youth development

All Paws In! Support 4-H on UConn’s Giving Day

UConn Gives All Paws In logo

4-H member at Vietnam Memorial in Washington DCWe’re excited to announce that UConn Gives, the University’s first ever Giving Day, is April 4-5, 2018. Please take this opportunity to support the 4-H Centennial Fund. Visit Extension’s Giving Day page to make your gift of any amount. For more information on UConn Gives, go to givingday.uconn.edu.

The 4-H Centennial Fund has been a tremendous asset in helping youth in Connecticut experience 4-H opportunities and enhance their leadership, citizenship, and STEM skills. Established in 2002 to celebrate the 100th birthday of the National 4-H Program, the 4-H Centennial Fund allows youth to participate in national 4-H trips and statewide events–and, most of all, have fun while learning and trying new things.

Whether your support to the 4-H Centennial Fund sends delegates to the National 4-H Conference, increases Expressive Arts Day participants, or helps volunteers attend a training, you can truly make a difference to the 4-H youth and volunteers of Connecticut. To learn more about 4-H please visit http://www.4-h.uconn.edu.

My 4-H Story

MY 4-H STORY

By Mia Herrera

Mia Herrera and goat at show in KentuckyIt is safe to say that 4-H has more than just impacted my life. It has given me opportunities that would enhance my leadership and citizenship skills, and it has also shaped me into the person I have become. 4-H has provided life skill s and given me the confidence to take responsibility in preparation for a successful future, in both my career and helping others.

My 4-H experience started in 2006, when I was very young, at the age of 7. Our family had decided to purchase land to have chickens and dairy animals in order to produce homemade products for heal their living. I started out wanting to show the chickens because of how cute and cuddly I found them. Quickly my interest in showing chickens soon initiated my desire to show dairy goats as well at our local 4-H county fair.  For my first year showing a goat, I bought a doeling from a fellow 4-H member. I groomed that doeling, fed her, and cared for her as if she were my child. When it was time to bring her to the show ring, it was an event I could never forget. It was not about winning a ribbon (although my eyes lit up with such enthusiasm when the judge handed me that maroon ribbon with gold script for: “Participation”

written on the bottom of it). It was the thought of taking an animal that I had raised, taken responsibility for, and presented to the public eye. It was such a prideful moment for me! I was hooked. My desi re for more experience grew fast, and I began spreading across the map (you know like when Indiana Jones tracks his excursions in red on the map? That is how it felt anyway.) I was exhibiting at as many fairs as I could, determined to strengthen m y goat showing skills.

My first time entering the huge show ring at the State Fair, I was 8 years old. I inspected every comer, every animal, and the face of every showman. Every exhibitor in the ring had the same look of determination – ready to execute anyone who stepped in their path of winning the competition. Here I came with my little doeling, with her dainty little prance, and me, clueless of what the competition had in store for me. I learned what it truly meant to be in the State Fair. I showed my heart out, and I think the judge realized this. He pulled me aside after the show was over and sort-of interviewed me about where I bought my goats and m y experience so far. He was surprised to see that an exhibitor of my age was

attempting to show in such a tough competition, with adults on top of it. He took me around to some of the big breeders at the fair and introduced me to them. I spent the rest of the weekend at the State fair receiving advice from Dairy Goat Celebrities. Enhancing my showing skills was daunting at first. I began competing with not only youth, but also in the Open Shows, which consisted of 4-H Youth and various breeders that had been in the business for quite some time. Years passed from my first time showing a goat, and the more I practiced the more determined I became to make myself the best exhibitor.

After that time the State Fair Judge introduced me to some of the major dairy goat breeders, I became acquainted with some of the representatives and chairmen of the State Fair. They told me they were so impressed by my accomplishments as such a young youth exhibitor, that they chose me to conduct the Dairy Goat Showmanship Class and hands-on training portion of the State Fair Annual Pre­

Fair Seminar and Ethics Training! My task was to schedule and build a curriculum that would allow me to teach everything I had learned about showing a dairy goat, to over 100 youth exhibitors (and their parents). The pressure was on, but I grabbed that microphone and I showed every exhibitor how to tum, walk, set up, and groom their animals, even down to how to answer the judge when he wanted to evaluate your knowledge on the ADGA Scorecard and the conformation of the animal you were exhibiting.

Standing up in front of that many people, and presenting something I had learned so much about was difficult for me. Not because I was not prepared to present my knowledge on dairy animals, but because I was never a good public speaker, and I wasn’t sure how to go about explaining it all to them. Before 4-H, I was always shy. My development as a public speaker from County Events presentations of Public Speaking, and providing these annual seminars seemed to peak quickly.  That first time I just went for it, and after much improvement, I was able to give public speeches in various setting effortlessly. Between teaching other youth my knowledge and speaking out in school and other settings, I was confident I could do anything if I put my mind to it!

