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Posts Tagged ‘4-H’

4-H Club Grows Bountiful Harvest

Article by Kim Colavito Markesich

Orginally published by Naturally.UConn.edu

eating strawberry

Photo: Amy Walker

Amy Walker, third grade teacher at W.B. Sweeney Elementary School in Willimantic, serves as adult leader for the school’s new 4-H Club. Funded through CT FANs IM 4-H STEM grant, the program started last winter with the planning and construction of six raised bed gardens.

“This school garden has been a wonderful opportunity to connect young, urban children with healthy, local produce,” says Marc Cournoyer, UConn Extension 4-H Youth Development Program Coordinator. “These kids are very excited to not only learn where some of their food comes from, but they also get to know the pride of growing, harvesting and eating food that was created by their own hands.”

Desiree Parciak, Sweeney Before and After School Program coordinator, worked with the CT FANs IM 4-H STEM staff to help establish the club. Students from her program were given the opportunity to join the club. In addition to Walker, the team includes Extension Public Service Specialist Kelly Caisse and CT FANs IM 4-H STEM teen mentor Mackenzie Hill, a former Sweeney student.

Linda Castro, Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs IM 4-H STEM program administrator, assisted the team with several training sessions. “It was very interesting because we did some great activities that really identified our unique personality traits and showed how different we work,” Walker says. “I think that is what makes the team so successful.”

Last spring, eighteen students planted the gardens that by early summer were overflowing with of tomatoes, corn, peppers, cucumbers, string beans, dill, basil and strawberries.

The team planned a summer reading night, but due to construction at Sweeney, the event was held during the afternoon at Memorial Park. The gardens were harvested before the event. Children heard a story about gardening while parents watched a food demonstration. Families left with a healthy recipe and an armful of vegetables.

“We had adorable chef hats for the children, which they loved,” says Walker. “And story time was a hit. Families from the school attended as well as a few other residents from town. It was a wonderful feeling to share the vegetables. There was enough for all the children and everyone went away happy.”

With the gardens still brimming with produce, Walker plans to continue harvesting as the students return to school. She hopes to secure additional funding to continue the program, expand the gardens and include educational sessions on nutrition and fitness.

“We had parents from the PTO notice how excited the kids were with the program,” Walker says. “Every administrator wants parents involved in their kids’ school, but it’s difficult for many parents in this district, where so many work multiple jobs to support their families. My goal is to encourage the students to eat healthier through gardening, while increasing parent involvement at the school. That’s the big thing for me, to see parents interested in learning with their kids and sharing the gardening process.”

Planning for the Regan Elementary School garden in Waterbury began during the winter of 2015, under the direction of technology/library teacher, Kimberly Williams. The cold frames and raised beds arrived in spring, along with seeds and worms for the worm factory. Students planted carrots, tomatoes, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, watermelon, pumpkins, lettuce, basil, beets, spinach, snapdragons, and cosmos. The first family harvest was held in July, followed by summer maintenance and fall clean up. A fall planting of broccoli rabe, lettuce, and carrots went in during October. The school club is in the works. Club recruiting began with Family Night events.

“Our parents have been very enthusiastic about the program and have enjoyed the Family Nights that we’ve held,” Williams says. “Students and families are excited to be part of the program. Everyone is looking forward to playing fitness games, getting into the garden and making healthy choices. Our staff is excited to see the science learning in our club translate to the classroom, and enable our students to make connections in their learning that wouldn’t otherwise be possible.”

In March, two New Haven schools, Hill Central Music Academy and West Rock STREAM Academy, will begin a spring CT FANs IM 4-H STEM program.

For more information visit the 4-H FANs IM website at http://www.4-hfans.uconn.edu/index.php.

Volunteer Involvement

karate

Photo courtesy of the World Tang Too Do Association

Volunteers are a critical component of the 4-H Mentoring program. Dr. Robert Beaudoin is one such volunteer. He started volunteering with the Connecticut 4-H Mentoring Project conducted at the Waterbury Youth Services, Inc. in 2011. He is the CEO of Beaudoin Karate Academy in Waterbury and has provided the support of his school and trainers at no cost to the participants of the programs conducted at the Waterbury Youth Services, Inc.

