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Oceans of Opportunity Volunteer Forum

Beach scene with star fish

Oceans Of Opportunity Volunteer Forum January 21-22, 2022

We are so excited to be able to offer a face-to-face volunteer forum “Oceans of Opportunity” for our Panhandle Florida 4-H Volunteers January 21-22, 2022! Join 4-H volunteers and faculty from the panhandle of Florida to learn new ways to engage youth in 4-H programs in a fun and educational way. Teen and adult club volunteers, 4-H staff, and military and afterschool staff are encouraged to participate in the forum to explore new 4-H curriculum and activities, learn ways to make their 4-H programs more fun and meaningful, learn skills to re-energize your program after the pandemic and gain insights and bring back to your local program. At the conference you will have the opportunity to network with 4-H educators and other volunteers to help you become a stronger 4-H volunteer.

The conference registration will be open until December 22, 2021. You will be required to register through the 4-H Online, under events labeled Northwest Florida 4-H Volunteer Forum.

During the registration process you will be ask if you have a share fair/static displays that you would like to share during lunch on Saturday. This could be something that has worked well for you in the past that you are excited about. You may also include a make and take craft stations for other volunteers to experience making something, such as a 4-H pin, rocket, or hose ball. The make and take should be suitable for a 4-H club educational program. These stations will be available Friday evening, after keynote speaker and is a totally voluntary event.

The cost of the conference is $60 payable to your local extension office. A tentative schedule, and additional registration information can be found on the NW District Volunteer site.


4-H Day at the North Florida Fair Recap

4-H Day at the North Florida Fair celebrated a triumphant return on Saturday November 13. This annual event in Tallahassee took a hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic but returned in full force this past Saturday. 4-H Day at the Fair is an event that connects 4-H members and their families with each other from across North Florida. The fair was filled with a sea of green as eager 4-H members joined together to compete in 4-H contests, enjoy fair rides, and sample delicious fair food. The North Florida Fair provides 4-H members and volunteers with special deals on rides for the day. 4-H Member Arvaneh G. shared that her favorite part was “all the rides, especially the Himalaya, and the bounce houses”.

Before the rides and fair are open, 4-H Day Starts in the early morning as members compete in a variety of contests. This year, those contests were the STEM Challenge, Consumer Choices, 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 the contests. A total of 116 youth competed in the contests during 4-H Day at the North Florida Fair this year. Participants had the option to compete as individuals or on a team in each contest. Senior 4-H Member Sophia L. shared “it was really great to see the Wildlife Ecology Contest return, we had such a great turn out with a lot of variety in ages”. Sophia expressed how she was excited for the contest to be back, adding “there is something about that friendly competition atmosphere this is really motivating, seeing so many people that are all passionate about similar things”.

4-H members competing in the Horticulture ID Contest

4-H members participating in the Horticulture ID Contest

STEM Contest

The topic of the STEM Challenge Contest this year involved building a roller coaster using the engineer design process. All youth competing in this contest were placed on a team based on their age division. A limited amount of materials were provided and the teams worked together to create a roller coaster that would carry a marble from the top of the coaster to the bottom with at least two loops and one curve. The teams were judged on creativity, communication, and teamwork. The final designs were put on display in the 4-H Building for the remainder of the fair.

Consumer Choices 

The Consumer Choices Contest measured the ability of youth to be smart shoppers. The item categories this year were cell phone plans, ground transportation selection, wireless portable speakers, and smoothies. 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 would have to justify their selection through an “oral reasoning” section.

Agriculture Judging 

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 standard.

Members competing in Agricultural Judging Contest observing a group of cattle

4-H members competing in the Agriculture Judging Contest

Horticulture Identification

The Horticulture Identification Contest tested the ability of members to identify over 60 horticulture specimens. The items 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 corresponds to a scoresheet, that listed over 100 plant names. This contest replicates the state 4-H Horticulture Contest held each year in June.

Table displaying plant specimens in the Horticulture ID Contest

Plant specimens in the Horticulture ID Contest

Wildlife Ecology Contest

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 Joycelyn G. joined 4-H this past year and had the opportunity to participate in two contests this year. When asked what her favorite thing about 4-H Day at the Fair was, she answered “I loved the rides and I loved the competition. Thank you very much for having a special spot for me. I really loved the fair. It was the best day ever!”

4-H Exhibits & Club Booth Building

In addition to contests, members had the opportunity to view exhibits and club booths in the 4-H Building at the fair. 4-H members from across the panhandle submit exhibits that express what they have learned through their 4-H experience. Premiums and special merit awards are issued to members whose exhibits demonstrate outstanding efforts and quality in each class. Club booths are constructed by club members and volunteers. The club booths showcase the various 4-H clubs in North Florida.

