University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Posts Tagged ‘4-H FANs’

4-H Volunteer Marcia Johnson

Marcia Johnson

Left to right: Donald Downes vice-chairman, Eastern States CT Corporators; Marcia Johnson; Jo-Ann Hall, parent of a former Nathan Hale student; Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO, Eastern States Corp.

Twenty-eight years as an elementary school teacher has not dampened the enthusiasm of 4-H volunteer Marcia Johnson. She’s upbeat, energetic and clearly excited about teaching. Five years ago, Johnson created a school gardening program for her students at John Barry Elementary School in Meriden. When Johnson took a position at Meriden’s Nathan Hale School, she created the 4-H Environmental Education and Garden Club. She says, “I love the 4-H curriculum, and the kids really enjoy it.” In 2013, Johnson brought the Junior Master Gardener curriculum to her program, and a year later, she decided to complete the 4-H volunteer training so she might bring 4-H to students in her after-school and summer clubs. This year, thirty students joined the club from grades three, four, and five. High school students volunteer to assist with the program. “I am by no means a gardening expert,” says Johnson.

“I am learning along with the kids. For two years before we planted our first seed, I collected information on gardening curriculum at every grade level. I’m always searching online for gardening ideas. I would love to take the Master Gardener Program at UConn.” The students planted eight raised beds filled with strawberries, eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash, basil and green beans, in addition to a few annual flowers chosen to attract pollinators. Johnson added a hydroponic tower to house a lettuce crop. She uses the harvested produce to teach the children healthy cooking and food preparation. Students take produce home as well.

Umekia Taylor, associate extension educator with UConn Extension, was so impressed with Johnson’s program, she awarded the school a 4-H CT FANs IM mini grant that provided raised bed kits, curriculum materials and tools, as well as programming assistance. Over the summer, two 4-H CT FANs IM staff spent two days a week with Johnson’s students, providing fun activities that focused on gardening, nutrition, and fitness.

Johnson is continually looking for new club activities to provide experiential learning for her students. She brought in chicken eggs to incubate in the classroom, and set up honey tasting with a local beekeeper. Johnson never tires of working with her students. “It’s the best part of my day. The kids just love it and they never want to go home.”

Johnson received the 2013 and 2014 Connecticut AgriScience Award sponsored by the Connecticut Corporators to the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E). She is also the recipient of the American Farm Bureau’s White Reinhardt Award and received a grant from the Connecticut Agricultural Education Foundation.

“I can’t get over how fascinated the kids are to see things grow from a seed,” Johnson says. “We live in such a technological society where kids go to a restaurant and food suddenly appears. We rarely take the time anymore to teach children about nature.

Volunteer Spotlight: Marcia Johnson

Teacher and 4-H Volunteer Brings Gardening, Nutrition and Fitness to Students in the Classroom and Beyond

By Kim Markesich

Originally published by Naturally@UConn on January 26, 2016

 

students in garden

Nathan Hale students care for a garden bed.

Twenty-eight years as an elementary school teacher has not dampened the enthusiasm of 4-H volunteer Marcia Johnson. She’s upbeat, energetic and clearly excited about teaching. Five years ago, Johnson created a school gardening program for her students at John Barry Elementary School in Meriden. When Johnson took a position at Meriden’s Nathan Hale School, she created the 4-H Environmental Education and Garden Club. She says, “I love the 4-H curriculum, and the kids really enjoy it.” In 2013, Johnson brought the Junior Master Gardener curriculum to her program, and a year later, she decided to complete the 4-H volunteer training so she might bring 4-H to students in her after-school and summer clubs. This year, thirty students joined the club from grades three, four and five. High school students volunteer to assist with the program.

“I am by no means a gardening expert,”  says Johnson. “I am learning along with the kids. For two years before we planted our first seed, I collected information on gardening curriculum at every grade level. I’m always searching online for gardening ideas. I would love to take the Master Gardener Program at UConn.” The students planted eight raised beds filled with strawberries, eggplant, zucchini and yellow squash, basil and green beans, in addition to a few annual flowers chosen to attract pollinators. Johnson added a hydroponic tower to house a lettuce crop. She uses the harvested produce to teach the children healthy cooking and food preparation. Students are able to take produce home as well.

Umekia Taylor, associate extension educator with UConn Extension, was so impressed with Johnson’s program, she awarded the school a 4-H CT FANsIM mini grant that provided raised bed kits, curriculum materials and tools, as well as programming assistance. Over the summer, two 4-H CT FANsIM staff spent two days a week with Johnson’s students, providing fun activities that focused on gardening, nutrition and fitness. Cheyanne Stone, a former teen mentor and student at Green Mountain College in Vermont, worked as a 4-H leader and CT Fans IM public service specialist. Shawn Mogensen is a 4-H CT FANsIM graduate assistant from the College’s Department of Nutritional Sciences. “I can’t get over how fascinated the kids are to see things grow from a seed,” Johnson says. “We live in such a technological society where kids go to a restaurant and food suddenly appears. We rarely take the time anymore to teach children about nature.”

