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Happy National S’mores Day!

Nothing says summer better than a gooey, yummy s’more!  They are the ultimate summer campfire dessert. In celebration of National S’mores Day, we are sharing a history of the s’more, a how-to video, and recipe card with our readers. You can make s’mores the traditional way over a campfire, but you can also make them in a microwave or also turn them into a science lesson by making them in a solar oven!

While you are hanging around the campfire with friends and family, here’s a little history of the s’more:

  • Marshmallows were invented by the ancient Greeks and Romans for medicinal purposes (specifically to relieve inflammation and constipation). The first marshmallows were made from the plant Althaea officinalis. 
  • The French added egg whites and sugar, and marketed marshmallows as a treat with healing properties.
  • In the 19th century, confectioners began substituting gelatin for the plant juices, which made it much easier to produce marshmallows in mass.
  • The graham cracker was invented by a Presbyterian minister, Sylvester Graham, who believed eating plain, simple food prevented immoral behavior.
  • Marshmallow roasting parties became fashionable during the Victorian era.
  • We have the Girl Scouts to thank for bringing together chocolate, marshmallows and graham crackers!  The first recipe for s’mores appeared in the 1927 Girls Scout Handbook, and was called S’mores because they were so good, everyone would ask for “some more”

Nearly 100 years later, s’mores continue to be a favorite treat at 4-H camps. If it’s too hot for a campfire this summer, you can also make this yummy treat in the microwave:

You can also download and share this recipe card:

Making solar s’mores can be a fun 4-H club activity- National 4-H Council turned our previous solar s’mores post into a “4-H At Home” activity that you can also download and share.

National Freezer Pop Day- How to make Freezer Pops

Summer is upon us and so is the heat in the Florida Panhandle. Schools are out and the kids are at home needing activities to do together. Homemade Freezer Pops are an excellent source of fun! These popsicles can be secretly healthy and taste absolutely delicious. They don’t have to just be for the kids either, adults of all shapes and sizes can enjoy them too. In this article we will discuss what freezer pops are, how to make them, and a few tips for maximum enjoyment!

What are Freezer Pops?

A freezer pop is a frozen treat that generally comes in a clear, plastic tube. Freezer pops, not to be confused with popsicles which are typically consumed off a wooden popsicle stick, are found in grocery stores in unfrozen liquid form, ready for the consumer to pop them into their freezer at home! Once frozen solid, the consumer picks their flavor of choice, cuts open an end of the plastic tube, and simply squeezes or pushes the sweet ice out of the packaging.

Many of us know these sweet and fruity slushy pops as Otter Pops or Fla-Vor-Ice. These nostalgic treats are simply made from sweetened, colored, and flavored water.  With little nutritional value coming from the store-bought version, homemade freezer pops can be much more nutritious.  Keep following along to find out how to make these tasty treats!

How to make Homemade Freezer Pops

Freezer pops are super easy to make and are a healthier alternative to the nostalgic treat. Before you get started, you will need all the necessary supplies.  Supplies commonly found at home would include a freezer and a blender. Supplies that can be bought at the store are Zipzicles (a freezer pop reusable plastic bag) or silicone ice pop molds, fruit of your choice, and a natural sweetener like honey.

Step 1: Wash your hands! Handwashing is one of the best ways to protect yourself and others from spreading germs. You should wash hands before, during, and after preparing your food. To wash your hands the right way, first wet your hands with warm, clean, running water.  Then turn off the tap and apply your soap.  Lather your hands (make lots of white foams/bubbles) by rubbing them together with the soap. Make sure you lather the back of your hands, between your fingers, under your nails, and palm of your hands.  Scrub for about twenty seconds.  (Don’t know how long 20 seconds is? Hum the “Happy Birthday” song from the beginning to the end twice!)  Finally, rinse your hands well under warm, clean, running water and either dry with a clean towel or air dry. (1)

Step 2: Gather your ingredients to be blended. There are lots of  fruits  that make great homemade ice pops: watermelon, orange, pineapple, mango, raspberry, honeydew, cantaloupe, and strawberry! (3)

One of my favorite recipes for freezer pops uses 10 ounces of ripe berries, ~½ a cup of water, and 1-2 tablespoons of honey. If the fruit  you use is very juicy, you may not have to use as much water but remember, the more water that you use, the icier the pop will become in the freezer. You can also use either lemon or  lime juice to add a little flavor boost!. (3) The amount of sweetener needed varies as the sugar content of the berries can vary. If the berries are ripe and sweet, use a little less sweetener. If the berries are not as ripe, simply use a little more sweetener. Then blend all the ingredients together completely, until smooth!

