference in the Santa Rosa County 4-H program.  Many 4-H day camps had the opportunity to utilize Madison’s leadership skills as she served as a counselor. She has worked very hard while raising livestock and even received Reserve Champion Steer at the Santa Rosa County Fair.  She has also received Grand Champion Homegrown Heifer two years in a row.  Madison recalls, “4-H has been an excellent opportunity to learn leadership and step out of my comfort zone sometimes. I would say I’ve come a long way since I first joined from showing chickens and rabbits to goats and now cattle.”  When asked about her biggest lesson she has learned from 4-H, Madison replied, “I’d say one of my biggest accomplishments in 4-H, that nearly brought me to tears, was placing 1st in Steer Showmanship at the fair because it was the first year I showed cattle and the first show I’d been in with that steer.”

Madison plans to attend the University of West Florida and complete her Associate in Arts degree.  She will pursue a degree in an agricultural or animal science-related field. Madison, we thank you for your many years of service to Santa Rosa County 4-H and the Santa Rosa County Fair & Youth Livestock programs.  We

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.

*Please note Madison’s pictures were 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.*

Graduating Senior: Haley Coons

Graduating Senior: Haley Coons

Youth leaning against lightpole

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.”

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.