Marcia and group

Left to right: Donald Downes vice-chairman, Eastern States CT Corporators; Marcia Johnson; Jo-Ann Hall, parent of a former Nathan Hale student; Eugene Cassidy, president and CEO, Eastern States Corp.

Johnson is continually looking for new club activities to provide experiential learning for her students. She brought in chicken eggs to incubate in the classroom. After the eggs hatched, Johnson taught the students about caring for the chickens, and it was decided that the thirteen chickens would be given to local farmers with the knowledge and resources to raise them.

Kathy Olsen, a retired teacher from Meriden, now known as the Bee Lady, visited the students and spoke about bees and set up a honey tasting. Students were given bread sticks to dip in various types of honey. Johnson likes to involve parents in the club as well and brought Olsen in for a parent seminar.

In addition to Olsen, Connecticut registered beekeeper Robert Gavel, of Meriden, visited the club with an observation hive. “He teaches them everything from A to Z about keeping bees and the importance of bees,” she says.

Johnson never tires of working with her students. “It’s the best part of my day. The kids just love it and they never want to go home.”

Johnson received the 2013 and 2014 Connecticut AgriScience Award sponsored by the Connecticut Corporators to the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E).

She is also the recipient of the American Farm Bureau’s White Reinhardt Award and received a grant from the Connecticut Agricultural Education Foundation.

Teen Mentors Attend National 4-H Congress

4-H Congress group

Photo caption:  Top Row: Kirsten Krause, Alea Pettengill, Susan Dearborn and Paul Rouleau. Bottom Row: Victoria Footit, Jessica Roberts, Ciara Broggy, Yanis Aracena

CT 4-H FANs IM Teen Mentors, and Danbury High School seniors, Ciara Broggy and Yanis Aracena, were selected to participate in the National 4-H Congress held in Atlanta, Georgia, November 27th through December 1, 2015. Both attendees were required to submit an application and attend an interview. While at the National 4-H Congress, they enjoyed many activities including lectures, a dinner dance, interactive workshops, a tour of the Atlanta History Center and Atlanta Aquarium, as well as collaborative projects with other 4-H participants that included community outreach.

Both students found the event to be life changing. “My experience at National 4-H Congress has allowed me to gain a better understanding of cultural diversity,” Ciara says. “Throughout the week I had the chance to meet and talk with other 4-Hers from throughout the United States, Hawaii, and Puerto Rico. I discovered that my focus on fitness, nutrition and gardening is very different from that of other 4-H participants. For example, I met 4-Hers who, participate in singing competitions, cattle showings and gymnastics. Despite these differences, we all still share a central bond within our 4-H community.”

Ciara and Yanis joined CT FANs IM as Teen Mentors at Shelter Rock Elementary School. They work with younger students in activities centered on fitness, nutrition and gardening.

“This opportunity has not only been a learning experience for the youth, but also myself,” Ciara says. “I have developed a deeper understanding about what it means to live a healthy lifestyle. The three branches of my 4-H program have become a part of my every day life. I strive to live a healthier lifestyle both physically and nutritionally. In addition, my leadership and speaking skills have increased dramatically through working with the youth. This has been a truly gratifying experience and has contributed largely to my self-confidence. I look forward to expanding my involvement in 4-H.”

Yanis agrees that her experience as a Teen Mentor has been an extremely valuable experience. “Working with CT FANs IM has helped me develop skills I did not have or was not confident in,” she says. “I feel much more confident with being able to speak in front of an audience, I have learned to enjoy working in a group, rather than by myself, and lastly I have gained valuable leadership skills. I hope to continue my involvement in 4-H.”

The students both plan to attend college. Ciara hopes to be accepted into UConn’s nursing program for the fall 2016 semester, while Yanis has not yet chosen a major, and is considering several colleges.

4-H FANs IM Family Night

Family Night video

The 4-H FANs IM program has created this great video on Family Night that showcases what the program is all about.

 

Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion, is a 4-H Afterschool program designed to reduce obesity rates in children ages 9 to 14, through sustainable interventions surrounding food and fitness. 

The program is a collaboration between the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Department of Extension, and the UConn Neag School of Education Department of Kinesiology. 

CT FANs IM, was modeled after the original 4-H FANs Fitness and Nutrition Clubs, a USDA Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Program.

