student in garden

A youth member at Auerfarm.

The purpose of the Excellence in Urban 4-H Programming Award is to recognize outstanding efforts by members in urban programming and to strengthen the commitment to urban programming curriculum. The National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Member Recognition Committee selected the Tools for Healthy Living program as the national award winner for the competition. This afterschool program, a group effort by Extension Educators Jennifer Cushman, Mary Margaret Gaudio, Sharon Gray and Miriah Kelly, teaches fourth to sixth grade youth in Hartford and New Britain about healthy homes. The recognition ceremony is on November 16, 2017 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Since 2012, this curriculum has been taught at sixteen 4-H afterschool programs in Hartford and New Britain reaching approximately 430 urban youth. Over a two-year period, an additional 171 urban youth have also been funded through this program at the Auerfarm summer programs. This project is interdisciplinary, involving 4-H, nutrition, and technology specialists to achieve project goals. In addition, collaborations with afterschool project sites provided strong partnerships to deliver the program to youth and build an urban 4-H presence in these communities.

Through this program, youths in grades 4-6 learn the principles of a healthy home: it is clean, dry, safe, free of pests and dangerous chemicals, in good repair, and with fresh air. A series of 11 weekly lessons helps them to understand the effects of problems such as lead poisoning, asthma, mold and moisture, pests, environmental tobacco smoke, and clutter, as well as to develop strategies they and their families can use to reduce or eliminate these problems. Youths also explore the four key rules of food safety: clean, separate, cook, and chill. A final component of the curriculum is a lesson on self-advocacy skills, helping youths to become agents for positive change in their homes, schools, and larger communities. A long-term project to be completed by youths further encourages them to share what they have learned.

Each lesson focuses on simple strategies youth can do to reduce their environmental risks, improve their health, and build upon previous lesson. Pre/post evaluations, and observations are conducted to measure gains in youth awareness and gauge impact. Pre/post evaluations are conducted in two modules: lessons 1-5 and lessons 6-11. The 4-H Common Measures in Technology are also assessed pre/post. Evaluation results show increased awareness of environmental risks such as mold, asthma, smoking, lead and food safety. Youth are able to demonstrate simple strategies to minimize these risks, such as proper hand washing, using food thermometers to cook meat to the correct temperature and avoiding asthma triggers. The impact of this is for youth to gain awareness of environmental risks and to utilize simple strategies to minimize risks in their home environment. Sharing this information with their families and the wider community helps the urban community as a whole. Newsletters on each topic covered are sent home weekly to share with their families or caregivers. The significance of this project is to develop educational material and delivery models to reach urban youth in this subject area that can be replicated in other urban communities. This program is part of an effort to bring 4-H to urban youth and communities as part of the existing Hartford County 4-H Programming.

This material is based upon the work of CYRFAR SCP Tools for Healthy Living, a project supported by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, United States (U.S.) Department of Agriculture, through a cooperative agreement with University of Connecticut under award number CONS-2012-00633.

Tools for Healthy Living is now a national 4-H curriculum, and a Healthy Homes Investigation Game was developed as an App. To purchase the curriculum go to http://bit.ly/2txWYWx. For more information on healthy homes for children and adults visit http://www.hec.uconn.edu.