Leon County 4-H Insect Club Booth displaying pollinator information

Leon County 4-H Insect Club created their booth to highlight the importance of pollinators

4-H and the 2021 North Florida Fair

UF/IFAS Building image

UF/IFAS Building at the NFF

The 79th Annual North Florida Fair began with exhibits coming in Monday and being judged on Wednesday. We would love you to come see what our industrious youth have been up to creating artwork, growing plants and sewing to create some one of a kind pieces. Thank you to our judges who volunteered their time to support our youth!

image of person talking to group

Allison orienting judges for the 4-H exhibit judging.

The 4-H experience is being showcase right now at the 2021 North Florida Fair in Tallahassee, Florida. The fair is open thru November 14th, we hope you will come by and visit us. Here you will have the opportunity to see the 4-H youth work and meet UF/IFAS Extension Faculty and Staff. There are two areas to visit with Extension professionals.

display of 4-H project work

2021 Award of Merit Exhibits on Display at NFF

The first is the 4-H Building. In this exhibit you will find youth exhibits of artwork, sewing, canning, photography and much more. The second is the UF/IFAS Building where you can check out your marine science knowledge, learn about grains and grasses and amphibians. Youth will be participating in Beef, dairy, goat, poultry, and rabbit shows throughout the week. 4-H Day at the Fair is Saturday, November 13, 2021. From 10:00 a.m. – 12:00 Noon youth will be competing in agricultural judging, horticultural judging, wildlife ecology, consumer choices, stem challenge, sewing contests to demonstrate what they have learned about these specific topics.

three plants with award of merit ribbons

The top Award of Merit winners for plants from all three age divisions

4-H teaches youth responsibility, compassion, respect and the value of hard work. It helps youth become a confident kid and caring adult. We provide 4-H programs in every county in Florida. 4-H programs are offered in big cities, small towns, and rural communities, as well as on U.S. military installations. For more information contact your local extension office. Participation shall not be denied on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, marital or family status, or political beliefs. Persons with disabilities should contact the Extension Office at least 10 working days prior to the event so that proper consideration can be given to the request.

image of 4-H specialty plate

Help support by purchasing a 4-H Specialty Plate

You can help kids have the same great experience – share your #4HGrown story. You can also help your local 4-H program by purchasing a 4-H license plate. Vouchers for a new specialty license plate bearing the iconic 4-H clover is available for purchase at all county tax collector offices and license plate agencies in Florida or online (from anywhere in Florida) through the Escambia County Tax Collector’s Office. The license plate will go into production once 3,000 pre-sale vouchers are sold. The voucher, which includes the $25 specialty plate fee plus processing fees, is $33 total. Please consider purchasing your plate today, it would make a great Holiday present for those who grew up in 4-H!


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)









Ultimate Guide to a Safe and Fun 4th of July!

4-H Kids at a 4th of July Picnic.

 Photo credit: UF IFAS Photography

The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays!  Growing up it was the time that my family (even those distant cousins) gathered together for a weekend of fun, food, and fireworks. There is nothing worse than spending your holiday sick or injured, so we have complied plenty of resources to help you plan a celebration that is fun, but also keeps everyone safe:

We hope you have a fabulous 4th of July and that these tips and resources add to the fun!

17 Ideas to Jump Start your 4-H Service to Communities

All 4-H members are encouraged to complete at least one activity or project that helps their community. Community service is usually a short-term project to help the community, whereas service learning is a longer-term project where youth identify a need, research the problem, and design and develop solutions to address the issue long-term. If you haven’t read it, check out our previous post about the difference between community service and service learning, or download this tip sheet to share at your next 4-H meeting. Here are 17 ideas to jumpstart your community or service learning projects in the coming 4-H year, organized by topic:

Food insecurity

  1. Collect food for a local food pantry- check out our Peanut Butter Challenge!
  2. Volunteer for our local Food4Kids Backpack program
  3. Start a community garden.
  4. Hold a town hall to increase awareness about food insecurity in your community; share your results with community leaders.
  5. Use the 4-H GIS project to map your community to identify food deserts; share your results with the chamber of commerce.

Florida’s Environment

  1. Organize a litter clean-up for a local park, beach, river, or lake.
  2. Participate in a citizen science project– the University of Florida has more than 20 projects to choose from!
  3. Start a fishing line recycling program in your community.
  4. Design displays and presentations to raise awareness about invasive species impacting your community.
  5. Design a campaign to address water quality or conservation at your school or community.
  6. Help your community prepare for hazardous weather- join your local CERT (community emergency response team) or create awareness about the importance of a having an emergency plan for families. In 2018, 4-Hers in the Northwest District held a retreat to learn all about disaster preparedness. Check out their video:

Financial Literacy

12. Host a Living on My Own financial simulation for your school, community, or club.

13. Plan a day camp for younger youth to teach them financial literacy.

14. Plan a piggy bank decorating contest to raise awareness about the importance of saving.

Healthy Futures

15. Plan a 5K to raise awareness about healthy lifestyles; donate the funds raised to an organization that is working to address healthy issues such as obesity, heart health, or diabetes.

16. Host a health fair to educate your school or community about healthy lifestyle choices.

17. In 2018, teens in northwest Florida prepared chemo kits for individuals battling cancer. Check out this video about their project: