Select Page

Happy National Ice Cream Day!

You can see the skepticism on this young 4-H’ers face! Try this activity with your kids and see this same look change to amazement and laughter when ice cream really does come out!

That’s right! It’s National Ice Cream Day, and you know in 4-H we learn by doing.  So let’s beat the summer heat and make some ice cream!


1 c. half-and-half

2 tbsp. sugar

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

3 c. ice

1/3 c. kosher salt

Toppings of your choice


1.     In a small Ziploc bag, combine half-and-half, sugar and vanilla. Push out excess air and seal.

2.     Into a larger Ziploc bag, combine ice and salt.

3.     Place small bag inside the bigger bag and shake vigorously, 7 to 10 minutes, until ice cream has hardened.

4.     Remove from bag and enjoy with your favorite ice cream toppings.


I know this activity doesn’t seem to fall under the heading of healthy lifestyles, but it does support our dairy industry- bonus! – and it’s riddled with science concepts. You can talk to your youth about salt being a catalyst, why we have to shake the bag for it to be creamy, or the awesome invention of ziploc bags and how people come up with ideas like that- aka the engineering design process.


But more than this, every time you do something new with your kids, not only are you making memories and strengthening relationships, you are building their confidence too. They are mastering new skills and becoming more independent. They become excited about sharing their new knowledge and experiences which improves their communications skills.  It’s a win-win-win!

So whether you’re home with your own kids, are helping with summer day camps, or are planning club kickoff meetings for the fall, try this easy activity with your 4-H members, and have fun. Because sometimes learning is fun!

Meet A Graduating Senior: Max Scott

Max (far left) along with other graduating seniors at camp last year. Congratulations to all of our grads in the district!!!!

It’s graduation season, and for many 4-H agents, this is a bittersweet time.  On the one hand we are seeing our senior 4-H’ers accomplish big goals and reach out to take hold of their dreams for the future.  On the other hand, it can feel like we’re losing them – or at least in their current roles – the best always seem to boomerang back.

One such 4-H’er that I’ve had the pleasure of working with, and who will be missed terribly this summer is Max Scott.  He has developed all 4 H’s (head, heart, hands, and health), and even the sometimes joked about “5th H”…hustle.  But by far, Max will be known for putting his heart into everything he does.

Max is a student in Calhoun County.  He volunteers with 4-H every summer as a Camp Counselor at Camp Timpoochee, a five day residential camp in Niceville, FL.  When I asked Max to share is 4-H story, this is what he said:

“4-H has helped to teach and reinforce many positive qualities in my life such as honesty, hard work, and patience.

I first got involved with 4-H by winning the countywide 4-H Tropicana speech competition in fifth grade. One of the rewards for winning was a free trip to 4-H Camp Timpoochee. I soon learned that one of my best friends was planning on going to camp also, so I went, and there began my 4-H journey.

After several years of attending as a camper, I was finally able to go as a counselor.
The part I enjoy most about being a camp counselor is being given the honor of playing a positive role in a younger kid’s life.”

Max has indeed done just that.  He quickly became the most requested cabin counselor among my young 4-H boys, and just this week an excited camper came in my office to sign up for camp.  He shared with me that last year was his favorite year of camp yet.  I found that interesting since this camper has been for a number of years and it rained all day every day last summer, so I asked him why that was.  His reply? “Because Max was my counselor.  He’s the best.”  I couldn’t help but grin.

As I sat through a rather lengthy graduation ceremony last night for no other reason than to support this young man, I was reminded of just how much he has grown since I first met him as a cautious, shy, 11 year old boy.  Since then, he has been elected to several offices in school organizations, serves on the executive board of the local republican party, has paged at the capital in Tallahassee, earned the honor of being his class valedictorian, and was voted most likely to succeed by both his peers and faculty at his High School.

With his sights now set on law school and perhaps political aspirations, I know that Max is in for a bright and glorious future.  I’m so proud of him and all that he has accomplished.  Surely he will be missed this summer, but I know I will not be surprised to find another young Max in the crowd at camp this year, eager to find his footing and become just as great a counselor as Max was.

