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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.

Bug Out This Summer With UConn Extension

 

milkweed beetle taking off copyright Pamm Cooper

UConn Extension’s Bug Week is right around the corner, from July 24th to 29th, and we have programs for the whole family.

Bugs are the unsung heroes of our ecosystem, providing services such as pollination and natural pest control. However, bugs don’t stop at environmental benefits. They have also impacted our culture through the manufacturing of silk, sources of dyes, wax and honey production, food sources, and the improvement of building materials and structures. There are also problem bugs, like the Emerald Ash Borer and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug that are a concern in Connecticut. Visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu for featured insects and resources.

All ages are welcome to attend and explore the activities and events dedicated to insects and their relatives. Bug Week programs include:

  • Pests and Guests will be held at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Monday, July 24th at 5:30 PM. Activities include: cooking with bugs, games and demos for the whole family, and learning about bugs in the garden. Please register at http://s.uconn.edu/3r7 or call 860-486-9228.
  • Insect Wonders at the Farm: Join UConn Extension faculty and Spring Valley Student Farm staff and students for an interactive, fun-filled ‘buggy’ event. Learn about our amazing and important insect friends by collecting and observing them. Activities for the whole family will include insect collecting, insect-inspired crafts, Bug-Bingo and a scavenger hunt. This event will be held on Tuesday, July 25th from 9-10:30 AM. The rain date is July 26th.
  • Join the Museum of Natural History, AntU and the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology for an exciting afternoon on campus on Thursday, July 27th from 12:30-4:30 PM. We have tours of the insect collections, an AntU presentation, plus exhibit activities, microscope stations, giveaways, and a live ant colony. There will also be special greenhouse displays. Please register at http://s.uconn.edu/3r7
  • Pollinators at Auerfarm in Bloomfield on Friday, July 28th from 9 AM -12 PM will have a station at the beehive, pollinator plants, and a hands-on make and take activity. The farm is home to a Foodshare garden, 4-H programs and more, offering fun for the entire family. Please register at http://s.uconn.edu/3r7 or 860-486-9228.
  • Find out all about insects and where to look for them at Bug Walks at the Tolland Agricultural Center in Vernon on Saturday, July 29th from 10 AM-1 PM. The program will have live insects on display, right out in the open, plus part of the insect collection from the UConn Natural History Museum, as well as three bug hunts that include going to the butterfly/pollinator garden and the vegetable garden on the property.
  • A photo contest is being offered, with three categories: junior, senior and professional. More details can be found at: http://bugs.uconn.edu/photo-contest/

UConn Extension offices are located across the state and offer an array of services dedicated to educating and informing the public on innovative technology and scientific improvements. Bug Week is one example of UConn Extension’s mission in tying research to real life, by addressing insects and some of their relatives.

For more information on Bug Week, please visit our website at www.bugs.uconn.edu, email bugweek@uconn.edu or call 860-486-9228.

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.”

Tree Wardens Celebrate 25th Anniversary

tree wardensOn April 28, 2017, the Tree Wardens’ Association of Connecticut, Inc., celebrated the 25th anniversary of its founding with a gala event at the Omni Hotel in New Haven.

The organization was founded by Bob Ricard, Senior Extension Educator, as a result of his findings in a statewide needs assessment he conducted in 1991, the year he started working for UConn Extension. The results suggested that tree wardens (each municipality must have a tree warden based on state law passed in 1901) were not organized, received very little educational support, and didn’t know other towns had the position. Bob conducted a field workshop then the first organizational meeting at the Haddam Extension Center March 3, 1992. He was assisted by the late Dr. Dave Schroeder and Fred Borman, CT-DEEP, with the workshop.

Today the organization has around 200 members and an active board (including having recently completing a facilitate strategic plan to map out its next 25 years. Bob conducts the annual Tree Warden School (since 1998) with over 300 tree wardens, deputy tree wardens, and others passing the final exam. The organization hosts two workshops and an annual dinner meeting, advocates concerning laws pertaining to tree wardens, and sponsors tree planting events.

At the gala, Dr. Mike O’Neill, congratulated the organization for its success. Senator Blumenthal did the same and presented Bob with a Certificate of Recognition for founding and facilitation of the organization through its 25 years. At the end of the gala, attendees were talking of the next 25 years and getting together for the 50th anniversary.

25 Years of Lifelong Learning

Article by Kim Colavito Markesich

Orginally published by Naturally.UConn.edu

CLIR groupThis fall, the UConn Extension Center for Learning in Retirement (CLIR) celebrated its twenty-fifth anniversary of providing interesting and engaging lifelong learning activities for retirees and other adults. The milestone was celebrated October 19 with a luncheon at the Deanston House in Storrs.

The UConn Board of Trustees first chartered CLIR in September 1991, under the Division of Continuing and Extended Education. Four years ago, the program was transitioned to UConn Extension.

“The College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources has been very supportive,” says Stephen Kenton, CLIR president and professor emeritus at Eastern Connecticut State University. “We have a lot of people we depend on from Extension. They not only help us, they are so positive. They’ve just been wonderful.”

