Environmental education can be a very broad topic. The study of how living organisms interact within their environment can be very complicated, especially when we factor in the human element. An Okaloosa County 4-H program Called Wildlife Outdoor Leadership Focus or (W.O.L.F.) was created to address the human dimension of natural resources. Basically, this is a youth conservation program dedicated to making participants aware of the importance of natural resources recreation and to apply the art and science of natural resource management. W.O.L.F. has three main objectives.
Objective 1 – Learn the Importance of Natural Resources
The W.O.L.F. program starts by explaining why these natural resources are important. For example, outdoor activities such as hunting, fishing, boating and wildlife viewing contribute over $25 BILLION to the state of Florida. People are very passionate about their outdoor activities. Florida hunters average nearly $3,000 per person on hunting expenditures per year! Our state has a vast stakeholder interest. Nearly 6 million people participate in wildlife/fisheries activities every year in Florida. The L in W.O.L.F. stands for leadership. Local, state, and federal leaders make important decisions every year regarding natural resource management. Teddy Roosevelt, our 26th President of the United States, established 230 million acres of public land for all to enjoy. Government still protects many of our natural resources today. Florida is home to 175 state parks.
Objective 2 – Apply Theory and Practice Conservation
W.O.L.F. participants receive hands on practice of being a conservationist. The program teaches 4-H members the science and art behind wildlife management. Florida 4-H has a virtual Wildlife Outdoor Leadership Focus (W.O.L.F.) Day Camp were youth can learn at their own pace. The camp has 5 sections: Woods and Fields, Freshwater, Saltwater, Survival, and Biologist life. Each day has videos and activities that offer a daily challenge. W.O.L.F. campers learn about wildlife/plant identification, and what specific wildlife species need to survive. Furthermore, we show youth how our actions, intentional or unintentional, affect the environment we live in. The virtual day camp also covers basic biology of mammals, birds, fish, and reptile. Participants are encouraged to go out with adult supervision and see what’s going on in the great outdoors.
The final activity is the wildlife challenge where campers must be a wildlife biologist for a day. 4-H members are given a scenario with three wildlife species that the landowner wants to manage on a piece of property. The camper must evaluate the property based on the requirements that the 3 wildlife species need in order to survive. The camper completes a wildlife management plan. They look at the best management practices given to them during the course and decide if the property is a habitat for the desired wildlife species. If it is not, they must offer a solution. For example, the landowner wishes to have more northern bobwhite quail on the property but the land is covered in mature hardwoods. The campers are expected to make a recommendation. They learned that quail need shrubs, native grasses, and forbs.
Objective 3 – Career Development and Multi-Science Approach
The W.O.L.F. program also sparks awareness about the professionals who work with our natural resources. Participants virtually meet biologists, wildlife officers, and other natural resource professionals. Each career video will explain how they help our environment. Campers will get to see what it would be like if they had their jobs.
Let 4-H introduce you or your youth to the Wildlife Outdoor Leadership Focus (W.O.L.F.) program. The program does not just stop with wildlife and fisheries science careers. The program explains many more sciences. 4-H members will learn about soil science, forestry, engineering, math, agriculture, and technology to name a few. The only thing your youth will need is a love for the outdoors. If you are interested in W.O.L.F. Camp, please reach out to your local UF/ IFAS County Extension 4-H Agent. The W.O.L.F. program will also be available as a virtual project in Okaloosa County.
4-H members and volunteers are always seeking new ideas for hands-on learning experiences as service activities to positively impact our communities. With covid-19, some community service opportunities have been limited due to social distancing and other restrictions. However, the South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Florida Sea Grant have a new opportunity for 4-H members to get involved virtually. This opportunity is a citizen science project that would be a great way to build your community service hours and learn something new about fish in the process!
Are any of you into history, helping with research, and like fish? If you answered “yes” to any of these, please consider working with the FISHstory Project! The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council and Florida Sea Grant needs help with a citizen science project to help fill gaps in fisheries data using historical dock photos.
Who can participate? Families and youth ages 16+, or younger youth with an adult mentor who is working with them for the sessions. If you are under the age of 16, you will need your parent to register with you. It is a very simple registration process. First, register for FISHstory at https://scistarter.org/fishstory. Then, click on the https://safmc.net/safmc-fishstory/ link to begin helping count and identify fish in the historical photos.
