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Outdoor Fire Safety

Being in the great outdoors is a great way to spend your time with family! What are some ideas for activities you can do outdoors with your friends and family? Some of the best outdoor activities could include going for a hike, swimming, hunting, kayaking, or even building a campfire. With the weather still cool and a little dry here in Northwest Florida, sitting around a campfire sounds like the right kind of fun!  However, it is extremely important to be sure that your campfire does not put anyone at risk of wildfires or burns.

Check out some of the fire safety tips below!

  1. Use a designated fire pit, if available. If this is not an option, clear a space on the ground, removing any grass or needles that could potentially catch fire.
  2. Build your fire downwind and away from tents, houses, or anything that is flammable. What does flammable mean? Anything that can easily set fire is flammable. The USDA suggests a minimum of at least 3 feet away from anything that can catch fire.
  3. Have water or something to douse the fire nearby. In the event of fire escaping its designated area, you will need to be able to put it out swiftly to prevent a wildfire. Consider a water hose that is hooked up to a water source or a fire extinguisher. Also, before leaving your fire site, make sure the fire is extinguished!
  4. You know the drill! Stop, Drop, and Roll! Make sure that everyone present knows how to put out a clothing fire with these three simple steps.
  5. Never leave children unattended around a fire. As the adult, it is your responsibility to make sure that everyone is safe! Also, store matches, lighters, and lighter fluids out of children’s sight and reach.
  6. Think about what you are wearing. Do not wear open toed shoes, as a spark could come off a flame and burn your toe. Instead, wear closed toed shoes while around the fire. Do not wear loose fitting clothing. If you lean over a fire with a baggy t-shirt on, chances are your shirt could catch on fire. Wearing snug-fitting clothing is an easy way to prevent this from happening.

Another “hot” topic is grilling! As we all know, fire and charcoals are extremely hot. Make safe cooking a priority, especially when it comes to outdoor grilling. With summer coming, grilling will become a more popular activity!

A great way for you youth to learn about safe grilling practices is for them to attend a 4-H Tailgate Grilling Camp! This summer,

Young man grilling pork chops

Youth learning to grill pork safely!

Calhoun and Liberty County 4-H Agents, Claire Reach and Marie Arick will be teaming up to offer this program to area youth. Youth will not only learn about the importance of fire safety, but also how to mix rubs or marinades for their meats, and how to grill different animal proteins!

If this is something you think your child or a youth you know might be interested in, stay tuned for upcoming date announcements for summer camps. If you have questions, comments, or concerns, please give us a call at the UF/IFAS Extension Calhoun County Office: (850)-674-8323.

An Equal Opportunity Institution. 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.firesafekid.org/family-fire-safety/outdoor-fire-safety/

https://www.usfa.fema.gov/downloads/fief/outdoor_fire_safety.pdf

Meet the Author – Marcus D. Boston Jr.

My name is Marcus Boston and I’m the County Extension Director and 4-H Youth Development Agent in Leon County, Tallahassee FL. I’m originally from Gainesville Florida and have worked for the Leon County Extension Service as a 4-H Extension Agent, for 29 years.

I was born and raised in Gainesville FL., the location of the State 4-H office but was never involved in 4-H as a youth. I graduated from Buchholz High School in Gainesville Florida and earned a football scholarship to attend school and play football for Florida A&M University (FAMU) in Tallahassee. As a result of my accomplishments on and off the team, during my senior year, I was awarded the prestigious Alonzo Smith “Jake Gaither” Award. I completed my B.S. degree in Agribusiness and while working as a graduate assistant coach on the football team, I completed my M.S. in Agricultural Sciences.  Prior to starting graduate school, I worked as a Sideline Commentator for the Florida A&M football games that were aired on a local radio station. After completing graduate school, I began my professional career as an extension agent with Florida A&M University and the University of Florida working primarily with 4-H Youth Development.

Marcus joins Leon County 4-H Leadership Club fun day activity in the early 90’s

When I started in Leon County one of my first assignments was to make a personal visit to all the existing 4-H clubs in the county at that time.  After meeting all the wonderful volunteers and youth involved in our Leon County 4-H program, I was inspired by all the fun educational projects the youth were involved in and encouraged by the commitment and passion of the volunteers that oversaw the clubs.  It is this commitment and passion that still exist today and that encouraged me to work extra hard to recruit and train volunteers so there could be more clubs for youth to join.

Marcus Boston teaching youth how to determine which eye is dominant before archery class

The establishment of my Environmental Education/Stewardship Program is one of my most successful programs here in Leon County.  This program includes a series of smaller programs developed and carried out with the primary objective of educating our youth about the importance of conserving, protecting, and appreciating our environment and how they can become environmental stewards in their respective community’s. These experiences are tailored to equip youth participants with the information they need that will help them make logical decisions on environmental issues that may arise as they enter adulthood. In a few years these youth could be accountable for attitudes, perceptions and policies that affect our environment as well as our soil. A few of the environmental focused experiences that I developed and carried out during past several years as part of our Leon County 4-H program are: 4-H Ecology Field Day, 4-H Eco-ventures Spring Break Camp, Wild About Water Day Camp, The Talking Trash Day Camp, Going Green Day Camp, No Woods Left Behind Day Camp, Trees and Bows Day Camp, 4-H Wildlife and Outdoor Recreation Camp at Jubilee, and residential camp at 4-H Camp Cherry Lake held in Madison FL.