After my 6th year in 4-H, at 13 years old, I was invited to go to the American Dairy Goat National Show in Loveland, CO, with one of the Oberhasli Dairy Goat Breeders I met at the State Fair, who had seen me giving seminars on my knowledge of dairy animals. Never in my life had I seen so many lovely animal s I Walking into the show ring when it was time for Showmanship was nerve-wracking. Compared to prior experiences, this was not the type of pressure I felt when I had to stand up in front of 100 youth and give a seminar. THIS was not showing my first time at the State Fair. It was more than that. I was being live-streamed across Amen ca. My family, friends, everyone was sharing this moment with me. It was talking my breath away. Before I stepped into the ring, however, I heard a familiar voice behind me say “you can do this!”. It was the judge from the State Fair! My confidence came back, and I was ready to go. There were 54 other youth competitors in my division, and after 2 bloodcurdling hours, I walked out of that show ring 3rd place in my division, in all of the U.S. What an emotional life experience.Mia at her graduation from Woodstock Academy

As my confidence grew after having exhibited at so many fairs, I began conducting other seminars and showmanship clinics with other 4-H and FFA groups that were implementing Dairy Goats into their curriculums. I found it satisfying and refreshing to help other youth be prepared for the State Fair competitions as well as National Competitions. I felt it would be a nice gesture to not only share all the knowledge I had obtained throughout my experience as a youth exhibitor, but it would be something that would help me grow as an individual. My life experiences with 4-H also enhanced my academic standing and improved my overall achievement in many aspects of my life. For both 4-H, and during homeschooling / my High School years, I served many community service hours monthly, if not weekly. These hours included cleaning up local historical sites to singing Christmas Carols at retirement homes There were times when I would supervise Petting Zoos for rehabilitation centers and schedule Summer Camp clinics on how to mil k, raise, and make dairy products from goats. Organizing my time as well as my knowledge in 4-H has helped me establish who I am, and grow as a person. I realized after many years in 4-H that even my career goals were set to help others. 4-H just makes you a better person! I plan on incorporating my knowledge of the Spanish language along with my knowledge on agriculture and husbandry to conduct classes as a professor here and in other countries giving lectures on how to rai se dairy animals for homesteading purposes. In all, 4-H is the best thing that has ever happened to me, and I look forward to staying involved in it, making a difference in my community, and passing on my knowledge in the future.

CT 4-H Adventures in STEM Conference

4-H youth science experiment with STEM 4-H youth science experiment with STEM 4-H youth at adventures in STEM

On November 4, 2017, 63 youth at-tended the CT 4-H Adventures in STEM Conference at the UConn Storrs Campus. Youth participated in a variety of STEM related workshops and also had the opportunity to have lunch in the Whitney Dining Hall.

Thank you to the UConn faculty, staff and students who provided workshops that day giving youth the opportunity to be introduced to new STEM topics, learn new skills and meet college students.

The following workshops were presented that day:

  • Cows, Chips and Farm Animal Genetics—Ashley Smalls and Anna Mckay, UConn Diagnostic Genetic Science
  • Understanding Nutrition Fact Labels—Krissy Anderson, Community Nutritionist, SNAP-ed, Dept. of Nutritional Sciences
  • Liquid Nitrogen—UConn Chemistry Club, Dept. of Chemistry
  • Plant Genetic Engineering, Dr. Gerald Berkowitz, Dept. of Plant Science
  • Clicks, Chirps and Buzzes: The Science of Seeing with Sound—Laura Cisneros and Sara Tremblay, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
  • Be a Plant Doctor for a Day—Cora McGehee, Dept. of Plant Science
  • The Science of Dairy Food Products—UConn Dairy Club, Dept. of Animal Science
  • Paradoxical Machines—Engineering Ambassadors, School of Engineering
  • LEGO Robotics Design Challenge—Marc Cournoyer, UConn Extension

Sixty three percent of high school graduates are not prepared for college-level science and 57 percent are not prepared for college level math. Only 1 in 5 STEM college students feel their K-12 education prepared them for STEM college courses. 4-H Pro-grams provide youth with hands-on, engaging STEM experiences that build excitement around STEM topics and careers.

Setting a Course for Active Learning

Setting a Course for Active Learning: An Interview with Senator Beth Bye

By Nancy Wilhelm, Program Coordinator, State 4-H Office 

youth at Auerfarm meeting a rabbitElizabeth “Beth” Bye is the Executive Director of the 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm in Bloomfield. She has worked in early childhood education for over 30 years. She is also a member of the Connecticut Senate representing the 5th district which includes Bloomfield, Burlington, Farmington and West Hart-ford. Beth has spent her career working to assure all children have access to high quality learning opportunities. I sat down with her recently to get her thoughts on the benefits of early childhood education.

