It’s hard to believe it is time for a new school year! The past couple of years have been unusual to say the least, but we have curated some of our top tips to help parents, grandparents and caregivers set their youth up for success. Check out the articles below to plan for a safe and stress-free return to school:
- Strategies for Back to School Savings– one of our most popular posts about teaching financial management and consumer skills while shopping for back to school
- Tips for a Successful School Year– a planning checklist to set your child up for success
- Preparing Your Child Emotionally for a New School– if your child is attending a new school this fall, this article will help you prepare him or her emotionally
- Out of the Box Lunch Ideas– Healthy but not boring lunch ideas for school (and work too)!
- Control those Germs Gathered at School- this post was written pre-pandemic, but the tips are especially relevant now!
- Setting up a Homework Center– A homework center can help young people stay focused and organized, and is not difficult to set up.
- Setting up a Home Communication Center– When kids start participating in sports, 4-H and other extracurricular activities, a home communication center can help streamline schedules and keep everyone on the same page.
- 4-H Opportunities at School– Many schools and afterschool care centers in Florida offer 4-H programming; check out this post for information about opportunities to extend your child’s 4-H experience!
Parents, grandparents, and other family members are assets to the 4-H program. One of the best things about 4-H is that it promotes (and welcomes) family engagement! And there are benefits of family involvement- Duerden et al. (2013) found when adults were involved in youth programs, it strengthen family relationships and improved parent-child communication and bonding. Family involvement is a win-win-win for youth, adults and volunteers!
Make them Feel Welcome– Just like you would do for youth, make adults and other family members feel welcome!
- Encourage them to participate in get to know you games, or introduce them to other adults associated with the club.
- A parent meeting at the beginning of the club year is a great idea to help new parents feel like part of the group.
Communicate Clearly– Communicating with parents is essential. In fact, in a survey of new 4-H families in Florida, communication with the club leader was a major factor in whether or not the families returned to the program the following year (Hensley, 2020). Try these strategies to build strong communication with families.
- Set up clear lines of communication with parents by asking them how they prefer to receive communication. Some clubs use social media, texting apps (like GroupMe or Remind), or email. Find a method that works for your 4-H families.
- Make sure the club schedule works for everyone and that the location is accessible for all.
- Give each family a copy of the club program calendar, and ask another parent or club officer to send out reminders before meetings.
Help them Learn 4-H– 4-H is a large organization and has something for everyone, which is great! But it can also be a little overwhelming when you are new to the program.
- Explain the club cycle, such as when things normally occur during the year (service projects, fundraisers, competitions, awards programs, camp). That way, they can plan ahead and set goals for engagement.
- Ask a seasoned 4-H family to mentor a new 4-H family. This can help them learn about the program, and identify things that their children will want to participate in.
Discover their Skills, Knowledge & Interests– New 4-H families may think that they need special training or experience to contribute to the club. As a volunteer, let them know that we all “learn by doing” and everyone has something to contribute!
- Use the parent interest survey to find out how the adults might be willing to serve.
Identify Tasks and Make the Ask–
- Make a list of things that you need help with, then write each item on an index card (one item per card). Ask each family to select one or two items they are willing to be responsible for by writing their name on the back of the card.
Make Individual Asks for More Complex Tasks–
- Reach out to parents individually (when they are not distracted) and share some of the tasks you need help with that are a little more complex. For example, you may need a parent to help train club officers, teach parliamentary procedure or work with the service learning committee. Provide any resources they may need (such as an officer handbook or service learning guide) and let them know that the 4-H office will provide support for them in this role. If the task requires a level II background screening, then be upfront about that.
Duerden, M. D., Witt, P. A., & Harrist, C. J. (2013, Winter). The impact of parental involvement on a structured youth program experience: A qualitative inquiry. Journal of Youth Development, 8(3), 1-17. Retrieved August 31, 2018, from jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/88.
Hensley, S. (2020). Florida 4-H Retention Study.