Under Dr. Beaudoin’s guidance, the program has grown into a major part of the 4-H Mentoring project, with about 45 youth participating in workshops that meet twice a week throughout the year. Four of his staff volunteer their time as trainers and mentors for the 4-H members, enabling youth to participate in local and regional contests, earn their belts, and demonstrate their skills at agency functions as well as the 4-H Fair.

4-H Mentoring Project

Article by Ede Valiquette

garden box“I never miss 4-H, my mentor thinks I’m special” says a mentee from the Connecticut 4-H Mentoring project. A parent says, “my child is never sick on 4-H day.” The Connecticut 4-H Mentoring Project is a prevention program designed to assist youth in acquiring knowledge, building character, and developing life skills in a fun learning environment that will help them become self-directing, productive members of society. Waterbury and Bridgeport have participated in the Connecticut 4-H Mentoring Project for 7 years, and are presently serving 120 youth, ages 10-14. The National 4-H Council, through the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, funds this program.

Mentoring is a proven strategy for helping at-risk youth achieve a better future. Youth are more likely to succeed in life when they have the additional support of a caring, consistent adult mentor. Sharon Stoyer, Bridgeport site coordinator says, “Mentoring can have a profound impact on a youth. Having a mentor can enhance a young person’s learning skills and help build resiliency and self-control.”

Youth with mentors are less likely to engage in risky behavior with drugs and alcohol. They are more likely to develop positive relationships with peers and adults; hold a leadership position in a club, school council, sports team or other group; enroll in college; volunteer regularly in their communities and grow up to become productive members of society. Mentors provide the spark that encourages youth to dream and achieve.

“Be a Mentor-Change Two Lives” is a popular slogan in mentoring programs. Why? Mentoring does in fact improve the mentor’s life. How? Research shows that mentoring can:

  • provide a sense of health and well-being;
  • improve one’s self-image and self-worth;
  • provide a sense of feeling valued, needed, appreciated, competent, and accomplished; and
  • provide a sense of satisfaction from giving back to the community, and earning the respect of others by contributing to society in a very important way.

How does the Connecticut 4-H Mentoring Project make a difference? Its goals are to increase the interpersonal skills of selected youth and to strengthen their family bonds through a 12-month mentoring program. The project consists of three components, mentoring, 4-H activities, and family nights. All three collectively contribute to positive impacts. Mentoring and 4-H are conducted in small groups, one mentor to a maximum of four youth. 4-H Mentor groups meet weekly, with activities such as cooking, technology, gardening, crafts, dance, or karate. To be a Connecticut 4-H group in good standing, 4-H mentor groups must keep records; perform a community service project; participate in public speaking activities; and assume leadership for their group’s functioning. Through 4-H group mentoring, youth learn teamwork, critical thinking, public speaking, leadership, decision-making, communication, and record keeping.

Family Nights are a critical component of the program. These nights are designed to foster family bonds through fun and experiential learning. Each night has an activity related either to building trust, family support, positive family communications, working together, problem solving, or family traditions. Families eat a light dinner, complete and process the activity, and have fun. Field trips to the Big E, apple picking, and county fairs also provide an opportunity for youth and their families to learn new things about the world, and each other, while having fun.

All mentors undergo the UConn 4-H volunteer application process, and then receive additional training on how to be an effective mentor. Parental involvement is key to a child’s success. Before joining, mentoring staff meets the parents, explains the program, and the parents’ responsibilities to it.

