youth development

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 (

Lynn & Marjorie Brown: Promoting & Supporting 4-H for a Lifetime

Lynn & Marjorie Brown: Promoting and Supporting 4-H for a Lifetime

By Nancy Wilhelm, Program Coordinator, 4-H Youth Development


Lynn-Marj BrownMarjorie and Lynn Brown have spent a lifetime promoting and supporting UConn Extension and the 4-H Program. Both grew up on farms in Iowa where they were 4-H members – Marjorie participated in home economics and poultry projects and Lynn in the dairy cattle project area. Their 4-H participation provided some exciting opportunities.   Lynn attended National 4-H Dairy Conference while Marjorie attended State 4-H Conservation Camp. It was not until their college years that they met at a Rural Young People’s dance in the late 1940’s. They have been together ever since, contributing countless hours of support to 4-H youth across Connecticut

After graduating from college with a degree in Agricultural Education, Lynn got a job teaching agriculture to veterans coming back from World War II. Six months later he was drafted into the army and served two years in the Korean War. Marjorie was a 4-H member until age 21. She attended Iowa State University as a Home Economics major and obtained her master’s degree in Home Management and Family Economics and worked for a short while for Iowa Extension. They were married on March 22, 1953.

Obtaining his doctorate in dairy nutrition, Lynn was hired as the University of Connecticut Extension Dairy Specialist in the 1960s, bringing the Brown’s to Connecticut. He has had an impact on hundreds of 4-H dairy project members, providing programs, training dairy judging teams, introducing and working with quiz bowl teams, promoting, selecting and chaperoning 4-Hers to the National 4-H Dairy Conference and coordinating the entire Connecticut 4-H Dairy Program at Eastern States Exposition where he served as Chairperson for the New England 4-H Dairy Show for over 25 years.

“Dr. Brown has always had so much patience. When I was on the CT 4-H Dairy Judging team, there were five teenage girls and Dr. Brown. His lessons on evaluating cows and giving oral reasons still help me as I work with 4-Hers. I remember driving to the national contest in Columbus Ohio in an old Plymouth Valiant stopping at farms and dairy judging along the way. Every morning he would set our departure time early since he had to maneuver our suitcases and pack them in the same very precise manner just to get our luggage to fit in the trunk. He taught us very important life skills, how to remember and visualize classes of cows and how to pack a trunk. I still use both today!” Bonnie Burr, UConn Extension Department Head

Lynn’s involvement didn’t stop with his retirement from UConn in 1994. He has served as Chair of the Tolland County Extension Council. He has been a member of the 4-H Farm Board of Directors for many years, actively working with the Farm Committee to oversee farm operations. He continues to serve as Chair of Farm City Day, and has essentially spent his entire life promoting and supporting agriculture, the dairy industry and 4-H youth.

Marjorie has been a 4-H leader in Tolland County for over 40 years, teaching family and consumer science project skills to countless youth. She has been a strong supporter of the consumer education project of wardrobe planning and worked on a State 4-H Fashion Revue Committee that developed the Smart Shopper Project. She has served as a volunteer judge, coordinator of fashion revue events and served on the planning committee for the 1983 Northeast Regional 4-H Volunteer Forum when it was hosted by Connecticut. Along with her work in 4-H, she has served as treasurer of the Tolland County Extension Council, served on the Tolland County 4-H Advisory Committee and on the Tolland County Agricultural Board of Directors. An excellent seamstress, at 84, she still invites youth and some former 4-H members to her home to sew.

“Marge took every opportunity to promote life skills with 4-Hers. Among other projects and activities, she developed a life skills quiz bowl that was held at the Tolland County 4-H Fair for many years. She believed that both boys and girls needed to know how to understand the needs of younger children, sew, select their clothes, and to prepare healthy foods. Her work was invaluable to both the Tolland County Extension Program as well as to statewide Extension programs.” Rosemarie Syme, Retired 4-H Extension Educator

When asked about the importance of 4-H and the impact it has on youth, both Lynn and Marjorie agree that it gives youth the chance to learn some important life skills like leadership development, public speaking, and also receive recognition for a job well done.

And for so many years, the Brown’s have played an important role in providing those life skills to youth across Connecticut.   Thank you Lynn and Marjorie for a job well done.

Hartford County Urban 4-H

jumping jacks  group stretching playing with Wii

The Hartford County Urban 4-H after school programs are free for children age 7-19. Youth enrolled in Urban 4-H receive effective hands on STEM related activities which include but not limited to: health and nutrition, science related activities, social skills, and work force readiness courses.

On May 26th at the Boys and Girls club in Hartford the group had our annual end of the year after school program wrap up celebration. On May 28th in Hartford at Thirman Milner School our wrap up celebration was held to conclude the 2015 afterschool program.

Learn more about the Hartford County Urban 4-H program by contacting LaShawn Christie-Francis at 860-570-9008 or

National 4-H Conference

In April, four Connecticut 4-H members and chaperone Rineicha Otero of UConn Extension attended the National 4-H Conference in Washington D.C. Each of the 4-H members participated in a roundtable project. Their assignments were: 

Molly Barnett – Adolescent Health – Presenting to the Department of Health and Human Services

Lily Barton – Military Families – Presenting to National Guard Bureau

Danielle Brazeau – Future of Agriculture – Presenting to U.S. House of Representatives Agriculture Committee

Ben Hipsky – Energy Conservation/Environment – Presenting to the Department of Energy

Rineicha Otero – Food Security/Hunger – Presenting to Peace Corps

Several of them reflected on the experience. 