Working for the Best Kept Secret

By Aaron Plotke

UConn Extension Intern

Aaronpic1

Aaron Plotke, Linda Castro, Stacey Stearns and Rineicha Otero with Lever and Smith at the UConn Extension Centennial Dinner

With summer quickly approaching, I was still unsure what I was going to do for the next three months. Understanding the importance of gaining real world experience in my field of study, I applied to a number of nutrition related internships throughout the semester. I was hoping to find that “perfect fit.” Alas almost all of the programs either had chosen their summer interns or were deemed too impractical for me to commit to (i.e. traveling to DC). I was in a tight spot… But the last week of school changed that for me; I received an email regarding a “Paid Summer Internship” with the UConn Extension Department. I always knew Extension existed but wasn’t really aware of its significance. I did some research, decided to apply, and within a few weeks was asked to join their team. Still with limited knowledge of what Extension did or was, I committed to the summer internship.

As I learned more about what is considered the “state’s best-kept secret,” I was amazed at what I found. Extension is compromised of a vast network of outreach programming across every state in the U.S. including our own state of Connecticut. With the passing of the Smith-Lever Act in the early 1900’s, each state’s “Land Grant Universities” were tasked to run their own Extension programs. Then, as now, the objective is to empower communities with the knowledge and expertise of major research universities in the areas of food, health and sustainability. UConn is Connecticut’s Land Grant University with an Extension program that has over 282 active initiatives. Strong local ties have been established with communities across the state, with every county having a dedicated Extension office.

Read more…

4-H FANs IM Success Stories

4-H FANs logoConnecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion (CT FANs IM), is a 4-H Afterschool program designed to reduce obesity rates in children ages 9 to 14, through sustainable interventions surrounding food and fitness. The program is a collaboration between the UConn Extension, and the Department of Kinesiology. CT FANs IM, was modeled after the original 4-H FANs Fitness and Nutrition Clubs, a USDA Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) Program. Here are some of their recent success stories.

 

Teen Mentor Gains Real World Experience

 

NajeiaNajeia served as a 4-H FANs teen mentor during the summer of 2010 and 2011. She is currently a senior at Tufts University, majoring in community health and American studies, with a minor in sociology.

 

“I really enjoyed working with the youth in the 4-H FANs program,” Najeia says. “I applied for the program through Youth@Work, and I was thankful to be matched with a health promotion program. It was helpful to me, as it provided a real world experience, and allowed me to take a leadership role while learning many new skills.”

 

Originally, Najeia was interested in becoming a physician, but through her studies, she has focused on public health. Upon graduation, she plans to work in the field for a few years before pursuing a Master’s degree in public health. She hopes to become a director in a community health organization, where she plans to focus on promoting health equity; in particular, breaking down social barriers that are targeted at marginalized communities.

 

“I’d like to work with kids in some capacity when I’m in the field,” Najeia says. “As a public health professional, I would like to initiate programs for youth and follow the 4-H FANs model, where youth disseminate health promotion information within the community.”

 

Najeia is quick to point out that while being a 4-H FANs teen mentor was a good experience, she also had a lot of fun. “I really enjoyed my time there. Particularly when we introduced dance to the kids as a way to exercise. They loved it. Especially the cha cha slide!”

 

4-H FANs IM Summer Garden

 

FANs gardenGrowing vegetables was a big hit with the students participating in the 4-H FANs IM Summer Program at Roger Sherman School. Amy Sandoval, UConn Extension Public Service Specialist notes, “Youth were so excited when they noticed veggies growing. They would say, ‘Oh, my babies, they are growing!'”

 

Teen Mentor Attends UConn

 

Fontaine joined the New Haven 4-H FANs program during the summer leading into her junior year of high school. She continued working as a teen facilitator throughout her junior and senior year.

 

“I love working with kids,” Fontaine says. “Our mission was to make students aware of what they were eating, and encourage them to get moving and become more physically fit. The program also made me more conscious of how I was eating. I felt that as a role model, I had to lead by example.”

 

“Just to hear a child say, ‘I ate an apple today or I played outside,’ made me realize that my job meant something. It gave me a sense of fulfillment that I was doing something to benefit someone else.”

 

Fontaine grew up in the New Haven area, and was surprised to discover that 4-H programs existed in urban areas. As a teen facilitator with the 4-H FANs program, Fontaine attended the 4-H conference in Washington, D.C., a trip that Fontaine says gave her an opportunity to travel from home, and experience a completely different environment.

 

Currently, Fontaine is a student at UConn majoring in political science. She hopes one day to become an attorney. “I know I have a long way to go, but in due time, I will get there.”