This project will train you as a citizen scientist to identify and count fish using historic fishing photos from the 1940-1970s, prior to when dedicated catch monitoring began. This is a two-part project. The first part is to simply count the number of fish in the photo. The second part is to identify the fish in the photo. Everything is done online using Zooniverse, so there would be no travel or cost to participate in this project.
Data collected with your help will provide a picture of the fishery in the earlier years. This will help scientists understand the fishing industry prior to dedicated monitoring programs. It will also help improve our understanding of the fishing of several iconic species over the years. This data will be used to help accurately estimate stock productivity from 1940 to 1970 when for-hire fisheries off the Atlantic coast of Florida were gaining popularity. Your help is needed to fill these data gaps to help evaluate assumptions about stock productivity. The historic photos, untapped sources of this important biological data, can help do just that. Analyzing the photos will help provide better information of what people were catching during this time period, seasonality of their catches, and possibly estimate a rough catch per angler, which can provide insights on the health of fish populations during that period.
4-H helps youth to learn the skills needed to lead the positive change in their communities like this one. This is done through hands-on learning opportunities that explore citizenship, community development, and personal growth. For more information on community service projects or other 4-H programs that build essential life skills in youth, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org.
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.”
4-H members have fun at the Forestry Judging Contest.
According to the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, our state has the largest variety of native trees in the continental United States. The panhandle is home to many of the trees that range across the eastern United States. These species find that the northern part of Florida is their southern limit. Conversely, the sub-tropical plants found in south Florida have reached their northern limits. Each year, 4-H members all across the state have an opportunity to learn about Florida’s great renewable resource.
The Florida 4-H Forestry Ecology Contest allows participants to learn and have a little fun in friendly competition. Teams of 4-H members learn about forest health, tree identification, map symbols, and other elements of forestry management. In other terms, this is forestry judging. Joining a forestry judging team can be very fun and rewarding. These programs help build up relationships with mentors and other children. Furthermore, they offer life skills to children which can be used for a life time of enjoyment in the great outdoors. Since Florida has more than 17 million acres of forests, the benefits of learning how to use a compass, map reading, and tree identification have far greater implications than a forestry competition. One being that this skill can bring youth closer to the environment or at the very least, make them more aware of their surroundings.
Did you know that thousands of items are made from forest products? You will find them all over your house. Your kitchen probably has food additives, spices, dish washing liquid, fruits and nuts made in part by forest products. My favorite drink is ROOT beer. You guessed it! The drink comes from forest products. The chairs or couch we lounge in, or home, wouldn’t be possible without forest products. Your medicine cabinet is loaded with forest products as well. Our soaps, cough syrups/drops, shampoo, aspirin, adhesive bandages, skin lotions, tablet coatings, toothbrushes, and cologne are all brought to you by forestry professionals. Florida employs more than 124,000 forestry professionals. This industry contributes $25 billion dollars to our state’s economy. You can see how important forestry is to our economy.
Let 4-H introduce you or your youth to Florida’s Forestry Ecology Program. This year’s Florida’s Forestry Ecology Program contest was held virtually due to COVID-19 we but hope to be back soon for more in-person adventures in Florida’s Forests! To find out more information about 4-H programs about forestry 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.”
This group of 4-H youth, volunteers, and agent are enjoying the wonders of their outdoor environment. *This picture was taken prior to our challenges with Covid-19 and we encourage people to practice social distancing and wear a mask when around others.*
For many people, 4-H exists in the agriculture science and livestock husbandry realm of youth development. 4-H members showing livestock and entering exhibits at the county fair come to our minds when we see the ol’ green and white clover emblem. That is still very much a part of what we are today. However, 4-H has expanded and remodeled throughout the years. Now more than ever we are more diversified in our educational efforts. 4-H truly has something for everyone. Robotics, STEM, citizenship, meat science, consumer decision making, environmental sciences, and many more keep us relative and our mission of “learn by doing” separates us from others.
