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Join us in Destin to Navigate the World of 4-H

We are excited to announce registration for our 2023 Northwest Florida 4-H Volunteer Forum will open on October 15th!  This post contains all the details about our event- who, what, when, where, and how. We hope you will plan to join us for an inspirational Friday night and Saturday as we connect with each other, learn together, and share our successes. Our theme is “Navigating the World of 4-H.” Together, we will learn about empowering youth, inspiring hope, and helping young people reach their full potential.

 WHO

Our volunteer forum is for teen and adult volunteers leading and supporting 4-H clubs, groups, or programs in the northwest Extension district.

WHAT

A weekend (Friday night and Saturday) event full of inspirational speakers, hands-on workshops, and opportunities to connect with and support other volunteers!  Topics were identified based on last year’s forum participants’ feedback. Feel free to download the agenda and informational flyer. This post highlights some of the activities you won’t want to miss:

Friday night kicks off with our “Make and Take” Fair. Try out a wide variety of fun and exciting 4-H activities you can use with the clubs or groups you work with. Each time you visit a station, you can get your “passport” stamped! There will be selections to support all three 4-H pillar project areas- Healthy Living, STEM (science), and Citizenship/Leadership. During the Make and Take Fair, heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served and you will have the opportunity to test out the activities and take home samples and instructions to share with your youth, parents, and other volunteers.

After the make-and-take fair, we will have a fun icebreaker, and Dr. Stacey Ellison, our 4-H Program Leader, will speak and give a “state of 4-H” update and share strategies for inclusion and diversity. Volunteers are encouraged to network and mingle after her address.

Saturday morning will inspire!  Gulf County 4-H Alumnus and best-selling author, Cedric Lennox, will share how his Florida 4-H experiences taught him about youth empowerment and how we can all be “Dealers of Hope.”

Following the keynote address, volunteers will be able to select from a variety of workshops:

  • Road Map to Parliamentary Procedure
  • Charting a Successful Sports Fishing Project
  • Culinary Adventures with the 4-H Food Challenge
  • Trek through Teambuilding
  • Tour of 4-H Gardening Project
  • Smooth Sailing with Cloverbuds

During lunch, connect with other volunteers who have similar interests as you to start building a community of practice for your 4-H clubs and groups! Dr. Jenny Jordan will share expert tips for Experiential Learning (or learn-by-doing).

After lunch, there will be more workshop selections for volunteers to choose from:

  • Guide to 4-H Awards, Recognition, & Portfolios
  • Voyage through the 4-H Clothing & Textiles Project
  • Hike through the “Big Book of Cloverbuds”
  • Survey of Service Learning
  • Expeditions in Entomology
  • A Mindfulness Pilgrimage

We will close our forum by sharing some exciting new resources- including a fundraising toolkit for 4-H volunteers (and more door prizes!).

WHEN

January 20-21st.

WHERE

Embassy Suites in Destin, Florida. No need to make a reservation- your registration is your hotel reservation confirmation!

HOW

Registration opens in 4Holine on October 15th. The deadline to register is Friday, January 6th. Check with your local UF/IFAS Extension office to inquire about carpooling to and from the event. Dress for the weekend is casual (and comfortable)- we will be at the beach!

HOW MUCH

Thanks to donations from the Florida 4-H Foundation and other partners, the registration fee for individuals sharing a suite with another volunteer is $100.  The registration fee for a private suite is $150.  The registration fee includes the room fee, a conference welcome bag, magnetic name tag, heavy hors d’oeuvres Friday night, breakfast and lunch on Saturday, plus workshop and make-and-take supplies. Many counties are offering scholarships, so please check with your local UF/IFAS 4-H Extension Agent about additional funding.

Cultivating a Growth Mindset

This image provides 7 steps for cultivating growth mindset.What is a Growth Mindset?