To leave you with a few words from the man of the hour, “If I could offer just one piece of advice to other students who are thinking about volunteering with 4-H it would be to just go for it. You don’t have to start out volunteering for a 5 day camp, you can start small by volunteering at a one day camp and if you like it then move on to the longer camps.”

As you can see, Max is always thinking of others and how they can leave a positive influence on the lives of others.

For more information on how you, like Max, can make a positive difference in the lives of youth in our community, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.

Starting Seeds for your Garden

These 4-H’ers started their own seeds and sold them in a plant sale to raise money to help feed hungry children in their communities.

It seems like as the weather warms, we all start itching to get outside. A favorite outdoor project of many of our 4-H’ers is starting plants from seeds.  There is something exciting and satisfying about raising your own vegies or flowers from seed.

If you’ve never started your own seedlings before, you’re in for a treat.  It’s not as hard as you may think.  Seeds can be purchased locally at any feed and seed store, nursery, or garden center.  Follow the planting instructions on the package, and don’t be afraid to ask store employees for advice.  We also have vegetable planting guides at your local Extension office with best times to plant, planting depths, seed and row spacing, etc. These are free of charge, so feel free to call, email, or stop by to pick one up.

For first timers, now is the time to research.  Get your plan together for what you’re planting and when it needs to be sewn.  Then start collecting containers.  Special seed trays can be purchased, or you can recycle old nursery trays and pots if they’re cleaned properly with a mild solution of bleach and water and rinsed well.  You can also use disposable cups, newspapers can be turned into biodegradable pots very easily, or you can sew seeds in old deli trays, rotisserie chicken containers, milk jugs, almost anything that will hold a couple inches of soil.

Seed starting is a great project for all 4-H’ers and it’s a great way to teach responsibility, record keeping, teamwork, and care for living things.

These 4-H’ers are working together to fill orders at the plant sale. They started these plants from seed.

For more information on 4-H gardening programs, contact your local 4-H agent.

5 Steps to Poultry Showmanship

4-Hers are waiting for their moment with the poultry judge. Photo Credit: Misty Smith

4-Hers are waiting for their moment with the poultry judge. Photo Credit: Misty Smith

I am often asked, “How do you wash a chicken?” I reply, “Just like a turkey, only on a smaller scale!” But for many 4-H’ers, washing chickens is part of showing chickens and is a skill they have to master.

Raising and showing poultry is quickly becoming a hobby for people of all ages. Youth who are active in a 4-H poultry project, are already one step ahead of the rest. Not only do they learn about poultry health, bio-security, and nutrition, they also learn about sportsmanship and other aspects of the poultry industry through showmanship.  Many UF/IFAS Extension Offices offer day camps and clinics to help youth learn how to raise and show poultry, so contact your local office for more information- there’s one in every county!  Here are a few steps 4-H youth can take to prepare for a poultry show:

Step 1: Handle your chicken daily. By handling your chicken daily, this will ensure that it is used to people, and will be friendly to the judge. A friendly chicken shows the judge that the chicken’s owner has been dedicated to preparing the bird for showing, not just ignoring it and bringing it to the show on show day.

Step 2: Practice holding your chicken. There is a correct way to hold a chicken when you are showing it and you will need to practice, practice, practice. When you and your bird feel comfortable around each other, you can start practicing holding and walking around with the bird the correct way, by placing your middle and fourth finger between the bird’s legs. Using your first finger and pinkie, hold the bird’s wings down.  For carrying, put the bird’s head under your arm. When youth practice holding and carrying their bird, the bird becomes very docile and calm which makes for a great show chicken.

Step 3: Know the parts of the chicken. This step is one of the hardest in the entire showmanship procedure.