Today, I want to focus on why 4-H is “making the best better” in environmental sciences. 4-H professionals must provide youth with opportunities to apply what they have learned from their involvement in 4-H programs. When youth participate in educational programs in environmental science, who do you think wins? The environment we live in! Environmental science can be defined as a branch of biology focused on the study of the relationships of the natural world and the relationships between organisms and their environments. As you can see, this is a very broad topic. 4-H offers educational opportunities in wildlife and fisheries ecology, forestry, marine sciences and many more natural resource topics. Studies show that 4-H members go back into their communities and apply what they learn. This is a direct result of life skill development. In addition, these natural resource programs allow youth and adult volunteers to see the complexity of available natural resources and the connections to other fields of discovery like engineering.
Let’s look at how 4-H works in a nutshell. The child and/or adult attends 4-H Marine Camp where they participate in a fun hands on activity on plastics in water. The participant then goes back to the community with a greater understanding of use and recycling. He or she then shares with others about the experience. I have a particular interest in wildlife management. I enjoy teaching children and adults about species identification and habitat. Personally, I have seen the spark in the eyes of a 4-H member when learning about animals. Children learning the importance of environmental stewardship start with a relationship built by participating in a natural resource activity. 4-H can make that bridge between youth and mentor! Take a loved one on a hike or grab a pole and go fishing, better yet, reach out to your local county extension office and ask how you and/or your youth can be involved in 4-H Environmental Science.
Special thanks to Ronnie Cowan, UF/IFAS Okaloosa County 4-H Agent and County Extension Director, for providing this article and picture(s).
It’s finally here! Like many of us, you’ve probably been counting down the days since Christmas break for the next hiatus from the chaotic school day routine. Now, with Spring Break upon you…what are you going to do with the kids while working or running errands that have piled up and marking off that “to do” list? It’s time to “phone a friend,” your Positive Youth Development friends (aka 4-H Agents) that is!
Set yourself up for success this Spring Break by planning some fun projects to complete with your youth. Many of these projects they can do independently, or with a group of friends, or tackle with the whole family. 4-H makes learning FUN through experiential learning opportunities the whole family can enjoy!
4-H PROJECT LEARNING
Walton County 4-H’er during his container gardening Demonstration at County Showcase!
4-H members can choose from more than 50 projects that focus on science, engineering and technology, animals and agriculture, food & nutrition, outdoor adventures, marine science, public speaking, art and wildlife. 4-H learning is experiential- or “hands on learning,” where youth get to interact with the curriculum or subject matter being taught/explored.
Ultimately, youth learn life skills and use these skills to give back to their communities. Youth set goals, keep records and can participate in events and activities on a county, district, state, and national level to expand their learning! They can explore the various projects and programs 4-H offers and choose one that interests them.
4-H has three major priority programs: Science, Citizenship & Leadership, and Healthy Living. Please check out the resources available in each of these areas and consider exploring other aspects with your local 4-H program. Your local 4-H office may be hosting “day camps,” or daytime activities over Spring Break which youth can register for and spend the day in a safe, inclusive environment exploring with youth their age!
Below are a few projects youth can dig into with many simple household items. For a greater challenge, expand on these projects so that youth can create their own demo to share with their local 4-H program during club meetings or County Showcase to earn more credit, experience, and leadership within their clubs!
A perfect project for youth of all ages…the newspaper pot! Not only are you recycling, but you can learn about propagating plates, soil science, and so much more with some extra research. Turn it into a family challenge to see who can make theirs the fastest, the most decorative, the largest…the possibilities are endless with this project!
In the midst of all the wacky weather lately, take some time to explore different aspects of one of our H’s…Health! The links below are just a few within a series of activities focused on Healthy Living. In the “Let’s Go Green” series, youth will learn how to create safe alternatives to chemical cleaning solutions and YOU (the guardians) get to benefit as they “test” the effectiveness of these cleaners throughout the house. Make it a challenge…encourage them to test different areas, the kitchen, the bathroom, the windows…have you caught our major hint yet? Additionally, youth can expand on their learning by using the link below to create their own newspaper to showcase their findings. Utilize the “Headlines for Health Introductions” to explore more activity options like “Let’s Go Green.”
Make a Newspaper: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/pdffiles/4H/4H28000.pdf
4-H is one of the nation’s most diverse organizations, open to all youth, ages 5-18, and available in every community. For more information on how youth can join or the many 4-H projects available, contact your local UF/IFAS County Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org today.