A vital skill we encourage in 4-H youth is to set goals and objectives to reach those goals. But what happens when they face a challenge that’s hard and scary or when they fail? With so much emphasis placed on achievement, success, and winning, is it possible for us to grow through challenges or failures? Absolutely!  And 4-H provides opportunities to do just that. 4-H uses several theories, models, and frameworks to “do” positive youth development. One of the models we use is the 4-H Thriving Model (Arnold, 2018). This model describes what happens when 4-H programs provide the conditions for youth to explore their sparks in a safe environment and are supported by positive relationships with adults and other youth. One of the concepts related to the 4-H Thriving Model is the growth mindset. According to Carol Dweck (2006), our mindset can contribute to our success or our failure. You can think of the mindset as a spectrum. On one end is the fixed mindset and on the other end is the growth mindset.

First, let’s look at the opposite mindset – the fixed mindset and its tendencies:

  • Avoids challenges
  • Quits/gives up quickly or easily
  • Negative self-image/self-talk
  • Effort is pointless
  • Avoids or ignores feedback or criticism
  • Resentful of other’s successes
  • Critical and judgmental of others
  • Places blame elsewhere/makes excuses.

Conversely, the growth mindset and its tendencies might look like this:

  • Embraces challenges
  • Doesn’t give up easily/charges ahead
  • Is realistic but compassionate to self
  • Effort is part of the journey
  • Learns from feedback and criticism
  • Is inspired by and celebrates the successes of others
  • Helpful and caring to others
  • Looks for and believes in possibilities.

Why is a Growth Mindset Important?

Youth and adults who have a growth mindset are more motivated to learn, have better relationships, and are more resilient. As individuals, we all fall somewhere on the mindset spectrum. Sometimes we may have a fixed mindset in one area (such as public speaking) but have a growth mindset in another area (such as being a good writer). I’ve seen both mindsets played out many times in the livestock show arena, at shotgun matches, at the Chick Chain poultry show, and at the tailgate grilling contest. One of my senior 4-Hers came in second place in Chick Chain showmanship. Instead of being upset about not winning, his comment was,

“[4-Her] was really good. I learned a lot by watching him, so I know what to practice for next year.”

On the opposite side, I’ve overheard kids (and parents) exclaim something like ‘there’s no use in showing a pig because nobody can beat [4-Her].’ How could you encourage the growth mindset in that moment? By saying something like, “So what can you do differently? Besides winning, what else are you learning?”

As 4-H professionals and volunteers, we can support the development of a growth mindset to help youth thrive. Knowing where youth fall on the mindset spectrum can help you design and scaffold 4-H experiences to develop a growth mindset over time. For example, if we go back to the example of a youth who has a fixed mindset that they are bad at public speaking. As a caring adult, look for other ways that youth can develop confidence in communicating with others. Encourage them to start by using their spark (such as photography, art, or poetry) to communicate with others and share their project experiences. As they become more confident, encourage them to prepare exhibits, deliver team demonstrations, or even serve in a leadership position as an officer or committee chair.

Digging Deeper

Do you know where you are on the mindset spectrum?  Before we can help youth thrive, we need to know whether we have a growth mindset or a fixed mindset. Take this assessment to determine where you fall on the mindset spectrum http://blog.mindsetworks.com/what-s-my-mindset.

To learn more about growth mindset, I highly recommend Mindset: The New Psychology of Success by Carol S. Dweck, PhD. I challenge you to implement these tips with your 4-Hers this year!

References: 

Arnold, M. E. (2018). From context to outcomes: Adolescent thriving in 4-H Youth Development Programs. Journal of Human Science and Extension, 6(1), 141-160. 

Dweck, C. S. (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. Random House.

Ages & Stages: Adapting Activities for 4-H Cloverbuds

photo of 5 to 7 year old 4-H youthIn a recent study, one of the top things 4-H volunteers are looking for are ideas for adapting activities to different age groups (Kent, 2022). Florida 4-H offers experiences for four different age groups: Cloverbuds (ages 5-7), Juniors (ages 8-10), Intermediates (ages 11-13) and Seniors (ages 14-18). 4-H encourages family involvement and engagement, and volunteers often find themselves working with a variety of age groups. Each of these age groups have unique needs related to their social and cognitive development. Over the next few weeks, our blog will provide tips and ideas for adapting 4-H curriculum and activities to meet these needs.

