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4-H Grows Creativity through Robotics Programs


A scribble bot was built by a team of Gadsden County 4-Hers during the “It’s Alive! Junk Drawer Robotics Day Camp.”

More than 60 youth participated in the district Junk Drawer Robotics Challenge this summer.

More than 60 youth participated in the district Junk Drawer Robotics Challenge this summer.

Everyone has a measure of creativity in them but how we express our creativity is our choice. What is creativity? I am glad you asked. Creativity is defined as the ability to make new things or think of new ideas. Creativity can be expressed in a tangible or intangible way. It is also the ability to take something known and present it or use it in a new way.  So how does Florida 4-H grow creativity in our youth? Well, you know I am glad you asked that too. One way is that Florida 4-H provides opportunities for youth to express their creativity through their project work in one of the national 4-H initiatives: 4-H Science, Healthy Living, Citizenship, and Mentoring.

One of the ways that Florida 4-H is growing creativity is through our Junk Drawer Robotics Program.  The 4-H Robotics Program is designed not only to teach youth about science and physics, but also the engineering design process.  Every good engineer is creative!  Several counties offered a day camp this summer to teach youth about forms of energy, gears, motors, switches, circuits, and pulleys.  Then, they were given everyday “junk” to build a robot and make it move or complete a task using the science concepts they had learned.  Youth worked in teams and used their creativity and curiosity to design, build, and test their robotics.  Youth came together for a district challenge in July and will also have the opportunity to compete November 14th during 4-H Day at the North Florida Fair at the Junk Drawer Robotics Contest.  Last year, more than 20 teams competed to build robots that could paint out of scrub brushes, solo cups, and toothbrushes.

Florida 4-H is sending a team of youth and volunteers to the National Maker Summit in Washington, DC November 7th.  The Maker National Youth Summit is for the creative and curious young minds of the next generation of innovators. Participants make what they can with a variety of materials from a range of fields, utilizing their resourcefulness and creativity.  That same weekend, a 4-H Tech Wizards Team will be hosting a SeaPerch Challenge during the 4-H Marine Ecology EventSeaPerch is an underwater remote controlled robotic platform that Florida 4-Hers can participate in.   Engaging in Florida 4-H from the county to state levels opens an array of opportunities for creative expression via leadership roles, volunteer service, public speaking, teaching, photography, talent showcase, culinary arts, and many other areas. Learn more about opportunities for youth on our webpage or watch this month’s Make a Difference Monday volunteer training on how to Navigate 4-H Events and Activities. 

There are many opportunities with Florida 4-H for creativity expression but did you know many youth will not have the chance. Why, you ask? I am definitely glad you did. We need more adults who will be committed to the positive youth development process that happens with 4-H to become a club volunteer. Working with the local 4-H Agent as part of the leadership team, you will find many avenues as well for creativity expression and growth as you help local youth; “Make their Best Better.”  Learn more about our volunteer opportunities with Florida 4-H: or contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.

Counselors practices leadership skills by leading teambuilding activities at robotics day camps

Counselors practices leadership skills by leading teambuilding activities at robotics day camps

Having Fun While Being Safe with Fireworks

FireworksThey wiz, sparkle, pop and twirl. They thrill and sometimes scare us. Do you recall the first sparkler that you got to hold? Was it an exciting, magical experience, or did you get burned?  Do you really know how hot a sparkler can get?  Most children are rarely concerned with safety,  It is up to the adults to keep them safe.  This is especially true when it comes to fireworks. We know that as the Fourth of July is approaching, many will have their own personal fireworks show.   Believe it or not, over 11,000 injuries occur each year (more than half of them happen around Forth of July celebrations).

Most cities offer a free fireworks show around this time of year.  I highly recommend taking in city fireworks show and foregoing a personal one. You won’t have to worry about all the logistics of a personal fireworks display. You’ll just have to worry about getting a good viewing spot and the traffic.  If you are still set on setting off fireworks, keep reading.

First of all, consider the Law.  Are you able to purchase and launch fireworks in your town or city?  Do you know if the fireworks you have purchased are legal in Florida?  Many of the fireworks sold at road side stands are not, such as firecrackers and roman candles.  Setting off illegal fireworks can result in up to a year in prison and $1,000 in fines.  Second, work out safety procedures ahead of time.   Carefully consider these three safety areas; personal, property, and environment.Here’s a checklist to help ensure a fun but SAFE fireworks experience for friends and family (also available as a printable PDF)

Personal Safety:

  • Do you have a first aid kit on hand? Sparklers can burn up to a temperature of 2,000 thousand degrees (glass melts at only 900 degrees).
  • Do you have a fire extinguisher and do you know how to use it?
  • Is water available to douse dud fireworks or to put out a fire? Put another adult in charge of dousing dud fireworks and to be on “spark” lookout. Have hoses and water buckets at the ready.
  • Are you familiar with the fireworks you plan to shoot? Only handle fireworks you know and heed all warnings. Leave the professional (or illegal) fireworks to the permitted professionals.
  • Have you refrained from alcohol? Alcohol and the handling of fireworks is not a good mix.
  • How will you ignite the fireworks to protect yourself if it goes off before it should? Make sure to not place your body over a firework when you are lighting it.
  • Sometimes fireworks do not go off like they should. Leave it alone for several minutes to be sure it really is a dud. Don’t try to relight it. Douse with water before disposing of it.
  • Have you communicated safety ground rules to the guests (and especially the children)?
    • Stay in the clearly marked safe zone
    • Adults only should handle all the fireworks
    • It is not recommended that children handle fireworks. If a child is given a sparkler, he should be carefully monitored at all times.