Step 3: Fill individual baggies of your choosing. Make sure to not over fill the bags.

Step 4: Freeze the freezer pops for ~ 2 to 4 hours before enjoying. If you consume them around 2 hours, they may not be as solid as they will be at the 4-hour mark.

Step 5: Enjoy a refreshing treat!

Tips for Homemade Freezer Pops

  1. The sweetness of the chosen fruit will be muted  once frozen. Make sure to use over ripe fruit or added sweetener to keep the treat sweet.
  2. Use a funnel to fill your freezer pop bags. Using a funnel will keep you from making too much of a mess, and will also help you mind the “maximum fill line” on the bag. If you keep the contents you are pouring into the bag under the line, it will be easier to seal! \
  3. Just about anything that can be blended or pureed can be used for a freezer pop! Leftover smoothies, various fruit juices, and even sodas make for easy  treats! Check out the image below to see flavors others have created!  (4)

For National Freezer Pop Day, July 8th, 2021, enjoy making  homemade freezer pops  with your family! With a snip of the scissors, you’ll produce smiles with every sip. (2)









Celebrate National “Take a Kid Fishing” Day with 4-H!

photo of a girl with a fishing pole and fishIf you need a good reason to go fishing, we’ve got you!  Today is National Take a Kid Fishing Day, and we can’t think of a better reason to promote our 4-H fishing project. Our 4-H fishing project connects youth to the great outdoors and is an opportunity for youth to learn about:

  • Important angling skills, like casting and retrieving your line.
  • Different types of tackle and how they are used to catch fish.
  • How to take proper care of your rod and reel.
  • Cleaning and cooking your fish.
  • Ecology of aquatic and marine environments.
  • How to identify the different types of sportfish and how to catch them.
  • What it means to be a responsible angler.

Youth also learn about careers related to fisheries and wildlife, and their importance to the Florida economy. Florida is often called the fishing capitol of the world because the state holds more record fish catches than any other state or country! Fishing is important for many different reasons. Recreational fishing is a major economical driver in the state of Florida.  The sunshine state has approximately 4 million anglers that contribute $13.8 billion to Florida’s economy supporting over 120,000 local jobs.

If you have a passion for fishing and the environment, please consider sharing your skills and knowledge with youth. 4-H can customize volunteer roles to fit your interest and

group of youth and adult after fishing

Group of 4-H youth, volunteers, and agent enjoying the wonders of the outdoors

schedule so you can inspire the next generation of anglers. Contact your local UF IFAS Extension office to discuss how you can contribute to “making the best better” in your community.

If your child or grandchild is interested in participating in our fishing program, check out our Sports Fishing Project page, or reach out to your local 4-H agent. The University of Florida school of Forestry, Fisheries, and Geomatic Sciences sponsors a program called “Fishing for Success.”  This program includes several family fishing days where they provide everything you need to fish and have fun!

The Difference Between Service Learning and Community Service

Youth and adults cleaning up their community

photo credit: National 4-H Council

One of the requirements for 4-H clubs to be chartered is annual participation in a service project because it helps youth develop compassion and empathy for others. This is an important step to help youth live our pledge “my heart to greater loyalty” and “my hands to greater service.”  Recently, the terms community service and service learning are being used interchangeably, but they are not the same. This post will explain the difference between the two and provide additional resources for 4-H parents, volunteers and club officers.

What is community service?

Community service is usually a “one and done” activity. It is often associated with short term volunteerism, and sometimes can be associated with court-mandated sentences. Community service includes things like a food drive, clothing drive, or litter pick up. These types of activities help youth apply the “heart” and “hands” parts of our pledge, but youth typically do not organize the activities; they are often done in collaboration with another organization, such as Toys for Tots, a local food pantry, or Adopt a Highway. Community service is a great way to introduce the concepts of giving back to the community and helping others. It is very appropriate for our younger 4-H members, who don’t yet have the critical thinking, decision making, and leadership skills to execute a service-learning project.

What is service learning?

Service learning engages not only the “heart” and “hands” but also the “head.”  Service learning is a process in which youth identify a need, develop solutions to address that need, implement a plan to put their solution into action, and reflect on the results of their action. Service learning should be planned and implemented by youth, with parents and volunteers supporting and guiding the process. Service learning is more appropriate for older youth who are ready to take on more responsibility. Service learning not only helps youth develop a sense of compassion, but it also helps them develop more independence.