What are “Ages & Stages” and Why Does it Matter?

“Ages & stages” is a phrase commonly used in youth development that refers to the physical, social, emotional, and cognitive development of a young person. These categories of development are based on the work of researchers such as Piaget and Erickson. Understanding these categories help 4-H volunteers and professionals provide opportunities for youth to thrive through social and emotional learning and is a key part of the 4-H Thrive Model (Arnold & Gagnon, 2020). There are several benefits of selecting (or adapting) age-appropriate activities for youth:

  • First, it makes learning fun! Fun is important; boring is bad.
  • Youth are more engaged. When activities are not too challenging or too easy, they are in what’s called the “zone of proximal development,” or ZPD (Vygotsky, 1978). This is key to helping learners master new skills. ZPD refers to skills or knowledge that are too difficult for a cloverbud to master on their own, but possible to master with guidance from a more knowledgeable person- like their 4-H volunteer!
  • Youth can build on past learning experiences and create future opportunities to grow.
  • When learning is fun and youth are engaged, youth stay involved in 4-H!

How to Use “Ages & Stages” to help Cloverbuds Thrive

Social Development of 5-7-year-olds (how they act)

Youth who are 5-7 years old are learning how to develop their own initiative. Giving them opportunities to initiate activities and learn from others is important. Instead of telling them what to do every time, provide them with a chance to ask questions and develop initiative- when they do, be sure to recognize their efforts and encourage them.

Typical social behaviors for 5-7-year-olds include: Strategies for supporting social development of 5-7-year-olds:
  • Tendency to be self-centered, but starting to learn to share
  • Learning to be a group member: to listen when others speak
  • Want to be liked, especially by older youth and adults
  • Use role-playing opportunities to act out scenarios
  • Limit activities to small groups to allow peer and adult interactions; UF requires a supervision ratio of one adult for every eight cloverbud age youth.
  • Be intentional about recognizing youth accomplishments (even the little things)
  • Focus on activities that are cooperative rather than competitive to foster sharing and encouragement.
  • Build-in unstructured time for play and creativity (follow the 4-H club model: short business meeting, educational program, and time for recreation).

Cognitive Development of 5-7-year-olds (how they think)

Youth who are 5-7 years old are usually still egocentric- that means they typically think about things only from their personal point of view. They like to use symbols in play, and want to define and classify things by how they are used. It is hard for them to understand cause and effect relationships, and have difficulty multi-tasking.

Typical learning behaviors for 5-7-year olds include: Strategies for Supporting Cognitive Development of 5-7-year-olds:
  • Their attention span is limited to 20-30 minutes (so keep those educational programs short, with breaks for play in-between).
  • They learn best when they can be active while learning (no long lectures or PowerPoints, instead, short instructions with interactive activities they can do with their hands).
  • They enjoy doing simple sorting and categorizing- this can be a great way to teach new knowledge, such as the parts of a plant, or tool or animal identification)
  • They are concerned with right and wrong, so explaining and enforcing basic ground rules is important.
  • Use breaks and balance group and individual time to keep youth engaged
  • As much as possible, use activities where youth can physically manipulate objects with their hands to learn
  • Plan for simple activities, such as identifing types of butterflies instead of identifying types of insects which is more complex
  • Help youth focus on the process, rather than the end product. For example, talk about how youth are learning how to identify different types of butterflies rather than how many they got correct.
  • Model questioning and inquiry to help foster learning: “why do you think this butterfly has this type of pattern?”

picture of flashcards for ages and stages

Examples of Adapting Activities for Cloverbuds. Throughout this series, we have been using examples from each of the three pillar programs in 4-H: Citizenship & Leadership, Science, and Healthy Living. These examples are meant to help parents and volunteers see how an activity can be adapted for each of the different age groups. For examples for other age groups, check out our posts about Juniors, Intermediates, and Seniors.