Property Safety:

  • Does the launch area have a large enough radius to prevent fireworks from landing on any structures, such as a house, garage, or vehicle?
  • Have you informed your neighbors? It is courteous to inform your neighbors when you plan to host an event especially one that involves fireworks.

Environmental Safety:

  • Have you checked the weather? Has it been really dry in your area? Is there a temporary ban on burning? Will it be windy?

Let not your event be the cause of the story being told about how Uncle Gump lost the tip of his finger. We also don’t want to have to replace our neighbor’s grass or garage. Keep it fun while being safe and share these tips with your friends.  If you would like great information on how to photograph fireworks, see our archived article on fireworks photography by Georgene Bender.

Here are some additional links on fireworks safety that you may find helpful:

Next week, Monica Brinkley will share food safety tips for your next picnic or barbeque!   Your opinion matters to us- please take this short survey to provide feedback to help us improve this blog

The Heart of a Handwritten Note: The 2nd “H” in 4-H

My Heart to Greater Loyalty...

My Heart to Greater Loyalty…

A handwritten note or card can express one’s gratitude, thankfulness, care, or encouragement and has not gone extinct even in this age of technology. Just think about the last time you received a personal handwritten note from someone. You may have gotten emails, texts, or posts relating to the same event and you appreciated it all but isn’t there just something a little extra special about receiving a written note?

Florida 4-H helps youth develop life skills. Life skills are those competencies (measurable or observable knowledge, skills, abilities, and behaviors) that assist people in functioning well in the environments in which they live. Life skills are transferable which makes them different from task specific skills like tying a bow or knot.

In February we think of all things related to the heart due to Valentine’s Day. The second H in 4-H stands for the Heart. Looking at Targeting Life Skills in 4-H, the Heart has two life skills subcategories; caring and relating. The specific life skills under caring are empathy, sharing, nurturing relationships, and concern for others. Youth need an opportunity to demonstrate these skills throughout the year.

This takes us back to the handwritten note and your call to action to cultivate the art of note writing in our youth and give them another outlet of expressing the life skills connected to the second H in 4-H.

Tips to Get Started

  • Collection of note cards (Cards could be club themed and can even be hand-made by youth)
  • Good writing pens
  • Stamps (Unless personally delivering them)
  • Keep supplies in your 4-H club box so that you will have them when you need them

According to David Horsager, notes should be specific, personalized, and authentic (S.P.A.)  The note does not have to be long. Younger members, such as cloverbuds may just want to draw a picture that expresses thanks or encouragement. If having youth write cards, teach them want should be included in an artful handwritten note:

  • What they are thankful for or what they want to encourage or motivate someone about
  • How the person has benefited them or how they will use the gift

Even as adults we can demonstrate the life skills under caring. One of my goals this year is to more deliberate and intentional when writing personal notes for work, family, or friends. With practice, this will become easier and having my supplies at work and home will help me get that personalized out and make someone’s day a little brighter and better.  What will you do differently this year to model the 2nd “H” in 4-H?  Leave us a comment below!

~this article was written by Yolanda Goode, 4-H Agent in Gadsden County

From the Heart

4-H’ers celebrating a National Day of Service in January.

4-H’ers celebrating a National Day of Service in January.

February has long been associated with heart related events.  Of course, there is Valentine’s Day, a day of love.  Additionally, the full month is devoted to a focus on heart health.  Continuing on this heart related theme, I want to focus on generosity.  Generosity is one of the four essential elements for youth development.  It is valuing others and serving them. Sincere generosity involves the heart and is usually demonstrated with the use of the hands.  Incidentally, these are two of the four H’s of the 4-H Youth Development program.

As 4-H volunteers we strive to teach youth to be generous.  Service is a good way for youth to learn generosity.  By providing opportunities to connect with their communities through service, we help youth develop generosity and find meaning and value in their lives.  This can be accomplished by helping youth realize the full impact of their efforts.

Often, through asking questions we can help youth see the big picture.  Asking questions can cause them to see what is beyond the immediate actions of service such as getting out of bed early and giving up some time to rake leaves.  Helping them see it’s more than just logging service hours for school, awards or scholarships may help them get to the heart of the service they’ve performed.

Questions you may ask prior to the event to help youth recognize the service they are performing are:  What do you expect to happen at the site?  How do you think the people will feel about us helping them today?  Why do you think this is a need? Post event questions can be just as thought provoking.  Some examples are:  What would have happened if no one had come out to do what we did today?  What did you learn about yourself today? How did serving make you feel?  What else can we do to serve others in our community?

Don’t limit yourself to these questions though, these are just some ideas.  The whole idea is to generate conversation and give youth those “aha” moments and help them see the difference they can make through practicing generosity.  (You too may experience a few “aha” moments as well!) 

Contact your local 4-H agent for more information on the Four Essential Elements of Positive Youth Development.