So What’s the Difference?Community service vs service learning

For example, when a 4-H club decides to lead a food drive for the local pantry, they are contributing to the issue of food insecurity.  Food drives are an effective way to meet the immediate need for more food, or more nutritious food. Our annual Peanut Butter Drive is a great way for 4-Hers to get involved with food insecurity; the Florida Peanut Producers match what is collected and everything is donated to a local food pantry. However, if youth want to address the issue of food insecurity in a more systemic way, they might choose to apply GPS technology to map the food deserts in their community or county. Next, they might present their findings to county commissioners or the chamber of commerce. Together, they brainstorm solutions on how to address food insecurity issues in those food deserts, but increasing awareness, or finding partners to provide sources of nutritious food. After implementing solutions, they look back and reflect on what they did, what worked, and what could be improved for next time.

Download this one-page document to help explain the difference between community service and service learning. This is a great resource for volunteers, parents and club officers. Next week, we will share ideas for service learning and community service related to a variety of issues, that can be a great discussion starter for your club meetings this fall!

If you have a passion for civic engagement and making a difference in your community, consider sharing your passion and skills with youth. We need volunteers to help youth understand what it means to be engaged in their community, and volunteers to empower youth to make a difference locally. We match volunteers’ skills and schedules with our program. Contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office for more information.

Fold the Perfect Paper Airplane

May 26th is National Paper Airplane Day, and what better way to celebrate than learn to fold the perfect paper airplane?  Paper airplanes are a fun way to teach young people about physics and spark their interest in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM). You can also use this activity to promote teambuilding or as a recreational activity for your next club meeting.

To fold the perfect paper airplane, you need a basic understanding of the four forces of flight: lift, drag, thrust, and weight.

  • Thrust is the force that moves the airplane in the direction of motion. Thrust is created when air is pulled in and then pushed out in an opposite direction. In a real aircraft, thrust is created by a propeller, engine, or rocket. In the case of the paper airplane, thrust is created when you release the airplane from your hand.
  • Drag is the force that is the opposite of thrust. It slows the airplane down. Drag is created by friction. The more aerodynamic your design, the less drag your plane will experience.
  • Weight is the force caused by gravity. It pulls your paper airplane down.
  • Lift is the opposite force to weight. Lift helps hold your paper airplane up in the air. The wings of your airplane help generate lift.

This video provides a short and easy to understand explanation of how these four forces affect a paper airplane.

There are many different ways to fold a paper airplane, but this post will cover three basic folds that can be customized for different flight effects.  The first fold is the dart. Like he name implies, the dart fold will result in an airplane that will fly longer distances at faster speeds. If you want to have a contest for which plane can go the fastest and farthest, then the dart fold is your best option. Watch this short video to master the dart fold:

The second fold to learn is the glider. The glider fold will result in an airplane that is slower than the dart, but will stay in the air for a longer period of time. The glider has wider wings that help keep the plane lifted in the air and make the plane more stable. Watch this video to master the glider fold:

Finally, it is always fun to learn how to fold a plane that will loop the loop!  This is the most difficult of the three folds to master, but will result in a paper airplane that will do fun aerobatic tricks. You will have better results with this fold after you have mastered both the dart and glider folds. Watch this video to learn how to fold the stunt plane.

If you enjoyed this activity at home, consider participating in a summer day camp or join a 4-H club for year long learning and fun with a purpose!  Contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office to find out about opportunities available in your community.

More Resources:

Check out the Florida 4-H Aerospace Project

Try building a paper Mars Helicopter from NASA


Cultivating Communication Skills: Non Verbal Cues

Last week, we shared Five ways to Cultivate Listening skills with 4-H youth. These strategies focused on listening with your ears, but did you know that you can listen with your eyes too?  The quote to the left is an astounding fact- much of what we “hear” does not come from the words that are said, but how they are said. We use our whole body to communicate- not just our mouth and ears. Learning how to read non-verbal cues can help us (and the youth we serve) build empathy and understanding, which help us foster a sense of belonging in our 4-H clubs and groups.


What are non-verbal cues?