4-H delegates with Courtney

Molly Barnett

I’m blessed to have had the inspiring opportunity to attend the National 4-H Conference this past week. I worked with a group of delegates from across the U.S. and Canada to prepare a presentation on our opinions and ideas concerning adolescent health. After several conferences to discuss our thoughts and create a presentation, we presented to the Department of Health and Human Services. I felt like they really appreciated our perspective, and I’m honored to represent today’s teenage generation, and to help make a difference.

This has also been a special opportunity to meet many amazing people. I talked with teens from a diversity of 4-H backgrounds, and although our experiences and projects differed, we all shared the same love and passion for them. It was a great experience for me to connect and talk with these wonderful people, and I learned that I can make friends wherever I go in life. I also learned how great it is to embrace these opportunities when they come. This whole trip just really made me excited for the rest of my life, and I know I can have a voice in this world too. I’m feeling very grateful and I can’t wait to share what I learned with others in my community.

Ben Hipsky

The 2015 National 4-H Conference held in Chevy Chase, MD at the 4-H center was one of the greatest experiences I have ever had. After leaving on a Saturday morning and quick flight down with the CT delegation our first encounter with other 4-Hers was a group of young women from Missouri on the shuttle bus to the Conference Center. With our free time that afternoon we visited the White House and a grove of Cherry Blossoms. That night after the opening gathering we met in our designated round tables. Throughout the following four days we met with our round table groups, did workshops, and other various team-building activities. Over the course of the week, I became very close with the members of my round table; I met 4-Hers from all over the country, Canada, and Puerto Rico. It was great to see what people had to say about the differences in other states and countries. In my round table we covered Energy Conservation, which really opened my eyes to all that can change in each state, country, and in the world. After the group and I became such good friends, we started to refer to it as a family because we all treated each other like it. The whole experience was a great time for me, the conference center was very accommodating and had very helpful personnel. The hardest part was leaving the friends and new people I had met at the end of the week.

The amount of new information and new personalities I learned and met were extremely eye opening. All the new info on 4-H and its history was absolutely mind blowing. Not only was the 4-H program astonishing but the speakers and performers that attended the conference were also lesson teachers. One for example, taught us that you will always have a bull looking at you and you’ll always overcome it. Another blessing of being in the capitol city is meeting with the senators’ aids and some of the representatives. It was good to see that they understand the importance of 4-H and they hope to continue to fund it. While 4-H has been a huge part of my life I can honestly say that this was the best 4-H experience I’ve had and thank you to everyone who made it possible. While I cannot write all that happened this summary has covered the basics and I hope this shows that this is a great program that should be continually funded.

Rineicha Otero

Serving as chaperone for the Connecticut delegation was truly an honor. Observing the transformation of each of the teens was mesmerizing. The CT delegation met teens from across the nation, Puerto Rico, and Canada. After selecting the round table topics, the teens worked together for merely 14 hours to produce presentations to address important issues and present the information to federal agencies. Agencies to which the delegates presented to included; Peace Corp, Department of Health and Human Services, Department of Agriculture, U.S. Coast Guard, and Department of Environment Protection, among others. During their presentations, teens provided their perspective on the different topics, offering suggestions on how the deal with the issues. The experience was transforming as the agency representatives had great feedback, questions, and listened to each of their suggestions to put into practice within the agency.

In addition, Connecticut delegates visited their representatives. During our visit with Congressman Joe Courtney, one of our delegates received a military challenge coin. It was moment our teen will cherish forever.

The overall experience of National 4-H Conference 2015 has encouraged our teens, to become active leaders in our communities. Through adult and youth partnerships, teens have been prompted to get involved in the decision making process because their views can change the perspective of adults on topics that can impact youths lives.

Connecticut 4-H Citizenship Day 2015

By: Marc Cournoyer

UConn Extension 4-H Program Coordinator


Approximately 100 4-H youth and adults converged on the state Capitol in Hartford on Wednesday, April 15th for the annual state 4-H Citizenship Day. Representing all corners of Connecticut, these individuals came together to meet with legislators, explore our state Capitol, learn a bit more about government and how they can be active citizens in their neighborhoods, communities and throughout the state.

The theme for this year’s event was Living Out the 4th H: The Science of Healthy Living. Youth and adult members of the CT FANs IM 4-H club of New Haven County provided workshop stations where event participants had the opportunity to tune up their physical health by dancing or playing sports using the Nintendo Wii gaming system and record small group videos on iPads about making healthy eating and life choices. They also learned about composting and home gardening skills, as well as, how much sugar is in many of the foods we eat daily. At the conclusion of the workshop sessions everyone had the opportunity to view a video that was created from the many small group efforts and photos from the various workshops. Winners of the state 4-H public speaking contest also gave their presentations to the group assembled.

After a healthy lunch, everyone ventured to the Legislative Office Building where they learned about the history of our state and the buildings that make up our state Capitol. They then had the opportunity to mingle with legislators and staffers from many districts around the state during an ice cream social featuring UConn dairy bar ice cream in the historic Hall of Flags. 4-H members shared poster displays they created about the day’s theme or discussed their 4-H experiences with legislators in attendance. They also delivered ice cream to the governor and lieutenant governor’s offices.

The day concluded with an orientation for 40 youth from throughout Connecticut who will be attending a weeklong national citizenship education program this June in Washington, DC called Citizenship Washington Focus. This national effort is sponsored and facilitated by National 4-H Council and is open to high school aged youth who are leaders in their club and county 4-H programs.

Much thanks goes to the group of 4-H youth and adults who met over the course of fourth months to coordinate the logistics of holding this event. Special thanks also to state legislators and staff who assist every year in securing necessary meeting space and other logistical requirements, and finally Emanuel Lutheran Church who has served as meeting place for this event for many years.

4-H members at Capitol 4-H member speaking