The center provides educational classes and courses in a variety of subjects, from history and politics to health and the arts. Membership fees are $20 per term (three terms per year) and members may attend as many classes as they wish. The lectures include single talks and short courses, all offered at the Vernon Cottage on the UConn Mansfield Depot Campus.

“When I retired, I knew I had a clear choice to either spend my time watching television until my mind turned to oatmeal, or I could find things to do that would challenge me physically and mentally to retain my faculties for as long as possible,” says Howard Raphaelson, CLIR member. “CLIR has helped me maintain my mental capabilities by exposing me to a variety of experts in many fields.” Before retirement, Raphaelson worked in the financial department of an international marketing company.

“Lifelong learners have an eclectic interest in lots of things,” says Kenton. “Most of our speakers find themselves ten minutes into a talk before people pepper them with questions. People are very engaged. There is a lot of give and take during the sessions.”

“The audiences are interested in what the speakers have to say,” says Cathleen Love, professor in the Department of Extension and CLIR administrative liaison. “They show up and are very grateful for the program. People at this age often find themselves isolated. This is a way to keep their brains active and maintain a social connection.”

“I visited similar programs across the country,” Love says. “This is by far the least expensive, and it’s run by a phenomenal group of retired people who have devoted an enormous amount of their time to make this program work. It’s the hardest working group of volunteers I know.”

On average, the Center maintains approximately 250 members, with twenty to sixty people attending each class. The College provides extension staff assistance, as well as a location with parking. In turn, the CLIR contributes $6,000 per year to the University.

“We’ve had wonderful faculty members come in and speak,” Love says. “Steve is phenomenal at asking people to lecture. We’ve had presentations from the UConn president and provost, as well as almost every dean. Little by little, the group is becoming more woven into the UConn community.”

“This program is an example of why we need to be reflective about aging. When I went around the country, there were 95-year-olds teaching amazing dynamic courses that people couldn’t wait to get into. In our society, we tend to say that at a certain age we are done. For me, this program has been such a gift.”

“Land grant universities were set up to serve all of the population,” Love points out. “Lifelong learning is a form of adult education and this outreach is critical to the mission of Extension.”

Love hopes to build more partnerships with Extension, the University and the community. “I think there are collaborative partnerships that we could build that would engage populations of all ages with the community in ways that would be very powerful. Including everyone in the work of a community provides us with resources we may otherwise overlook. CLIR is a community resource that has provided an outstanding service for adult learners for twenty-five years.”

CLIR provides meaningful and serious intellectual activities for retirees and other adults from all walks of life, conducted in an informal and relaxed atmosphere. There are no academic requirements.

CLIR classes are offered in two formats: single classes and courses. A single class consists of one and a half hours. A course consists of two or more classes scheduled in successive weeks.

All classes are held at the Vernon Cottage on the UConn Depot Campus. Join CLIR today, new members are always welcome. You are invited to sample a single class or two at no cost.

Engaging Communities with UConn PEP

The University of Connecticut People Empowering People (UConn PEP) is a personal and family development program with a strong community focus. Retired UConn Extension educator Cherry Czuba started the program in 1996 with a USDA State Strengthening grant to the Department of Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. Building upon individual strengths the program encourages growth in communication, goal setting, problem solving, parent and family relationships and community involvement. While participating in the UConn PEP program, participants set goals, develop relationships and make connections. They also find their voice, share stories, and begin to believe they can make a difference.

family at PEP

A family at a 2016 PEP program.

UConn PEP expanded to other states, including Michigan, California, and Missouri. Connections were made with professors in South Africa and Egypt to establish the program in universities in those countries. The broad reach of the program continues with Massachusetts, Vermont, and Florida actively teaching PEP programs in 2016.

PEP participants realize their leadership potential and invest in themselves, their families and their communities. The program continues to grow through support from our partner organizations, including school districts, nonprofit organizations and faith-based communities. Funding for the programs comes from the state and local government, foundations, and local businesses.

Questionnaires are administered to all participants before programming begins and after it finishes in partnership with the Center for Applied Research in Human Development (CARHD) at the University of Connecticut. The pre-test questionnaires contain close-ended questions to measure self-assertive efficacy, sense of mastery, parental satisfaction, family problem-solving communication, and community engagement. The post-test questionnaires include the same questions as the pre-tests, as well as open-ended questions that asked participants about their overall satisfaction and feedback about the program.

Based on the data collected, CARHD assessed the effectiveness of the programs. Key findings from the analyses of the close-ended were that UConn PEP participants showed significant positive changes on self-assertive efficacy, sense of mastery, parental satisfaction, family problem- solving communication and community engagement.

Cherry Czuba

Cherry Czuba

The UConn PEP program has positively influenced communities across the state, as over 50 towns have had programs in the last twenty years. Participants enjoy the classes, the stories shared, the laughter, the trust within the group and the comfort in sharing and speaking with one another. The UConn PEP conversations empower participants to accomplish or obtain something. Every moment, every word, every tear, every laugh and every lesson becomes permanently ingrained in their minds and in their hearts.