There’s no one size fits all approach to marketing your 4-H club or letting people know the good stuff that’s going on in 4-H. But, it just got a little easier. Social media can be an efficient way to communicate with 4-H families and also recognize the great things 4-Hers are doing! Like Facebook, you can now have multiple Instagram accounts. I just created an Instagram account for Washington County 4-H, so naturally, I want to make it work for my 4-H program. Here are some tips to make your Instagram page stand out.
Which Type of Account?– Instagram offers three different types of accounts: personal, creative, and business. For 4-H Clubs, the best bet is a Business account.
Think Visual Impact – Facebook is a text/visual platform, Twitter is a text only platform, and Instagram is a visual platform. So use Instagram to share images and videos with your audience. Choose a single image that is impactful, that tells a story, that showcases one thing. Build your post around a single person, an event, behind the scenes, re-post from your followers, motivate, or educational posts on how to do or make something.
Don’t Overshare – Be choosy about which photo you share on Instagram. You might upload an entire album to Facebook, but use Instagram to feature your most dynamic photo. Stay away from posting similar photos, and don’t post more than once a day.
Filters – When you upload your photo, you can enhance it using filters. You can also adjust brightness, contrast, structure, and warmth. Remember, you want that one photo to stand out and be impactful.
Build Your Audience – Let your club members, parents, and supporters know where to find you. Include links to your pages in all of your emails, texts, marketing materials, articles, etc.
Videos – You can also upload videos that are one minute or less in length.
Go Live – Here’s a great way to show what’s going on right now in your club. Share a 4-Her shooting skeet, showing livestock, taking a cake out of the oven, working on a sewing project or practicing a showmanship pattern.
Check out these resources to help you get the most out of Instagram. Be sure to review the UF policies on social media to protect youth privacy, or plan to attend our webinar March 18th at 6pm central/7pm eastern to learn policies, tips and tricks for using social media to enhance your club!
Listening is a skill that can be learned, and is just as important (if not more so) than speaking. However, when it comes to teaching communication skills in 4-H, we have a tendency to focus on the speaking or writing part more than the listening part. So…we are kicking off our series on communication by focusing on this very important skill! This blog post will cover, how active listening can benefit adults and youth, tips for active listening, and some activities you can do with your 4-Hers to help them begin building and practicing solid listening skills.
Why focus on listening?
Listening and hearing are not the same- listening involves processing what you have heard, and for many people (including myself) it takes practice! A better description of listening well is active listening. Active listening requires the listener to fully concentrate, understand, respond, and, then….remember what is being said. Being a good listener also requires being mindful of what you are hearing. Mindfulness is paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment – and non-judgmentally. The goal of mindful listening is to silence the internal noise of your own thoughts, so that you can hear the whole message, and so that the speaker feels understood.
Benefits of Active Listening
Infographic developed my Julie Dillard, Washington County UF IFAS Extension
There are several benefits to being a good listener.
- Prevent and resolve conflict
- Build trust
- Helps you learn
- Most importantly, good listening skills foster a sense of belonging, which is the most basic measure of a quality youth development program.
So how can we become better listeners? Here are a few tips:
• Just listen. Be attentive when you are listening. Do not let other thoughts, like what you are going to say in response, distract you.
• Express interest. Use eye contact, posture, and facial expressions to let people know you are interested in what they have to say and that you are ready to listen. Listening is a form of non-verbal communication, which we will delve more deeply into next week during our Virtual Volunteer Leadership Webinar.
• Reduce distractions. If possible, refrain from doing other tasks while you are listening so that you can focus on hearing what is being said.
• Listen for emotions. Emotions can be expressed through tone, but also through body language- what does the tone and body language of the person tell you? Are they expressing excitement, frustration, joy or sadness? Be very careful not to judge what the other person is feeling.
• Repeat it back. Once the person has finished talking, summarize what you heard and ask them to clarify if necessary.
• Don’t be afraid of silence. A silent moment allows the speaker and the listener to process what has been said through words, tone and body language.
How can we teach listening skills to youth?
Here are a few activities you can do virtually or in person with youth of all ages (and adults too). For instructions, click the link or read the instructions below the table. For more ideas, and strategies for non-verbal communication, sign up for our webinar series every third Thursday of the month at 6PM central, 7PM eastern.
|What’s your Problem?
