4-H youth are exploring, educating and advocating for animal science
Two-thirds of all 4-H'ers choose to do an animal science project. They may choose it because they love their horse or dog, but they come away from it with life skills like taking responsibility, managing a long timeline and more. Virtual summer programs are helping them to continue learning despite COVID-19 interruptions.
Eighty-one 4-H'ers from 39 Minnesota counties answered the call for "Stock Talks" to show their love for and knowledge about animals. Their 3-5 minute videos displayed at least 89 different animal passions.
Cloverbuds demonstrated animal care and feeding, with a lot of love thrown in. Older 4-H'ers showed not only their love for their animals, but their growing expertise, from the details of grooming the long horns and hair of a Highland breed beef animal, to the ins and outs of running a small horse stable, to the nutrients in animal feed.
"We'll repeat this next year," said Sharon Davis, director of 4-H animal science. She said that demonstrations, nothing new for 4-H, are a learning experience for the speaker and for the listener.
Davis developed Stock Talks together with Extension Educator Samantha Lahman and the Minnesota 4-H animal science team. "It's a way to share their passion help build skills in others," she said.
Itasca County 4-H Horse Challenge
In June, when it became clear that there would be no face-to-face Itasca County 4-H Horse Show this year, youth leaders came up with a summer plan. Their top priority: everyone should be able to participate - not just those who show horses. They came up with The 4-H Quarantine Giddy-Up Buckle Challenge.
Challenge No. 1: What's in a horse first aid kit? Show the two most important items in the kit and how to use them. Other challenges deal with feeding, riding patterns and service projects. Participants earn small prizes for completing three challenges in a month. At the end of the summer, those who have met 12 challenges will receive the coveted belt buckle prize.
According to Extension 4-H Educator Rebecca Rasmussen, the youth-created challenges fetched a stronger response than their traditional county fair horse program has in past years. Not only are 20 Itasca County youth meeting the challenges regularly, but other groups are duplicating the experience. Carlton County will deliver their own Giddyup challenge this summer, and Itasca County is adapting it for dog project members called the Unleashed Summer 4-H Dog Challenge.
This was the first year for the 4-H Agriculture Ambassador program. Like the youth in its sister programs, the local and state ambassadors, these young people represent the Minnesota 4-H program publicly. They also promote agriculture and 4-H in a positive way.
A dozen youth signed on for this 1-3 year experience, expecting to spend most of their time in face-to-face interactions at fairs and other public events and meetings. But at their first meeting in March, it was clear that things were going to be different. Along with their advisor, Extension Educator Brian McNeill, the ambassadors designed a series of online learning experiences just for elementary-school-age youth. The youth-hosted webinars feature professionals in the ag industry, including University of Minnesota agriculture experts and Master Gardeners. These webinars are over for the summer, but will return in September.
What are they learning from the experience? "I'm learning that you have to stay flexible," said 4-H Agriculture Ambassador Lillian Betker. 'State fair is one of my favorite things ever, but now that everything's online you have to be flexible. We ended up connecting with 4-H'ers from Winona to Moorhead. We experienced the same 4-H things, just in a little different way."