As a certified archery and canoe instructor, I’ve had the pleasure of teaching thousands of youth communications and safety skills using a canoe and a bow and arrow as the vehicle of choice. Both of which I’m still involved to this day. In an effort help young people learn the life cycle, I have taught the 4-H Embryology program in several schools in Leon County.  This program has provided the opportunity for hundreds of students and teachers, to watch chicks hatch out of their eggs right before their eyes in their classroom…an experience they never forget.

Leon County 4-H Camp Counselors kickoff counselor training with gleaning 1,300 lbs. of fruit to provide for homeless shelter

The Leon County 4-H Camp Counselor Training Program has also served as one of my most successful teen leadership programs. I have enjoyed recruiting, training and equipping hundreds of teens with the skills and knowledge they need to: Manage campers at our residential camp, understand the “ages and stages” of the youth they supervised, apply strategies for teaching classes at camp, and most important, keeping camp safe for all in attendance. Due to the success of this program, former counselors from our counselor training program are viewed and recruited as potential camp staff for our State 4-H camps each year.

I have also enjoyed providing opportunities for thousands of youth in Leon County Schools to participate in The 4-H Tropicana Public Speaking Program (now known as the Florida 4-H Public Speaking Program sponsored by Florida Power and Light) which annually provides an opportunity for over 7,000 Leon County 4th, 5th, and 6th graders to develop, write, and present a speech on a topic of their interest.  With so much emphasis on texting and posting…this program continues to provide a platform for young people to develop their oral communication skills which is crucial as they graduate and enter the work force.

Marcus Boston is demonstrating fitness techniques with attendees during Youth Extension Day in Leon County.

I have also been a Project Learning Tree(PLT) facilitator for over 20 years and have help to train over 500 college students from Florida State, Flagler College and Florida A&M University in how to teach youth environmental education using the PLT curriculum.

The last six years as County Extension Director has provided me an opportunity to promote UF/IFAS Extension by managing and working with my faculty in providing researched based information in the form of workshops, field days, 4-H clubs, seminars, virtual and hybrid webinars and school enrichment programs in an effort to help youth and adults in the Leon County Community find the Solutions For Their Life. I have always believed that active participation in 4-H provides youth the tools in life to be successful in whatever direction they choose to go.

Wildlife Outdoor Leadership Focus (W.O.L.F.)

Wildlife Outdoor Leadership Focus (W.O.L.F.)

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.

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 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.”

“Sew” Generous, She Inspires Others

“Sew” Generous, She Inspires Others

Volunteers inspiring young minds

Every Spring during Walton County Spring Break, a local group of women collaborate with the Walton County 4-H program to deliver a special interest day camp for youth in the area.  This day camp, Stitch Perfect, was developed by the Chautauqua Quilters Guild and Jena Gilmore, the Walton County 4-H Agent.  Stitch Perfect teaches youth participants everything from hand stitching, sewing tools, and equipment, to advanced sewing techniques.

Walton County 4-H has been extremely fortunate that this three-day day camp comes with a small cost, due to the Chautauqua Quilters Guild donating all materials, machines, and volunteer power while 4-H provides no-sew projects, environmental topics, STEM, and alternative sewing activities (crochet, weaving, etc).  Due to the collaboration efforts and strong partnership with the Guild, this program has been one of the highest demanded annually!  To serve more youth, 4-H expanded the reach of this project from 10 to 20 campers by dividing the youth into beginner and advanced classes.

 

Macie’s Masterpiece Headquarters

Four years ago, Macie, a 4-H day camper, attended Stitch Perfect and fell in love with the art of sewing and quilting.  The following year, she was so excited to attend Stitch Perfect and show off what she had been working on, however, her family planned a trip to Disney.  Macie was distraught and actually shared with her mother she would’ve rather attended Stitch Perfect!  While Macie still enjoyed her time at Disney, she has been able to attend Stitch Perfect in following years to gain skills in cross stitching, weaving, and advanced sewing.

 

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and shortage of preventative equipment, Macie felt inspired to take action by utilizing the sewing skills she has learned over the years at 4-H Stitch Perfect with the Chautauqua Quilters Guild!  She created her own work space in her bedroom, determined her pattern, secured her supplies and tools and went to work creating beautiful masterpieces in the form of surgical masks, to share with her community.  Macie’s inspiration sparked after her mother, a postal worker, expressed the need and lack of supplies such as hand sanitizer, gloves, and face masks for postal workers.  After all, they are on the front lines dealing with COVID-19 as they directly handle thousands of pieces of mail daily that have been handled tens of thousands of times prior to being delivered to their facility for sorting and delivery!

 

A display of finished sewing project-face masks

Macie’s Masterpieces

Macie is an outstanding example of just how impactful 4-H is on the lives of the youth that participate in 4-H programming.  Like so many other programs available, 4-H Stitch Perfect helped Macie to develop and master essential life skills such as critical thinking, decision making, concern for self and others, etc. With over 70 different 4-H project areas from sewing, gardening, animal science, to computer science and rocketry, there are plenty of topics to work with youth to develop their life skills and make a meaningful impact like the Chautauqua Quilters Guild did on Macie with the 4-H Stitch Perfect program.  If you would like to get involved in your local 4-H program as a volunteer, please visit http://florida4h.org to apply online or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

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.

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!

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:   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!

GARDENING

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!

https://nwdistrict.ifas.ufl.edu/4hn/files/2015/04/HANDOUT_PottedPlantColorPrint.pdf

HEALTH

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.