1.) Pass out a sheet of paper to everyone and tell them the following: “We’re going to play a game that will show some important things about communication. Pick up a sheet of paper and hold it in front of you. Now, close your eyes and follow the directions I will give you—and no peeking! You cannot ask questions.”
2.) Give the following directions, carrying them out yourself with your own sheet of paper and pausing after each instruction to give the group time to comply:
• Fold your sheet of paper in half.
• Tear off the upper right-hand corner.
• Fold it in half again and tear off the upper left-hand corner.
• Fold it in half again and tear off the lower right-hand corner.
3.) After the tearing is complete, say something like, “Now open your eyes, and let’s see what you have. If I did a good job of communicating and you did a good job of listening, all of our sheets should look the same!”
4.) Hold your sheet up for them to see and discuss outcome.
• It is highly unlikely any sheet will match yours exactly.
• How are our papers different?
• Why don’t our papers match?
• How could a different communication method have helped us with this
Source: Strieter, L. (2008). Communications: Overview of Communications.
Shhhh. Just Listen…
1.) Work in pairs – Select one person to be the listener and one person to be the speaker.
2.) Challenge: The listener has to get the speaker to continue talking for five minutes, but can only make three statements during the time period. The speaker will talk about a situation that was a joyous occasion (ex. might be an award, a special event, a new job, etc.).
3.) Switch roles after five minutes.
4.) Return to whole group for reflection and discussion. The discussion that follows concentrates on how:
- The speaker felt when the person just listened and did not exchange information
- The nonverbal signals encouraged the speaker
- Uncomfortable the silence was
- It felt to just listen without having the pressure to contribute
- The speaker felt having the freedom to say whatever they felt
Source: Listening & Communication Exercises by Work Smart Blog, Posted online by Leslie Orr
What’s Your Problem?
1.) Work in Pairs: One person is the listener and the other is the speaker.
2.) Role play: The listener practices active listening and tries to diffuse the tense situation. The speaker is upset because of [fill in any scenario].
3.) Discussion: The best way to diffuse a tense situation is to use active listening – it is important that the person knows you hear what they are saying. It is also important not to make any promises at that stage of the exchange. Acknowledge the person’s frustration and let them vent. Then, move on to problem solving – get the person to help in solving the problem and then work on solving it together.
Source: Listening & Communication Exercises by Work Smart Blog, Posted online by Tom Lord http://blog.trainerswarehouse.com/communication-exercises
After a year like 2020, there is lots of excitement and anticipation around the arrival of 2021. Here at 4-H in the Panhandle, we have been making plans to grow together with our 4-H families and volunteers over the next several months. This past year has been tough, but 4-H members, volunteers and families are resilient! We have decided to go back to the basics and focus on building skills that every 4-H agent, staff, volunteer and member needs to be successful in 2021 and beyond. The Volunteer Knowledge and Research Competencies are six essential skills that every youth and adult needs to be successful 4-H leaders. The skills include: communication, organization, 4-H program management, educational design and delivery, positive youth development strategies, and cooperative interpersonal characteristics. Each quarter will focus on a different skill. Our blog articles, social media posts, and webinars will all focus on building that skill into our personal, professional and most importantly- 4-H culture! Each week will will have tools and videos to help our 4-H community across the panhandle grow.
We are kicking our series off with communication skills- one of the most basic, but most important skills to have! Over the next few weeks, we will dig deep into cultivating listening skills, speaking skills, writing skills, advocacy skills and how to use social media effectively (and safely) to communicate the value of your 4-H club or project. To take advantage of this series, you will want to make sure you are signed up. We have intentionally provided several different ways you can receive materials (and it is all free of course!).
- Follow us on Facebook, YouTube, and Pinterest (Twitter and Instagram coming soon!)
- Sign up for our monthly e-newsletter, 4-H in the Panhandle, with links to all of our blogposts, videos, checklists and tools
- Sign up for our monthly webinar, where we meet to network, share and develop our skills
We hope that you will join us on our journey this year to build strong 4-H clubs, programs and communities across the panhandle of Florida! For more information about your local 4-H program, please contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.
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.”