Realizing it takes a village to improve the lives of youth and their families, the Connecticut 4-H Mentoring Project partners with local agencies to fulfill project goals. In Bridgeport, Barnum and Cesar Batalla Elementary Schools are community partners. According to Margaret Grillo, 4-H Educator and Co-Principal Investigator, “UConn 4-H and Extension has worked with Waterbury Youth Service System, (WYSS) Inc., our Waterbury partner, for over 25 years. Partnering with them augments the impact of grant funds. Adding the 4-H Mentoring Project provides an opportunity for WYSS youth and their families to broaden their horizons with positive involvement in all of the activities, events and training that 4-H Mentoring and UConn 4-H has to offer. It’s a win–win for both agencies, and for youth and their families.”

What is a Record Book?

4-H cloverThe Connecticut 4-H Record Keeping system was developed as an outcome of a survey taken among leaders, parents, 4-Hers and alumni. The record keeping system mimics the real world, and uses industry standards as a guide for deciding on the information needed for record keeping.

4-H members are encouraged to keep records as part of their leadership experience. The 4-H records present a picture of growth and development as a 4-H member.  A complete 4-H record book includes a:

  • 4-H Activity Record for each year of experience
  • 4-H Project Record sheet for each individual project taken during that year
  • Financial Summary of the project; and
  • Appropriate 4-H project supplemental sheets for each individual project taken during that year

4-H Grows True Leaders

Article by Maryann Fusco-Rollins

Sean at fair

Photo: Maryann Fusco Rollins

Sean Murdock of Tolland was 8 years old, and out playing baseball that he first heard about 4-H. In between innings he and a teammate started talking about their hobbies, and interest in building with their hands. Sean enjoyed learning how things worked and took household items apart and rebuilt them. That day, Sean learned about a local 4-H small engine club called the Piston Pushers.

Sean went to observe a 4-H meeting at the barn of 4-H leader Mike Hoffman. There he met Mike Hoffman and Mark Kloter, co-leaders of the Piston Pushers 4-H club. The barn houses a workshop, and the club’s business and project meetings are held there. Sean joined the Piston Pushers 4-H club in 2010, and started learning how to safely and efficiently rebuild a tractor. He hoped to enter, and one day win, the UConn Tolland County 4-H Fair small engine and tractor pulling competitions.

At the 2016 Tolland County 4-H Fair, Sean won best of show for his tractor and placed third in the tractor-pulling contest, pulling 4,050 pounds. He also received a blue ribbon and best in show for a 3D printer he built and entered. Sean credits Mr. Hoffman with teaching him everything he knows about tractors and small engine design. “The 4-H logs and financial recordkeeping component taught me important organizational skills,” Sean says. But most important, Sean attributes gaining self-confidence in his abilities, to working with Mr. Kloter.

“Mr. Kloter always encourages me to take the next step,” Sean continues. “It was Mr. Kloter who encouraged me to join the 4-H Fair Board of Directors (Fairboard) in 2014. Mr. Kloter is a part of the Fairboard Advisory Committee and thought I would enjoy the experience.” Fairboard is made up 4-H members; ages 12-18, who plan all aspects of the annual 4-H Fair. Over 2,000 people attend the Tolland County 4-H Fair each year. With Mr. Kloter’s encouragement, Sean ran for and was recently voted in as an officer for 2017. It was also because of Mr. Kloter’s encouragement that Sean entered his 3D printer in the 2016 Tolland County 4-H Fair.

Sean built his 3D printer from a kit. He improved on the kit design and created a metal frame to replace the kit’s plywood frame, by sourcing his own parts, cutting a plywood frame, then updating the frame by sending out the design to a machine show to get it cut in a thicker cold roll steel. Sean taught himself the Computer Aided Design (CAD) programming. Mr. Kloter was very impressed with Sean’s work and wanted him to enter it in the fair along with his tractor. Sean was apprehensive about entering his 3D printer and speaking to the public about his work. Sean explained, “If it wasn’t for Mr. Kloter encouraging me to enter my 3D printer in the Fair, I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of all the other opportunities that have happened.” Winning at the 4-H Fair was just the start of an impressive summer for Sean.