  • Citizenship & Leadership: For citizenship & leadership, we have been using the example of a 4-H club business meeting. Five to 7 year-olds aren’t ready to serve in an executive leadership position. However, they can do things like lead the American and 4-H Pledges. They can also contribute ideas to help plan the club calendar. If you have a large number of Cloverbuds in your club, you will want to keep the business meeting short!
  • Science: For science, we have been using the 4-H entomology project as an example. Entomology is the study of insects. Youth in the Cloverbud age range really enjoy categorizing and sorting things, so insect ID can be a fun way for them to engage. However, keep the categories simple; instead of handing them a dichotomous guide (that they probably can’t read). Ask them to identify insects with wings vs insects without wings. Or insects with different types of mouthparts, after explaining what the five basic mouthparts are.
  • Healthy Living: For Healthy Living, we have been using the 4-H personal wellness project as an example. This project area helps youth learn about nutrition, physical fitness, and mental health. For Cloverbuds, exposing them to different types of fruits and vegetables is a fun way for them to learn about nutrition. For example, you could do a taste test of different types of apples and have them vote for their favorite. This age group would also enjoy growing some of their own food- so think about growing different types of lettuce (which grows quickly in the cooler months in Florida) or cucumbers in the hotter months.

Spending some time thinking about 4-H activities through the “Ages & Stages” lens reinforces the Essential Elements of 4-H: Belonging, Mastery, Independence, and Generosity. They are also key to helping youth thrive. However, each individual youth grows at their own pace and might not completely meet the general tendencies listed above. As volunteers and 4-H professionals, it is important to observe youth and meet them where they are physically sociality, and intellectually. Adapting activities on the fly gets easier with practice- download this set of flashcards for a quick reference guide. You can print them, cut them out, and punch them to fit on a lanyard as a handy teaching aid. Your local 4-H agent is always available to help and provide additional resources if you have questions.

References:

Arnold, M. E. & Gagnon, R. J. (2020). Positive youth development theory in practice: An update on the 4-H Thriving Model. Journal of Youth Development, 15(6), 1-23.

Erikson, E. H. (1963). Childhood and Society (2nd Ed.). New York: Norton.

Kent, H.C. (2022). Informal learning to support volunteer performance. [Unpublished doctoral dissertation]. Florida State University.

Lee, F. and Go, C. (2002). Developmental stages. UC ANR 4-H Youth Development Program.

Piaget, J. (1971). The theory of stages in cognitive development. In D. R. Green, M. P. Ford, & G. B. Flamer, Measurement and Piaget. McGraw-Hill.

Pleskac, S. (2000). Educational design and delivery: Use of age-appropriate activities. VRKC fact sheet.

Vygotsky, L. S. (1978). Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

How to write a thank you note

How do you know when it is appropriate to send a thank you card? Have you ever received a gift from someone? Did a volunteer donate their time for an event or for a club meeting? Are you in 4-H and someone purchased your project animal at auction? If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you should have written a thank you note to them!  It does not just have to be a life changing event, such as a wedding, birthday, or baby shower, that warrants a thank you card. Whenever someone has done something nice for you, it is definitely worth sending them a thank you card.

Writing thank you notes is a skill that many people should have, but many overlook. What exactly do you need to say in your thank you note? Here is an easy guide for a few things that you should include in your thank you note, regardless of the reason you are writing it!

Make sure that you start off by thinking of why you are writing a thank you note! Thank you notes let the individuals know that you care, that you are proud of your accomplishments, or make them feel appreciated for something that they have done for you!

  1. A decorated academic cap at commencement. Photo taken 04-29-17.

    Make the letter personal by starting with a salutation. Address the individual(s) by their name. If it is someone that you are well acquainted with, it is alright for you to address them by their first name. If it is someone that you are not as familiar with, stick to Mr., Mrs., Ms, and/or Miss last name. Below are a few examples of how to address someone:

Dear Aunt Renae,

Dear Lilly,

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Leonard,

  1. Get right to the point and express your gratitude. Some examples could be:

“Thank you so much for your generous wedding gift.”

“Thank you for the birthday present.”

“Thank you for donating your time at the Horse Club Meeting.”

“Thank you for purchasing my steer at the Calhoun County Livestock Show.”