Poultry Showmanship can help youth build communication skills and confidence. Photo Credit: Julie Dillard

Poultry Showmanship can help youth build communication skills and confidence. Photo Credit: Julie Dillard

It is based on simply remembering the steps and practicing with your bird. Youth are quizzed on the parts of the chicken and whoever knows the most, does the best. Make sure you know about the head, wings, under color, width of body, breast, vent, abdomen, pubic bone, legs and feet, and how to cage a bird. All of these will ensure to the judge that youth have studied about their bird and are very knowledgeable on the parts of a chicken. Also, know about the breed of your chicken. You will want to do your homework on the breed of chicken that you are showing so any questions that the judge may ask about your bird you will know how to answer correctly.

Step 4: Know how to bathe your chicken. The easiest way to bathe a chicken is with a 5 gallon bucket of lukewarm water and dish soap. You want to “dip” the chicken 2-3 times in the soapy water, avoiding getting the head wet, and then dip them in clean water to rinse them off. Never submerge a chickens head in the water due to the fact that the chicken can aspirate and die. If your chicken’s head is soiled, use a wet cloth to wipe it clean. The chicken will take care of the rest by preening itself so make sure that you bathe the chicken 48 hours prior to the show so that there will be time for natural oil replacement. Place your chicken in a wire cage to ensure it stays clean before the show.

Step 5: Have fun! Showing chickens is a great and rewarding experience for youth. Poultry shows are a great opportunity for youth to demonstrate their skills, gain confidence, make lifelong friends and practice responsibility.  The 4-H poultry project can be the spark that leads youth to a career in animal science industry where the possibilities are endless!

Do you have a passion for poultry?  If so, consider using your knowledge, skills and interests as a 4-H poultry volunteer.  We could use your expertise planning shows, teaching workshops and helping youth experience success with their poultry project.  Contact your local UF/IFAS Extension Office or visit for more info.

Recommended Resources for Poultry Showmanship:

Ty’s Story: How a Lesson in ATV Safety Changed our Lives

Though it’s been a few years, Ty still vividly recalls his accident. Thankfully he is still around to enjoy 4-H projects like gardening, cooking, and embryology.

Though it’s been a few years, Ty still vividly recalls his accident. Thankfully he is still around to enjoy 4-H projects like gardening, cooking, and embryology.

Anyone who deals with youth knows that we must constantly assess risks and decide how to handle them. The risks we encounter can be assumed, reduced, transferred, or avoided. My husband and I decided early on that we would be altogether avoiding the risks associated with ATV’s when it came to our personal children.

However, in the spring after Ty, our son, turned 2 we learned that my in-laws were taking him on ATV rides not only in their yard and in the woods, but on paved public roads and across major highways to visit friends. We repeatedly asked them to stop, but Ty was hooked, and they found it difficult to tell him no. In fact, on the day of Ty’s final four wheeler ride, my brother-in-law showed up at our house on his ATV to take Ty home with him. I told him to ride home and I’d bring Ty shortly. I waited until I thought he would be safely home and off the roads. After all, it would have been tragically ironic if I had been the one to run over him.

When I took Ty over I made it very clear that my husband and I did not want Ty on a four wheeler at all, and that he certainly should not be on the highway. I explained that we had both had friends die in serious ATV accidents when we were younger, and we weren’t willing to assume the risks with our own children. It just didn’t seem worth it to us. Besides, Ty had no gear, the ATVs weren’t made for two passengers, and I knew it was against the law to ride on highways. It all seemed very rational to me, and I thought it was settled.  I was wrong.

Later that day when my husband answered the phone and then without another word stood up from the table and began walking toward the door, I knew something was wrong with Ty. I was changing our newborn daughter’s clothes after her lunch. I remember grabbing her, picking up a pair of shoes from beside the door for myself, and climbing in the truck with my husband who was still on the cordless phone as we pulled out of the drive. Needless to say it cut him off pretty quickly, and all he could say was, “Blayne said Daddy and Ty flipped the four wheeler on the highway, and Ty’s not breathing.” When we pulled in the drive my father-in-law rushed into the yard with Ty in his arms. Ty’s eyes were open, and he was breathing now. But he was having a hard time, and I could tell he was in shock, so we headed to the ER.