Non-verbal communication is about how words are spoken and less about which words are used. This includes things like voice tone, pitch and pace. It can also include sounds like yawning, sighing, clapping and hand gestures. For example, someone may be speaking at a normal pace, but you can hear trembling in their voice (which may indicate fear or anger). Body language is a also a great communication cue. This includes not only facial expressions, but also posture.  The infographic to the right is a handy guide for learning non-verbal communication cues.

Tips for “reading” non-verbal cues

  • The eye’s have it! A person’s eyes speak volumes. Look to see if the speaking is making direct eye contact or not. Inability to make direct eye contact can indicate boredom or even deceit. But it can also indicate shyness or lack of confidence. In some cultures, not looking directly into a person’s eyes is a demonstration of respect and in other cultures, it is a sign of disrespect, so be aware of how cultural differences can influence body language.  Where a person looks is telling. People often look to the right when they are using their imagination, but look left when they are recalling a memory.
  • Facial expression is harder to detect, because most people focus on controlling it. Is the person smiling? If so, is it a genuine smile? Sarcastic smile? A slight grimace before a smile is usually the indicator of a fake smile. Tight lips can also indicate annoyance, whereas a relaxed mouth means a positive mood. Covering the face (especially the mouth) often indicates lying. Nodding the head usually means the person is interested, as is tilting the head to the side. Titling the head backwards can mean uncertainty.
  • Hands can leak important information about another person’s thoughts and feelings. Hands in pockets can mean nervousness or even deception. Supporting the head with a hand means that the person is trying to focus on what is being said. Supporting the head with both hands means boredom.
  • Stance and posture provide hints about a person’s attitude. If the person’s feet are pointed towards you, they have a good attitude towards what you are saying. If their feet or pointed towards someone else, that probably means they would rather be talking to that person (even if they are carrying on a conversation with you). In addition to looking at a person’s feet, notice how they are holding their arms. Crossed arms could indicate a closed mind, but crossed arms with a smile normally means that the person is confident and relaxed.

While these tips are helpful, they don’t apply 100% of the time, and should be used along with active listening to foster true understanding and healthy communication.

Strategies for teaching non-verbal communication skills

Take this 5-minute non-verbal communication quiz!

Brainstorm It!  

  1. In one minute, have participants write down as many examples  of nonverbal communication as they can.  
  2. Go around the room and have people share their list, writing down all the  examples. This part can be turned into a competition (inspired by the game Scattergories) by giving individuals get one point for each unique answer they  have. (If no one else wrote down that same nonverbal cue they get a point.) The  person(s) with the most points after everyone has shared wins!  
  3. Review the list and group cues by the following categories:  
    • How words are spoken (tone, pitch, pace),  
    • Body language (gestures, facial expressions, posture),  
    • Non-language sounds (whistling, clapping, sighing),  
    • Visual cues (symbols, motions), and  
  4. Tactile responses (touching)
    Review and discuss. What type of cue was most commonly mentioned? What  cues do you think have the most powerful communication? What cues could be  misinterpreted?  

The Power of Nonverbal 

  1. Ask individuals to work in pairs. One person in the pair will be the designated  speaker and the other person will communicate with nonverbal cues only. 2.) Challenge: The speaker will continue talking (about any subject) regardless of  the cues the other person is giving to two minutes. The non-speaker will roll a  dice to determine what message they will be giving off with nonverbal cues. (If  the facilitator wants to keep the adjectives secret from the speaker, they can  simply whisper the desired cue or have pre-labeled pieces of paper.)

    • 1- Engaged – Super interested in what the speaker is saying!
    • 2- Apathetic – Not interested one bit.
    • 3- Angry – Very opposed to what the speaker is saying.
    • 4- Distracted – Interested in speaker, but really need to go to the bathroom.
    • 5-  Distracted – Not very interested; anxiously waiting for a call, text, or email.
    • 6- Tired – Exhausted and having difficulty concentrating.
  2. After two minutes, have the speaker try to guess what nonverbal cue was  communicated.  
  3. Switch roles and repeat for two additional minutes.  
  4. Discuss and reflect on the impact nonverbal cues have on the speaker  

Decipher the Message 

  1. Search YouTube for some non-verbal communication video clips. Play the video so youth can observe examples of nonverbal  communication.  Some examples are linked below.


2. Discuss possible interpretations (starting with the participants’ perspectives) and  describe why those interpretations are valid. (Share in small groups of 4-5 if the  audience is more than 15 people. Each group can report back to the larger  group.)  

3. If there is an alternative interpretation, the facilitator can share it to emphasize  the importance of context, culture, or other meaning in nonverbal communication.