As Sean was preparing for the 2016 4-H Fair, his former teacher Celeste Estevez was attending the UConn Engineering Joule Fellows program. The Fellowship brings K-12 teachers from across Connecticut to the Storrs campus for a six-week summer engineering program. While attending, Ms. Estevez talked to Reza Amin, a graduate student with the Tasoglu Research Group, about Sean and how he helped the Tolland Middle School to get a 3D printer.

“I had been interested in having a printer for our school, but cost was a barrier,” Ms. Estevez says. “Also, there were no other printers in the district and no one with expertise on how to run or maintain them. I had been talking with Sean about 3D printing since he was in 6th grade and at the end of 7th grade I asked him if he would be willing to suggest a kit that he would then build for us. He agreed and then he presented the budget request to the PTO. At the meeting, he gave an overview of 3D printing, brought some of his models, and showed a video of his machine in action, demonstrating his knowledge of additive mechanics. After seeing and listening to Sean, the PTO voted unanimously to approve $1000 for all the parts for the kit, and 8 rolls of filament. I created the SPARK award in honor of Sean.” The annual award recognizes students who use their talents and do something that ‘sparks’ activity in and for the school.

The Tasoglu Research Group invited Sean to work on a project this past summer, and he built a chip microscopy holder. Mr. Amin said that Sean worked so well on his first assignment, that they asked him to join the team. The lab typically takes on promising undergraduate students and teaches them how to properly conduct research. “This is the first time we have asked a high school student to join us,” Mr. Amin says. Because of his experience in 4-H, when the Tasoglu Research Group spoke with Sean about joining their lab, he was ready.

Sean Murdock is presently in 9th grade. He is a member of the Piston Pushers 4-H club and Second Vice President of the 4-H Fairboard. He is working on an electromagnet design for the Tasoglu Research Group. He hopes to attend UConn and is interested in electro mechanical engineering and computer science.

Jacobs Receives 2017 Salute to Excellence

 

Jacobs photo

Extension Educator Peg Grillo and Bill Jacobs.

Congratulations to New Haven County 4-H volunteer Bill Jacobs, who was recently selected as this year’s recipient of the Salute to Excellence Northeast Region 4-H Volunteer of the Year Award.

William (Bill) Jacobs is in his ninth year as a 4-H volunteer in New Haven County, CT. He works as a Vocational/Transition Coordinator for Area Cooperative Educational Services (ACES), a regional public school that provides schools and programs for students with regular education, special education and talented and gifted needs. He is located at Whitney High East/ West and CREATE, a high school and post high school school for students with special needs. The school has committed itself to the incorporation of 4-H club work to give special needs students with all levels of abilities the opportunity to participate in 4-H activities, integrate their school programs into 4-H and learn new skills to better prepare them for the adult world.

Nine years ago this Cooperative Extension Educator was approached by the vice principal of ACES to collaborate and apply for a three year recreational grant with the Dept. of Education yearly to provide gardening, work force preparation and leadership skills to special needs youth aged 13-22. About $120,000 was awarded the first year, $100,000 the second and ending with $80,000 the third year. These funds provided transportation to classes, supplies for making gardens both on school property and in a neighborhood garden and field trips to the University of Connecticut at Storrs and Eastern States Exposition, along with learning work-force prep skills.

Bill was asked to be lead teacher in establishing the 4-H program in all the classrooms. He took on this role with gusto, encouraging every classroom to select a project, meet as a 4-H club weekly and participate in some of the county 4-H activities. He was responsible for collecting registration forms, volunteer applications and assisting with training of the teachers. The group also went to Lyman Hall in Wallingford for weekly classes with their vo-ag teachers in both gardening and animal science. Bill was responsible for arranging these classes. 170 youth became registered as 4-H members along with over 15 adult volunteer leaders. He also took on the role of chief collaborator and liaison between the school personnel, extension staff and area vo-ag schools, taking on leadership in writing the yearly re-submission of the grant for the first three years.

