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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

*“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 Forestry Fun

4-H Forestry Fun

Youth posing, peaking around trees

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.”

4-H is Good for the Environment

4-H is Good for the Environment

group of youth and adult after fishing - This picture was taken prior to our challenges with Covid-19 and we encourage people to social distance and wear a mask with 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).

Spring Break Boredom Busters with 4-H!

Spring Break Boredom Busters with 4-H!

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!


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:   ScienceCitizenship & 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:

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 today.

Annual Alumni Day At Camp Timpoochee

Annual Alumni Day At Camp Timpoochee

Second Annual Alumni Day at Camp Timpoochee, Saturday, March 14, 2020

It’s the smell of burning wood and sound of laughter as sweet, sticky s’mores are being enjoyed by hundreds of campers. Singing, dancing, games, friendships and memories made – summer camp!  The highlight of many youths’ summer that they do not soon forget!  What many former campers would do to go back and relive some of those precious memories…

“I won’t never forget it,” Mr. Amos Morris said. “You won’t ever forget Camp Timpoochee.”  Morris, who attended 4-H Camp Timpoochee as a camper in 1947, took a trip down memory lane during camp’s first Alumni Day in 2019, describing his attendance at camp as “a good education. Get away from home, get away from the parents, and meet somebody else.” When describing camps today, he shared, “It’s just good for them (campers). They ought to have more camps than what they have.”   With a need to celebrate Timpoochee’s long, rich history, there is no better way to do so than by bringing together campers, new and old.

During this event, multiple opportunities are offered to explore the campgrounds, play games, fellowship with others while making a delicious s’more. A special station is set up where attendees are encouraged to fill out cards completing the statement “Because of camp…”. Some of last year’s responses include “Because of Camp I found a place where I will always belong,” “I had the confidence to grow and learn and believe in myself,” “I can be myself for a week,” and “I found a home, a family, and a future I’d never dreamed of.”

4-H Camp Timpoochee has set their Second Annual Alumni Day on Saturday, March 14, 2020 from 10 AM – 4 PM CST to celebrate 93 years of camp. This free event will be open to all who wish to come out and enjoy playing camp games and fellowship with other alumni.

4-H Camp Timpoochee is the oldest continually operating 4-H camp in Florida.

Many never dreamed that Timpoochee would be going strong as long as it has. Established in 1926, 4-H Camp Timpoochee is the oldest continually operating 4-H camp in Florida. It sits along the shore of the Choctwhatchee Bay, providing the perfect outdoor living classroom. With more than a third of a mile of shoreline, it has become the perfect escape from the hustle of the outside world offering a place to disconnect from technology and reconnect with people. Serving more than 800 campers each summer, Timpoochee provides multiple opportunities for youth to experience new adventures, step outside their box and make life-long friends and memories.


Open year round, 4-H Camp Timpoochee is more than just a summer camp.  It offers opportunities for rental groups to enjoy its tranquil and multi-purpose facility through retreats, weddings, reunions and more! Offering lodging spaces, meal service, and meeting spaces, it has quickly become a unique location for various youth and adult organizations far and wide to enjoy.


A Timpoochee T-shirt Quilt Drawing to raise funds for our 4-H summer program will be held – Tickets are $5 donation and will be available soon.

Whether you attended as a camper, participated in a rental group retreat or just love summer camp, 4-H Camp Timpoochee’s Second Annual Alumni Day is open to you! We encourage you to bring any pictures you may have of Camp Timpoochee and your best memories and stories to share! We do ask all those wishing to attend to register online so we will have an accurate count of who will be celebrating with us. This year, there will even be a special drawing for a Timpoochee T-shirt quilt to raise funds for our summer program! Tickets are a $5 donation and will be available soon.

To register, please visit Please do not hesitate to contact Resident Director, Ariel Blanton, at (850) 897-2224 or email at with any questions.

Special thanks to Ariel Blanton, Resident Director, Camp Timpoochee, for providing this article and pictures.

4-H Day at the North Florida Fair

4-H Day at the North Florida Fair

4-H Day at the North Florida Fair, held on Saturday, November 17, 2019, was another successful day for our local youth. This event connected 4-H members and their families with each other from over ten counties. During this day, 4-H friends and family attended the fair in droves to compete in contests, enjoy fair rides, and sample their favorite fair food items. 4-Hers are recognized at a 4-H Awards Ceremony and then find themselves off to a fun-filled day of thrilling rides, laughter, and friendships in a sea of 4-H green!  4-H member, Gabby Graff, expressed her favorite fair rides this year as “zero gravity, the claw, and ring-of-fire.”

4-H members had the opportunity to compete in five different contests this year: STEM Challenge, Consumer Choice, Agriculture Judging, Horticulture Identification, and Wildlife Ecology. Members put their life skills developed through 4-H to work by displaying critical thinking, teamwork, and problem solving during these contests. 4-H member, Miles Gillespie shared that “preparing for the fair and memorizing information for the contests, I learned about patience and discipline. While at the fair competing, I learned more about patience, plus it was an exercise in keeping my composure under pressure.”

Did you miss this year’s 4-H Day at the North Florida Fair?  Catch up on all things 4-H related at the fair below, along with the individual winners for each contest.


Youth are building a structure with craft supplies.

