Wherever youth are, 4-H is there to support their thriving.
Extension 4-H has pivoted much of our youth development program to online and other distance-learning modalities during the COVID-19 era. This report offers a snapshot how 4-H has maintained close connection with youth, families and caring adult volunteers across Minnesota. Wherever youth are, 4-H is there to support their thriving.
600 youth enjoyed an exclusive series of live interviews with three NASA engineers, hosted by the Minnesota 4-H STEM team. Each engineer, all from the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, described their educational and career paths. They also showed images and told behind-the-scenes stories about working on the 2020 Mars Rover, called Perseverance. Youth and families are now welcome to join this summer’s 4-H Engineering Design Challenge: Mission to Mars.
“This was an amazing event! Our whole family participated. We looked forward to each of the webinars and felt they provided a unique and special experience.” -Parent participant
True Leaders in Service was a special effort led by the Minnesota 4-H State Ambassadors. They challenged 4-H’ers across the state to serve their communities and address pressing local needs. During the month of April, 27 projects were completed or pledged. Youth made and distributed masks, made blankets and scarves, and organized neighborhood food drives. Even when confronted with COVID-19 limitations, youth still made a difference.
“I learned that even when people are concerned about having enough for themselves, they still find ways to give back to others.”-Youth participant
340 youth from across Minnesota joined the 4-H photography scavenger hunt in May. Kindergarteners through high school seniors photographed 25 specific items and uploaded them to a shared gallery. 4-H volunteers offered feedback on the youth’s entries and created a video compilation to share in a virtual watch party. Now participants receive weekly tips and challenges from our 4-H photography team, encouraging them to keep expanding their skills.
“I learned to make creative images with simple things anywhere. I never would have thought to take a picture of the things on the list. This made me think out of the box.” -Youth participant
Since the beginning of April, 4-H educators have offered weekly hands-on agronomy learning session for Minnesota youth. Topics have included weeds, worms, tractors, manure and topsoil. After each session, youth are invited to request an at-home learning kit to deepen their knowledge and try their hand at growing in their own backyard or balcony. So far, 550 youth from 77 counties have participated. We’re committed to helping youth see the value of agriculture.
“I just wanted to say thank you for offering these webinars. They've been great and have inspired interesting conversations, inquiries and projects.” -Parent participant
Supporting adults who care about youth
We know that youth who are connected to caring adults feel safer, happier, and more engaged in their lives and communities. 4-H Youth Development is committed to helping adults connect with Minnesota young people. Adults are key in supporting and encouraging youth as they plan for and accomplish their goals.
It can be challenging for 4-H volunteers to connect with youth and families from a distance. Extension 4-H educators offered a Helping Youth Thrive webinar series to help volunteers build new and necessary skills. Over 200 Minnesota adults have participated in the webinars, exploring topics like creating connections virtually and supporting teens.
Youth workers are even more interested in timely professional development. Our on-demand self-studies for youth workers have seen huge enrollments since mid-March. In just over two months, nearly 1300 youth workers have enrolled in Youth work matters, Dilemmas of youth work, and Youth engagement matters.
Our youth development podcast series provides practical information on how to support youth, families and programs. Since March, we’ve distributed five new episodes on practicing empathy, creative program planning, and fostering social and emotional wellbeing while social distancing. These topics resonate. Our listenership has nearly tripled in the last months with over 2,400 downloads from across Minnesota, the U.S. and internally too.
Being at home will not stop youth from exploring, discovering and making a difference. 4-H at home challenges youth to continue to learn about topics like gardening, photography or animal care. New events are released each week to connect with youth whenever they live. Check it out.