Bill organizes the yearly 4-H Fair that is held each May and designed to showcase the work of the students. After the first three years, the grant funding ended and it looked like the 4-H program might end along with it. Bill was able to inspire the teachers and youth to continue, finding some funding to conduct 4-H activities and keep both the 4-H clubs and the 4-H the fair going. Congratulations Bill, and thank you for all you do!

Online Course Catalog of Extension Programs

course catalog imageThere are more than one hundred UConn Extension specialists working throughout Connecticut. These educators are teaching and training in local communities, sharing their experience and knowledge with residents through a variety of programs. These instructional activities now will be easily accessible with the creation of an online extension course catalog.

Extension classes address a wide range of topics, including issues related to agriculture and food systems, the green industry, families and community development, land use and water, nutrition and wellness as well as numerous 4-H and youth activities. The website uses these groupings and an A to Z index so finding offerings is simple and straightforward. Each program links to a page with information on the objectives, goals, components, intended audience, the time of year and how often programs run and a link to the program’s website, that provides additional information.

As part of a nationwide network through the University of Connecticut College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, Extension professionals and trained volunteers engage the state’s diverse population to make informed choices and better decisions. The partnerships enrich our lives and our environment.

View the course catalog online at http://s.uconn.edu/courses.

National Ag Day

Katy-Katelyn

Happy National Agriculture Day! UConn CAHNR students, and Connecticut 4-H alumni Katy Davis and Katelyn Williams are in Washington DC today for National Ag Day Training – two of only 12 4-H students selected nationwide to participate.

National 4-H Council is pleased to offer this agriculture leadership opportunity for college students to represent 4-H in the 2017 National Ag Day events in Washington, D.C. Students are participating in a training at the National 4-H Youth Conference Center. The Agriculture Council of America (ACA) sponsors 100 student representatives from across the country to participate in the training and attend the National Ag Day activities on Capitol Hill. The students—from FFA, AFA, 4-H and Student NAMA—put a face on the future of agriculture and personally emphasize the importance of agriculture in our everyday lives.

Attending the Inauguration with 4-H

4-H at capitol 4-H at inauguration 4-H at capitol

I recently returned from Washington D.C. where I joined 4 fellow Connecticut 4-Hers to attend the first ever Citizen Washington Focus Presidential Inauguration. It was held in conjunction with the Presidential Inauguration. We were there with 500 4-Hers from all across the country who all shared the same interest in democracy and politics. We stayed at the National 4H Center in Chevy Chase, MD. Throughout the week we attended workshops that focused on the Executive Branch of government, our democracy and our role in it. We visited museums and monuments throughout Washington D.C. We had the opportunity to listen to speakers who played a key role in past presidents administration. On Friday January 20th we attended the Inauguration of our 45th President of the United States. Our Connecticut delegation had a great view of the Inauguration from the front lawn of the Capital building. Regardless of your political affiliation it was an amazing experience to see our country’s peaceful transfer of power. On our last night in D.C. we enjoyed a dinner cruise on the Potomac River.

Thank you Connecticut 4-H for this amazing experience,

Emily Syme

Hartford County 4-Her

4-H National Youth Science Day

STEM day projectEach fall, UConn 4-H members in every county across Connecticut participate in 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), which is the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. The hands-on experiment incorporates science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Motion Commotion, the 2015 experiment, taught 4-H youth members about physics and speed, while addressing the serious public safety threat posed by texting while driving. By tying real life problems and their solutions to STEM, 4-H youth are engaged as problem solvers and gain hands-on experience in STEM, learn life skills needed to succeed today as well as career readiness for the future. State 4-H Program Leader Maryann Fusco-Rollins and Joy Erickson from UConn’s School of Engineering had collaborated on a science experiment proposal for NYSD making it to the semi-finals. This collaborative experiment, Helping Hands Transforming Lives, challenges young scientists to become biomedical engineers for the day and design an Articulated Hand Prosthetic. It has been featured at 4-H Science Saturdays and was featured at the Adventures in STEM workshop in November 2016. UConn Engineering students are mentors at Adventures in STEM.