Her background in early childhood development and education began with a BA and MA in Child Development from the University of New Hampshire. Beth states that she was interested in the research on the impact of infant daycare on child development and in helping children to develop internal controls. She adds that “you can al-ways impact children, but it’s great to set their course early in life.” When asked what the research says about how we educate our youngest children she responds, “the research tells us that young children learn actively. They need to interface with a variety of materials, and explore, move and go outside. They also need to interact with other children and teachers. Their brains are qualitatively different and so they take in information differently than adults.” Beth also states that “play is the work of children”. It is universal, like walking and talking and is essentially how children make sense of their experience. Developing an attitude toward learning that is enthusiastic and flexible is also important and early childhood education programs can help to set the stage for children to be eager and excited about learning through play and active learning.

Environment also plays a key role in creating an effective early child-hood education program. The environment needs to be conducive to learning with 4-H clover youth member in garden projectinteresting materials and activities. Safety is a key factor as well. There is more fear among parents now regarding their child’s safety and so the question arises, how much freedom to allow children to explore and develop. Responsive care is critical to a safe learning environment. Building self-regulation is also important so that children can be part of a com-munity early on, learning how to work as a team, and care about others.

Beth credits the 4-H program with helping youth to create their own inquiry experiences with 4-H pro-jects and activities as well as teaching independence, enthusiasm for learning and contribution to com-munity. 4-H members learn these skills early on and it tends to stay with them for the rest of their lives.

Beth’s connection with Auerfarm began as a consultant for the Bloomfield Public Schools. Over 13,000 youth visit Auerfarm each year to learn about agriculture and the environment.

Auerfarm offers a variety of seasonal, school and summer enrichment programs that provide a wonderful setting for active sensory learning. Children take a hayride around the 120-acre property exploring the gardens, orchards and fields and also get to sample apple cider and maple syrup during seasonal programs. Auerfarm also has an ongoing relationship with the Wintonbury Early Childhood Mag-net School which visits the farm for several weeks during the year. What better backdrop for active learning than a 120-acre farm with animals, gardens, and orchards.

Windham County 4-H Providing New Opportunities for Young People

By Marc Cournoyer

eating strawberry
Photo: Amy Walker

Though traditional 4-H interest areas continue to thrive, additional audiences have been reached with the introduction of imaginative new programs.

The last year has seen continued expansion in the areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education with the success of the Saturday Science Club, a home school based STEM club in the Chaplin area, along with several afterschool and short-term special interest programs and events. 4-H continues to work with various com­munity partners such as home school families, EASTCONN, the Thompson Recreation Department, Killingly Public Library, and Griswold Youth & Family Services to name just a few. This year also saw a partnership between 4-H and the Windham Middle School.

4-H members are being challenged to think critically and innovatively in a host of areas. They learn concrete skills such as engineering, technology and math along with skills that help them navigate any area of life such as working in collaboration with others and creative problem solving. The three mission mandates of 4-H -Healthy Living, STEM Education and Citizenship/Leadership development – continue to serve as the foundation of everything 4-H does. Teaching tools such as LEGOs and iPads are being used in Windham County to enhance learning.

There is an entire population of young people in Windham County who are not looking for a traditional agricultural based 4-H experience but are still very hungry for a program that teaches them practical skills they can use in their everyday lives.

These new programs are helping to reach that audience with meaningful programming that is helping to equip them with skills to actively address the issues that face our world in the coming years.

4-H also continues to be an important outreach for those youth interested in more traditional program models. Here we have also seen a growth and expansion of our programs and club participation.

Together, these programs are reaching several hundred youth throughout Windham County.

For more information about 4-H in Windham County, contact 4-H Program Coordinator, Marc Cournoyer at: marc.cournoyer@uconn.edu

Citizenship Washington Focus

By: Jessica LaRosa, Hartford County 4-H Member

This summer, I had the opportunity to attend the 2017 Citizenship Washington Focus with 38 other 4-Hers from Connecticut. The trip was held in Washington D.C., and focused on our nation’s Legislative Branch in government, along with looking at how to become better leaders and citizens in our communities.  When I attended the trip, there were also delegates from 9 other states who were interested in becoming better leaders in their communities.

While in Washington D.C., we attended workshops and committee meetings, and even got to tour the memorials in the District, and famous landmarks near D.C, such as Mount Vernon.  We participated in events such as Twilight Tattoo at an Army base, and attended a dinner theatre.  Overall, the trip was an amazing experience, and it was very educational on how our country’s Legislative Branch operates.  Thank you to everyone who was able to help make this journey happen.