  1. Maybe mention a specific detail or two. There is no need to exaggerate about their gift, but tell them what it might be used for or what you appreciate about it. Here are a few examples of things to say.

“I am so excited to get to use the birthday money on my upcoming trip to Disney World.”

“I’ve had my eye on a smoothie maker, and now I am a smoothie making machine!”

“We are saving the wedding money to help build our future home together.”

“The knowledge you shared at the meeting is incredibly valuable and the kids were soaking it up!”

“I am going to save the money from my 4-H steer project in my college fund.”

  1. Look ahead to the future. You may be excited about your trip to Disney World or the new smoothie machine, but make sure they know that you appreciate them or enjoyed working with them. If you are likely to spend time with them again in the future, this is a good way to move your letter towards wrapping up.***This suggestion may not apply to every letter.

“I can’t wait to have dinner with you again.”

“I’ll be up that way here in a few months and would love to see you.”

“I am interested in the position and look forward to hearing from you soon.”

“We cannot wait to have you teach us again at the club meeting next month.”

  1. Wrap it up with another thank you and sign off. Make sure that your letter is clear, you want to thank them for their time, donation, money, etc. You do not have to use fancy language to end your letter.

“Thank you again for thinking of us on our special day!”

“Thank you for being so generous to our organization.”

“Again, thank you for spending your time with us.”

Albert the Alligator Florida Gator mascot holding a thank you sign. Photo taken 11-16-16.

Make sure to end your letter appropriately, whether that be professionally or casually.

“Warmly,”

“With love,”

“Sincerely,”

 

When in doubt, write a thank you card. Your recipient will feel extra special that you want to show them your gratitude!

Creating a Sense of Belonging in 4-H

Like me, you make ask, what is a “sense of belonging”? Have you ever felt out of place when going to a club, meeting, or gathering? Do you remember how it made you feel? Maybe you were nervous, had a funny feeling in your stomach, a knot in your throat, or weren’t sure if you belonged?

Volunteer working with youth. Calhoun County Animal Science Camp 2021

One of the essential elements of 4-H Youth Development is belonging. Youth members need to know that they are important to you, cared for by others, and feel a sense of connection to the group they are in! As a facilitator of a 4-H activity, whether that be volunteer, adult, or Extension agent, it is important to provide youth with a safe, inclusive environment when participating in groups. When the facilitator creates a space where youth feel physically and emotionally safe, youth tend to form positive relationships with their peers and role models.  Feeling connected to others will affect their behavior, mental health, academics, as well as other life skills. Creating this sense of belonging for all participants is a solid foundation to build a program on!

Now you may be asking, how on earth can I create a sense of belonging?

Since you are the adult facilitator in this setting, it’s your job to provide youth with the opportunity to feel safe during activities. To do this, use discussion questions that engage all the youth members, and encourage them to learn from each other. Below are a few ideas to foster this sense of belonging.

  1. Welcome new members. Youth who are already part of the group will feel more comfortable than those that are just starting. Assign existing members a role in welcoming newcomers, similar to a welcoming committee. 4-H and other group activities like team sports, can be overwhelming because there is a lot of information given, so think about preparing welcome packets for new members or families. These packets could include information on how to enroll in 4-H Online, club calendars, brochures, frequently asked questions, contact information, and more!
  2. Ice breakers. Ice breakers and team building activities are really important to help all members feel

    Calhoun County Animal Science Camp Ice-Breaker. What is Agriculture? Summer 2021

    comfortable with each other! These types of interactions help build relationships within the group. These are helpful when a group is just starting out, as well as continuing to build bonds overtime. Being deliberate in choosing these types of activities will help any group feel more cohesive. Adjust the activity to suit the group that is participating. Keep it simple for cloverbud age youth (5-7) or add challenges if the group is older or has been together for a period of time. “Ice breakers, get acquainted games, or even roll calls that ask questions about member’s interests (answer roll by making the sound of your favorite animal) can help members get to know each other better.” (Kent, 2015)

  3. Create a safe space. It may seem easy to create a safe space for youth and other adults but it’s much more difficult in practice! We all think about keeping youth safe physically, but what about the emotional aspect of safety? We must be aware of “microaggressions”, which is defined as a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority. As a leader, you will want to be able to identify these so you can educate and redirect the situation. It is our job, as adults, to help youth, and other adults, understand the impacts of their words. Creating a shared set of ground rules for everyone to follow can help everyone feel comfortable, knowing the expectations of the group as well as having a voice in creating the space.

