With the first real major storm of the 2019 hurricane season pressing down upon the entire state of Florida and the recent state of emergency declared on all 67 Florida counties by Governor DeSantis, it stands to reason that a lot of anxiety is spinning in the atmosphere along with Hurricane Dorian.
Many of us have experienced firsthand how a hurricane can disrupt our lives beyond something we could ever imagine. Some are still living in the disruption, trying desperately to find normalcy again. So, with the threat of Hurricane Dorian looming just a few days away, it is only natural for overwhelming feelings of anxiety, nervousness, and fear to kick in. You may begin to see these feelings develop among your family members, especially your children. It is important to recognize these emotions immediately and take action to help not only yourself but your children as well.
Preparation is one of the most important ways you can regain control in your situation. In this case, preparation before Hurricane Dorian (or any future storms) will help reduce anxiety, eliminate any confusion among family members, and create clear communication for all. Here are some helpful tips for your family on how you can be prepared and reduce anxiety in the hurricane season:
- Have a family plan – Make it clear, keep it current, and know it well.
- Talk openly and honestly with your children about the weather situation – Make it a fun science experiment to explain hurricane patterns. Help them to understand how to track the path of the storm. Show them where to get accurate weather information like NOAA’s website.
- Give everyone a role and responsibility – Keep every person involved in the tasks and let them have ownership in getting the family prepared.
- Create your hurricane preparedness kits – Be sure to check out our information on building a disaster preparedness bucket here. Remember to include your pet’s needs.
- Share – Allow children to share feelings, concerns, stories of past experiences. Validate real concerns and allow children to come up with possible solutions or positive actions to alleviate those concerns.
We know that natural disasters can change our lives with little to no notice. Fortunately, Hurricane Dorian is giving you a little extra time to prepare if you have not already done so. Be proactive – take action now and reduce the anxiety level in your household as Dorian approaches. For the latest resources to help prepare and then deal with natural disasters such as Hurricane Dorian, the UF/IFAS Disaster Preparation & Recovery website offers some important information such as updated contacts, useful tips, and videos for you and your family.
We wish you and your loved ones safety this hurricane season. Be smart, be prepared, and be confident that you are prepared this season and beyond.
Visit your local UF IFAS County Extension Office and meet your 4-H Extension Agent for additional information on a variety of topics that can benefit you and your family. From 4-H educational activities to ways to keep your family safe, Extension and 4-H is always available to assist you and your family.
HELPFUL RESOURCES DURING A DISASTER
Looking for spots missed during hand washing by using black light and glow germ lotion that fluoresces under black light.
It’s hard to believe it is August already, with that we are getting ready to go back to school. Going back into the large group gathering requires a reminder to wash your hands often. You and your child will be around so many people and exposed to all kinds of germs. Regular hand washing helps you avoid getting sick and spreading your germs to others.
The CDC recommends that we wash our hands:
• Before, during, and after preparing food
• Before eating food
• Before and after caring for someone who is sick
• Before and after treating a cut or wound
• After using the toilet or after changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet or been ill
• After blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing,
• After touching an animal, animal/pet feed or treats, or animal waste
• After touching garbage
Take a moment to sit down and talk with your child about hand washing and the importance of washing their hands, especially when they get home from school.
Try this activity written by Tennessee 4-H to help youth see where they may be missing germs. This simple activity uses items you probably have in your kitchen. Begin by coating hands with a tablespoon of cooking oil. Next, sprinkle the oily hands with ground cinnamon. Have your child wash their hands using the steps outlined below. Once they have finished washing, have them smell their hands to see if they can still smell cinnamon. If they washed their hands correctly, the cinnamon smell and brown color should be gone from their hands.
A. Hands coated with cinnamon before hand washing
B. Quick wash like youth often do missing in between fingers, top of wrist, around nails
C. Thoroughly washed hands (all clean even between fingers)
Here are the steps we teach youth when they take our 4-H hand washing classes:
1. Wet your hands with clean, running water.
2. Apply soap and rub your hands together to make a lather. Make sure to get in between your fingers, under your nails, and on the top of your hands. Youth often miss these areas when we do a lesson on hand washing during 4-H events.
3. Scrub for at least 20 seconds—about the same amount of time needed to sing the Happy Birthday or ABC Song twice.
4. Finish by rinsing your hands with warm running water.
5. Dry hands with a clean towel or let air dry if a towel is not available.
6. Use the towel to turn off the water faucet to prevent re-contamination of your clean hands on a dirty faucet knob.
Have a fun and germ free day! 4-H is a family affair, offering many opportunities where both children and parents can participate in common interests. 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 interest, while being guided by adult volunteers.
To find out more information about other 4-H programs like this or volunteer your time to work with youth, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.
Mindfulness is the act of creating awareness of your surroundings, emotions, and physical self in the present moment. It helps you connect to the world around you, while providing cognitive, social, and emotional benefits. Practicing mindfulness is not just for adults. Children can reap a multitude of benefits from learning and practicing mindfulness. Mindfulness equips children with the ability to adjust and deal with conflict encountered in their daily lives. It can also help children foster an optimistic outlook in life, react to stress in a healthy way, and develop a positive self-concept.
The practice of mindfulness is foreign to many adults, making it tricky to teach young children. The best thing to do is keep the message simple and model the behaviors you are teaching. Being taught by an adult that models mindful behaviors daily will assist kids in mastering the techniques. Below are a few mindfulness activities you can do at home as a family or in a group learning environment, such as a 4-H club meeting.
A zen garden is a miniature landscape made with items such as moss,
Zen garden created during Leon County 4-H Mindfulness Camp
rocks, and water features. Zen gardens are filled with sand and contain a small rake that you can use to create designs in the sand. The motion of raking the sand creates a sense of calmness. Zen gardens are often found on desks in the workplace because they are known for building focus and reducing stress. Building a zen garden is a fun and easy activity you can do with kids. Use a shoebox lid as the base and collect various stones and other items from outside to fill the box. Small rakes and sand can be purchased at a local craft store.
Taking a nature walk around your neighborhood or park is a simple way to exercise your mindfulness skills. Make it exciting by telling them you are going on a “mindfulness safari” and the goal is to see how many different birds, insects, and animals you can find on your journey. By searching for these items, you are fostering an awareness of the world around you. Similar to the mindful safari activity, you can take children on a “sound hunt.” This activity teaches kids to increase their awareness of the sounds in their environment. You can make the “sound hunt” more challenging by asking them to distinguish which sounds are close and which sounds are far.
Breathing exercises are an important tool children can use to practice mindfulness. Learning how to control your breath and increase awareness of your breathing can help clear your mind in times of distress. You can practice breathing anywhere and no equipment is needed. Have kids sit on the floor or lie down. Instruct them to close their eye and take a huge breath in, filling up their lungs. Count to three and have them release. Breath activities can be completed sitting or lying down on your back. It is a good practice to have kids place their hands on their belly to feel the breath as it enters and leaves the body.
Mindful eating teaches children to understand when they are hungry and when they are full. It is important to eat without distractions, such as the television or your phone. Provide them with a variety of snack items. Ask them to look, listen, touch, smell, and taste the food in steps. They should pause after each step to reflect on what their senses are showing them about their food. First, look at what colors and shapes the item has. Next, listen to see if your food is making any sounds. Then, feel your food and describe the texture. Smell the item and define the scent. Finally, taste the food while paying attention to how the food feels and if the flavors change.
Yoga & Balancing
Practicing our “downward dog” pose during Leon County 4-H Mindfulness Camp.
Yoga is a great way to practice concentration, balance, and connection. Kids enjoy trying different yoga poses and stretches. A variety of free educational videos are available online that you can use to help guide you and your child through yoga sequences. Breathing techniques can be coupled with yoga and balancing. If kids do not have a yoga mat, a towel can be used. Practicing yoga shows kids that mindfulness does not always mean you are still or quiet.
It is important to keep distractions to a minimum while drawing. This can be achieved by putting on relaxing music or simple sounds, such as rain falling or waves crashing. There are a variety of different drawing activities you can do with kids to practice mindfulness. If you have different sounds available, you can select a sound and instruct them to close their eyes and think of what that sound looks like to them. Then, have them open their eyes and draw what they heard. You can repeat this activity a few times with different sounds.
This activity works best in a group learning environment. Have kids break up into pairs and instruct them to take turns tracing each other on a large sheet of paper. Once everyone is finished, they will focus on their own bodies and write or draw what each body part does for them. For example, they can write “my head helps me think” or “my legs help me run.” Finally, they will write positive words on their body such as “I love to read.” This activity makes kids reflect on all the important ways their body helps them each day. It teaches them to appreciate and love their body.
Gratitude Journals are a simple mindfulness activity kids can complete every day
When we feel and express gratitude to people in our lives, it creates loving connections, builds trust, and makes us feel joyful. Gratitude can be shown by giving someone a hug or telling them how much you appreciate them. Gratitude journals can easily be made at home or you can print off a pre-made template. This version is simple and is a great start for kids: https://researchparent.com/gratitude-journal-for-kids/
For more information on how your family can learn more healthy activities such as these mindful ones, find your local UF IFAS Extension Office and contact your 4-H Agent to explore what 4-H programs are offered in your area.
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.
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.