Leon County 4-H Members work together to build their structure in the STEM Challenge
Photo by: Allison Leo

The topic of the STEM Challenge Contest this year was building hurricane safe structures. All youth competing in this contest were placed on a team based on their age division. A limited amount of materials were provided which included items such as straws, tape, paper, and popsicle sticks. The structures were awarded points based on their height and ability to withstand hurricane wind speeds generated by a fan. “The STEM Challenge was fun because I was able to work together with friends while I participated in an engaging and challenging activity” 4-H member Miles shared.

Junior Team:
1st place – Genevieve Gillespie and Caleb Roberts (Leon)
2nd place – Brook Barrios, Craig Barrios, Eliza Prince (Holmes)
3rd place – Ava Peck, Emily Flowers, Travis Archibald, Hunger Hulbert (Gulf)

Intermediate Team:
1st place – Pedro Teck, Alexis Cooper, Landon Cameron (Holmes)
2nd place – Corbin Roberts, Ander Gillespie, Miles Gillespie (Leon)
3rd place – Lydia Bowman, Cat Proud, Kaylee Dunlap, Alan Bray Crews (Escambia)

Senior Team:
1st place – Katherine Ballard, Rashidi Joseph, Robert Burnham (Escambia)
2nd place – Isabella Teck, Seth Smith, Hunter Hoskias (Holmes)
3rd place – Ethan Roberts, Sophia Laver (Leon)


Group of girls are working on a project together.

Leon County 4-H members receive instruction on the Consumer Choice Contest
Photo by: Allison Leo

The Consumer Choice Contest measured the ability of youth to be smart shoppers. The item categories this year were event venues, tents, jeans, and breakfast cereal. 4-H members had the opportunity to compete in this contest as an individual or on a team. Each individual or team was provided with a “situation card.” Based on the criteria provided in the card, members were asked to review four different choices of each item and rank them from best to worst, based on the criteria. After they were finished ranking, they had to justify their selection through an “oral reasoning” section.

Junior Individual:
1st place – Tessia Brookins (Jefferson)
2nd place – Chloe Bray-Crews (Escambia)
3rd place – Patrick Parrish (Jefferson)

Intermediate Individual:
1st place – Abigail Bray-Crews (Escambia)
2nd place – Taylor Anderson (Escambia)
3rd place – Samantha Hall (Jefferson)

Senior Individual:
1st place – Izzy Kent & Alyssa Gray (Escambia)
2nd place – Ryan Young (Escambia)
3rd place – Sydney Henderson (Gilchrist)


Youth in fair ring with cow for judging purposes.

4-H members participate in Agriculture Judging
Photo by: Allison Leo

During the Agriculture Judging Contest, individuals and teams were tested on their knowledge of beef, poultry, hay, corn, soybean, and oats. Youth competed both as individuals and on teams with their age division. Agriculture judging consists of analyzing a product (i.e. cattle, soybeans) and measuring it against a standard. Members were asked to analyze four different choices of each item and rank them from best to worst based on the standards.

Junior Individual:
1st place – Emalee Souders
2nd place – Hunt Williams
3rd place – Dullus Deadwyler

Intermediate Individual:
1st place – Peyton Ditter
2nd place – Liz Newman & Dylan Gunn
3rd place – Caylee Crooks

Senior Individual:
1st place – Kayla Daimler
2nd place – Adli June Elliot
3rd place – Stephanie Hasty


Youth judge plants and record answers on clipboards

4-H Members, Ethan Roberts and Sophia Laver record their answers during Horticulture Identification
Photo by: Allison Leo

Members were provided with over 60 horticulture specimens to identify. The specimens were divided into four separate categories. Those categories were ornamentals, fruits & vegetables, flowers, and foliage. The specimens were laid out on tables, each bearing a number that corresponded to a scoresheet that listed over 100 plant names. This contest replicates the state contest held each year in June.

Junior Individual:
1st place: Ethan Thornbury (Leon)
2nd place: Genevieve Gillespie (Leon)
3rd place: Chloe Bray-crews (Escambia)

Intermediate Individual:
1st place: Miles Gillespie (Leon)
2nd place: Taylor Anderson (Escambia)
3rd place: Alexis Green (Wakulla)

Senior Individual:
1st place: Isaac Brooks (Washington)
2nd place: Katie Ballard (Escambia)
3rd place: Sophia Laver (Leon)


Youth is looking at wildlife species on table.

4-H Member Gabby Graff competes in the Wildlife Ecology Contest
Photo by: Allison Leo

During the Wildlife Ecology Contest, members were tested on their knowledge of Florida trees, mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians. They identified the various items through pictures, physical specimens, and audio sounds. 4-H Member, Sophia Laver, shared that the Wildlife Life Contest is her favorite because “being able to look at a leaf and identify it immediately is the coolest thing. I love the challenge of it and being able to say that I can do these amazing things that no one else is really taught. All the competitors are really supportive of each other.”

Junior Individual:
1st place: Gabby Graff (Leon)
2nd place: Genevieve Gillespie (Leon)
3rd place: Felix Konikoff (Leon)

Intermediate Individual:
1st place: Ander Gillespie & Miles Gillespie (Leon)
2nd place: Adeline Smith (Leon)
3rd place: Sasha Konikoff (Leon)

Senior Individual:
1st place: Sophia Laver (Leon)
2nd place: Katie Ballard (Escambia)
3rd place: Alyssa Gray (Escambia)

If you would like to learn more about 4-H activities and events like these educational competitions found at the North Florida Fair during 4-H Day at the Fair each year or how to become a 4-H member in your community, please contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office, or visit for more information.