Please visit http://www.4-h.uconn.edu for more information on Citizenship Washington Focus, and our other UConn 4-H programs.

 

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!

Welcome Lindsey Brush to CT FANs IM!

Lindsey Brush

Lindsey is the new Program Assistant for the Connecticut Fitness and Nutrition Clubs In Motion. Lindsey is a recent graduate of the University of St. Joseph’s in West Hartford with a Bachelor of Science in Nutrition and Dietetics. Lindsey is also pursuing a certification as a personal trainer from National Academy of Sports Medicine. She has worked with community outreach including SNAP-ED, Boys and Girls Clubs, and telephonic health coaching. Lindsey brings a lot of energy and enthusiasm to our team.

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.

Cross Pollination Adventure for Hartford County 4-H

By Stacey Stearns

Costa Rica group
L-R, Marlene Mayes, Annette Fischel-Kessler, Carl Salsedo, Ellen Paine, Sam Kenworthy, (CIRENAS staff missing is Ariadna Sanchez-Gutierrez).

Hartford County 4-H members will have the unique opportunity to participate in a Cross Pollination Adventure this summer. They will partner with a Costa Rican outdoor education center as part of a Cooperative International Learning Experience. UConn Extension has partnered with CIRENAS (Centro de Investigación de Recursos Naturales y Sociales) in Costa Rica on a multi-year program to provide learning opportunities that include creating a sustainable habitat project at the 4-H Center at Auerfarm in Bloomfield.

“The ultimate goal is to increase the participants’ understanding of how the world’s habitats are interconnected. Working on this project will help each person appreciate that a single individual can play an active role in creating and maintaining healthy local and world ecosystems,” project coordinator Ellen Paine says enthusiastically. “For pollinators, especially ones that migrate like monarch butterflies and hummingbirds, we need to ensure appropriate habitat in the locals at both ends of their migration in order for the species to survive.”

Hartford County 4-H members between the ages of 14 and 19 will have the opportunity to apply in January 2016 for this experiential learning opportunity. The 10 selected 4-H members will spend time in Connecticut learning about biodiversity, permaculture, sustainable gardening, and pollinators such as Monarch butterfly and hummingbirds. Then, at the end of June, they will travel to Costa Rica on an award trip to spend an educational week at the CIRENAS center learning how and why Costa Rica plays a critical part in maintaining the health of Connecticut pollinators. They will explore the area’s flora and fauna, some familiar, some new, and via hands-on learning, gain experience in creating and maintaining permaculture gardens. During their time in Costa Rica, the Connecticut

4-H’ers will also participate in a home stay and work on a community service project in conjunction with the CIRENAS staff.

CIRENAS ocean view small
View from CIRENAS. Photo: Ellen Paine.

To complete their learning experience, participants will bring their expanded knowledge back to the 4-H Center at Auerfarm in Bloomfield. “Students will design the layout and plantings and construct a sustainable pollinator garden with a monarch and hummingbird focus. This garden will adjoin the Foodshare garden already at Auerfarm,” Ellen says.

In early November, project coordinator Ellen Paine, UConn Extension educator Carl Salsedo, and Marlene Mayes, a UConn Extension Master Gardener volunteer at Auerfarm, traveled to Costa Rica to coordinate with the partners at CIRENAS. Together, they collaborated to develop and coordinate the Connecticut and Costa Rican sections of the program curriculum, discuss how to integrate local community members into the experiences, and address logistical aspects of the program.

Carl expressed his “…hope that participation in this program will greatly expand the participants’ horizons and help them cultivate an understanding of their own place beside the plethora of creatures they will study”. Marlene goes on to add, “This is an awesome experience, and one that presents a unique chance to experience the profound connections between people and the environment.”

The CIRENAS campus sits on the lower Pacific coast of Costa Rica on the Nicoya Peninsula, and backs up to a Calestas-Ario national wildlife refuge, offering a full-range of relatively untouched ecosystems. The mission of CIRENAS is built around place based education, applied research, community integration, and innovation.

The project is funded by a grant made possible by a bequest left to Hartford County 4-H specifically for international activities. It is a collaborative project between UConn Extension, the 4-H Center at Auerfarm, and CIRENAS. UConn Extension partners include the 4-H program, the Master Gardener program, and our horticultural program. A secondary objective of the Cooperative International Learning Experience is to focus on water quality and usage. This project will be further developed as the partnership between UConn Extension and CIRENAS grows and strengthens.

Applications will be available through the Hartford County 4-H Office as of January 1, 2016. They will be due back to the program coordinator no later than February 6, 2016. Selection interviews will follow shortly thereafter. For more information or questions, email the project coordinator, Ellen Paine at (ellen.paine@uconn.edu).