Use sparklers in an open area and keep pets and small children away. Photo by John Paul Tyrone Fernandez
Sparklers and fireworks have often been a highlight of celebrations throughout the summer months. While enjoying your summer celebrations, it is important to know that Florida has strict firework laws. According to the South Walton Fire District’s July 4th PSA Transcript, under current Florida law, only sparklers approved by the Florida Division of State Fire Marshal are legal to use. A person responsible for illegally setting off fireworks may be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. The State Fire Marshal’s website is home to a list of approved sparklers which you can here.
While many do not view sparklers as extremely dangerous, they still have the potential to be very dangerous. If you are enjoying approved sparklers at home, use the 5 following tips to help prioritize safety while enjoying the holiday.
- Use sparklers in an open area and keep pets and small children away
- Keep a water hose or fire extinguisher nearby for emergencies.
- Do not carry or store sparklers in pockets.
- Purchase sparklers from a licensed vendor.
- Use a bucket of water to collect the used sparklers. Sparklers may cause fires if not thoroughly extinguished.
Consider taking your family to a professional fireworks show this year. Photo by Peter Spencer
4th of July firework shows are exciting for people of all ages to watch. However, fireworks can be very costly, dangerous to setup and most require special permits in certain settings and conditions. Consider taking your family to a professional fireworks show in your area. Make it a family tradition, complete with a family picnic for the evening. Often times, churches and civic organizations will provide professional firework displays with free food for the entire family, just to keep everyone safe for the evening.
There are numerous professional fireworks shows put on throughout the Florida Panhandle. Click here for a list of firework shows on the 4th of July. Be safe and enjoy the beautiful Florida weather!
Happy Independence Day!
Hurricane Michael was the first ever Category 5 hurricane on record to impact the Florida Panhandle.
Are you ready? The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season began June 1. The official hurricane weather season continues until November 30, 2019. For Florida residents, it is never too early and not too late to prepare for this year’s hurricane season. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released a forecast prediction reporting a 40% chance of a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season and a 30% chance “above normal” indicating a range of 4-8 hurricanes, including 2-4 hurricanes of category 3 or higher. With this information provided as a means to increase disaster preparedness awareness, it is imperative that our families take action now to minimize the anxiety, stress, and hardships that occur when a disaster strikes. The following information details three family-friendly disaster preparedness activities to complete during the month of June to be hurricane ready for the 2019 season followed by useful informational links.
Build a Disaster Preparedness Bucket
The contents of a disaster bucket assembled by Wakulla County Emergency Management Director Jennifer Nagy.
One annual activity that families can do together is “build a disaster preparedness bucket.” Families may prepare large plastic storage containers with lids for hurricane snacks and other necessary items. In a storm situation where conditions may require you to move to safety, preparing a 5 gallon bucket with a lid full of recommended essential items will provide a portable, easy-to-store alternative that the whole family can use. Buckets may be purchased at local hardware or home improvement stores. In your area, organizations like your local city or county emergency management department or the Red Cross may offer a bucket giveaway program with pre-stocked disaster preparedness kits.
Talk About Your Communications Plan
As a family, decide who will be the point of contact for all members to contact in case of emergency. This activity is an excellent way to engage your child in critical thinking and problem solving. The person or people should be located outside the impacted area – a grandparent or other relative or family friend in another state would be one possibility. Provide each family member with a laminated contact list – with emails, phone numbers, and addresses – that can be kept in disaster preparedness kits, saved in phones, or stored in wallets and backpacks. Local business supply stores, mail or copy centers in your area may offer laminating services to make waterproof contact lists for safe storage and easy reference.
Have a “Meals To Ready” Taste Test Dinner
After a disaster, your family may be without power for several days or longer. To enjoy safe, hot meals, one option is “meals ready to eat” also known as MREs. MREs are a complete, filling & nutritious way to feed your family. MREs can be purchased online or in the camping section of stores like Bass Pro or Wal-Mart. These meals have a long shelf life and can be stored for months until needed. Some MREs include built-in heaters while others require boiling water to prepare. Camping MREs tend to be an entrée only. Military style MREs will have most, if not all, of the following components: entrée, side dish, bread, spread, dessert, cold drink mix, instant coffee, spoon, condiments, napkin, moist towelette, and a flameless ration heater.
Completing an MRE taste test as a family planning activity will help you determine which products your children will eat when the time comes to use the MREs. The taste test can be fun for the whole family – have everyone taste and then rate each meal or meal component on a scale of 1 to 5 – with 5 being the best possible in flavor and food quality. When you get ready to purchase a supply of MREs, you will know whether your family is going to prefer lasagna to white chicken chili and can shop with confidence!
For more information about hurricane season preparation or 4-H programs in your county, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.