    Intro to Animal Handling- Gulf County Summer Camp 2021

  4. Encourage engagement. Engaging youth members can be done in multiple ways! Various options include using discussion questions, club committees, or even silly ice breaker games – anything constructive to grab and hold their attention. Using discussion questions allows youth to learn from each other while also encouraging a sense of curiosity for life-long learning. Having different committees allows for smaller work groups, which is much less intimidating than a single large group. It is easier for opinions and thoughts to be heard in a smaller setting. Ice breakers may seem silly, but they are a fun and wonderful way to get youth involved.

While a sense of belonging is important for youth, it may take some time and intentionality to create the space to provide the sense of belonging. Our youth members come from all different walks of life and as the adult leader, you must think about the challenges youth may face that makes them different.  Some youth may look different physically; some may come from a family that has never done 4-H; some may have experienced trauma; some may have special needs.

A 4-H club, program, or activity can provide a space that youth belong to, as well as allowing them to learn invaluable life skills. Adults, volunteers, and agents are essential to creating this space, while also helping other members see how to increase the sense of belonging for others. What will you do to help make all members feel welcome?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sources:

https://www.canr.msu.edu/news/essential-elements-of-4-h-belonging

Creating a Welcoming Environment in 4-H Clubs

 

 

Strategies for Teaching Time Management in 4-H

Toolkit for teaching time management picture of a clock and scheduleThe “secret sauce” for successful 4-H clubs is often the not-so-secret time management skill of the club leader.  Time management is a learned skill.   This week’s  blog post will explore strategies for time management. One important detail about time management – what works for one person may not work for everyone.  Choosing time management strategies that suit the person increases the likelihood that these skills will become permanent, frequently used tools in a personal “toolbox.”

Teaching Time Management Skills

One strategy to learn a time management skill is to teach it.   Both club members and volunteer leaders can benefit from learning and practicing time management skills. Youth and adults alike can begin with some basic elements of planning to start developing time management skills.

To complete a time management activity during a club meeting, the following items will be needed: a weekly schedule template, a Post It adhesive flipchart or a white board/chalkboard, pencils/pens, scratch paper for note taking.

Write the five elements of S.M.A.R.T goals on the flipchart or white board:

S – Specific
M – Measureable
A – Attainable (or actionable)
R – Relevant (or realistic)
T – Time-bound

During this activity, participants will learn about time management, scheduling, and goal setting.   Begin the activity with a task.  Ask adults and youth to consider and write out their schedule for an average week. Use a weekly schedule template so that everyone can use a visual organizer to describe their individual schedules.  There are a number of free schedule templates online.   One free option is available from Microsoft office: https://templates.office.com/en-us/schedules.

Once everyone has completed their schedule, ask each participant to write down a personal goal related to school or 4-H.   Then, explain the S.M.A.R.T goal concept.   Next, ask everyone to consider their goal within the S.M.A.R.T framework.  Does their goal fit the five elements of a S. M.A.R.T goal? Why or why not? If their goal needs to be adjusted, what changes should be made?

After discussing several different goals, ask everyone when the time is scheduled to work on achieving this goal.  Spoiler alert: very few of the participants will include anything related to the goal in the initial weekly schedule draft.

During the next phase of this activity, introduce one or more time management strategies from the blog resource list to the group. Engage participants in discussion about which strategies might be effective for them than others.

Setting Individual Member and Club Goals

Conclude the meeting by setting short and long term goals.  What do members want to accomplish by the next club meeting?  What goals do club members want to achieve for the year? Toolkit for teaching time management picture of a clock and scheduleTime management is a skill that can be practiced and improved throughout the 4-H club year.  Be sure to schedule in time to report on progress toward goals as part of 4-H club business meetings.

Resources