X-rays, CT scans, lots of drawn blood, one serious scare that nearly resulted in an ambulance ride to a larger hospital, and seemingly countless hours later, they let us go home with him. He seemed fine, but we had to follow up the next day, and of course, stay up with him during the night in case of a concussion. The whole ordeal was nerve wracking. But the worst part of all was watching my husband hold Ty during the night and repeatedly ask, “What if we had lost him? What would we have done?” Clearly he wasn’t worried about the potential for missed time from work or funeral expenses. He was talking about losing his son – living a life without him in it. It was a moment of shocking clarity when we realized that we loved him more than we even knew. It would have been hard to have lost him that day.

Ty miraculously survived his accident with little more than a bruised chest and abdomen and a story to tell.  I never said anything to my father-in-law. I didn’t have to. Watching him recount the story to the police investigator, the doctors, and other friends and family who quickly gathered with us in the hospital was punishment enough for both of us. He knew it could have been worse. I didn’t have to say it.

For those of you who are curious, a friend had called and asked my father-in-law to come over to help with something. Ty wanted to take the four wheeler, and my father-in-law caved. Ty was riding in front of my father-in-law on the ATV. As they were headed up a steep hill along the way, a large rattle snake was stretched across the road. My father-in-law didn’t want to drive over it with Ty on the ATV with him, and he didn’t want to leave it alive either, so he decided turn around and take Ty home so he could get a gun and come back to kill the snake. With the wheel cut at a sharp angle, and as he was shifting to reverse, Ty reached up and mashed the gas hard. The ATV careened out of control throwing them both and landing on Ty bending the handle bars in his chest. Thankfully, Ty landed in the grass on the shoulder of the road instead of on the pavement preventing further serious injury, and neither of them landed on the snake. (In the chaos, the snake got away. I know someone is asking that right now.) The ATV sat where they left it for weeks before someone moved it. It was more than a year before my father-in-law even had it fixed. It was a sickening reminder of a tough, and unnecessary lesson in ATV safety.

Not everyone wants to avoid ATVs altogether though. And I totally understand why. They’re fun. And when used properly, a lot of the risk associated with them can be reduced or avoided. That’s why 4-H has partnered with the ATV safety institute to bring ATV safety classes to youth and families across the nation.

During these courses, youth learn the golden rules which address the leading causes of serious injury and death in ATV-related accidents. Can you pick out the ones broken in Ty’s story? (Hint: There are only two not broken that day! Answer: 1,2,4,5,7,8.)

  1. Always wear a helmet and protective gear
  2. Never ride on public roads
  3. Never ride under the influence of alcohol or drugs
  4. Never carry a passenger on a single-rider vehicle
  5. Ride an ATV that’s right for your age
  6. Riders younger than 16 should be supervised
  7. Ride only on designated trails and at a safe speed
  8. Take an ATV rider course – to do this you can visit

Our family’s story is not unique. According to recent reports, emergency departments treated nearly 100,000 ATV-related injuries in the United States in 2013, and nearly 25 percent of those involved children younger than 16. Fortunately, our story has a happy ending, but others are not so lucky. Twenty-three percent of ATV-related fatalities occur in children younger than 16 and most of those, in children younger than 12. So take the time to educate the youth in your life about the importance of ATV safety, and teach them how to be safe on any ATV’s they may be riding.

Remember, riding ATV’s is fun. ER visits are not.

4-H offers curriculum, training (face to face and online) and even an ATV Safety App, Treadsylvania, to learn about ATV safety.  For more information on ATV safety or 4-H in general , contact your local  UF IFAS Extension office.  If you have a passion for ATV safety, consider becoming a certified ATV instructor with 4-H.  Learn more at

On behalf of 4-H agents across the Florida panhandle, I wish you a fun and safe summer!