For more information on the UConn PEP program visit http://pep.extension.uconn.edu or email cathleen.love@uconn.edu

Statewide Multi-Use Trail User Study

A statewide multi-use trail user study and volunteer data collection program

By Laura Brown
trail iconThe Connecticut Trail Census is a statewide multi-use trail user study and volunteer data collection program on 15 multi-use trails. The goals are to understand when, who, how, and why people make use of Connecticut’s multi-use trails, educate leaders and general public about trails and their impacts, promote resident participation in monitoring, and encourage sound trail building and maintenance programs based on data. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection Recreational Trails Program funds the project, and partners include UConn’s Center for Land Use Education Action and Research, the Connecticut Greenways Council and the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments. More information including volunteer information, interactive maps, and data can be found on at the program website http://cttrailcensus.uconn.edu

Understanding the Value of Multi-Use Trails

Article by Laura Brown

Naugatuck Greenway

Naugatuck Greenway

Answering growing demand for alternatives to car based transportation and potential improvements to public health and quality of life, Connecticut has vowed to invest billions of dollars in new transportation infrastructure, including $100 million on pedestrian and bicycle paths[1]. While interest in multi-use trails is growing, they can be expensive to build (estimated $1,000,000 per mile) and community leaders are often asked to quantify the health and quality of life benefits. This was the case for a group of community leaders along the Naugatuck River Greenway (NRG), a proposed 44-mile multi-use trail that will run through eleven communities from Derby to Torrington when fully built. Committee members wanted to know: Who uses trails? How and when do people use trails? How much are people spending when they use the trail? What are other potential economic, public health, and quality of life impacts? What can we learn from other trails in our region? How can the trail support brownfield remediation?

In 2016, UConn Extension Educator Laura Brown partnered with the UConn School of Business Center for Community Economic Analysis, the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments and the Naugatuck River Greenways Council on a multi-year research project to quantify the potential economic impacts of constructing the NRG, and provide recommendations to municipalities on how to maximize impacts during and after trail construction.

The study involved a literature review, collecting trail count data using infrared counters, a trail user intercept survey on five existing sections of the trail, three focus groups with trail administrators, local business owners, public health professionals along a similar fully built trail, and deployment of a Regional Economic Impact Model (REMI) analysis to estimate total economic impacts of the proposed trail. The analysis included estimates of construction costs, operating expenditures, user amenity benefits, user expenditures, as well as potential impacts on population, employment, income, and fiscal impacts. Reports from the study can be found at http://s.uconn.edu/nrg

The findings of the study showed that this trail, when fully constructed, could have a significant and positive impact on communities in the region. But, those impacts aren’t inevitable even if the trail is built. Trails have to be used, promoted, maintained, and the community, both residents and businesses must be engaged in using and developing the trail. The greatest potential economic impact would result from increased consumer spending by users as well as costs of construction, expansion and maintenance. Currently trail users are spending about $5.8 million annually on items related to trail use (including gear, rentals, clothes, and food) and this could rise to about $85.2 million by 2030 when the trail is fully built. Direct construction expenditures may reach $77.2 million by the year 2030.

Consumer surplus and health benefits also accrued significant economic value over time, including benefits to residents who don’t even use the trail or live in the same zip code as a trailhead. Consumer surplus describes the difference between how much people might be willing to pay to use the trail and how much they actually pay. This includes costs that are avoided like paying for gas to drive to a trailhead or for medical care as a result of health problems. Residents within closest proximity to trailheads and those nearby are expected to realize a combined annual consumer surplus of $13.8 million. That would be expected to rise to about $90.7 million by 2030 when the trail is fully built.

The more people that use the trail, the greater the economic benefit will be. Many users walk or bike on the trail often enough to realize health benefits by reducing incidents of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, and cancer. The net present monetized value of health-related benefits would be expected to increase from about $10.4 million currently to $71.1 million in 2030.

The study has yielded other benefits beyond the impact numbers. As a result of the project, many other trail groups expressed interest in gathering data on their own trails to better understand their users and make better investments. UConn Extension partnered with the Naugatuck Valley Council of Governments and received a $62,000 recreational trails grant from the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection to expand the study to 15 other trails around the state, a project called the CT Trail Census.

[1] LetsGoCT. Connecticut’s Bold Vision for a Transportation Future. (2015). Retrieved November 15, 2016 at http://www.governor.ct.gov/malloy/lib/malloy/2015.02.18_CTDOT_30_YR_Vision.pdf

Summer CLIR Classes

CLIR group

SUMMER CLIR — FREE AND OPEN TO ALL

The Center for Learning In Retirement (CLIR) offers lively discussions on various topics, moderated by Betty Heiss and Lynn Mardon on Wednesdays, June 28 and July 5, 12, 19, and 26, 1:15 – 2:45 at Vernon Cottage on UConn’s Depot Campus.  If you would like to suggest a discussion topic with which you have some familiarity, email Betty at bettyheiss7@gmail.com or Lynn at webofbelief@yahoo.com.  Please include your phone number.  We hope you’ll join us!