Physical activity, especially outside, is a key factor in youth health and wellbeing. Minnesota 4-H offers youth of all ages a variety of opportunities to explore and develop healthy living practices outdoors. Last year, 4,900 youth participated in 4-H outdoor adventure programs.
Skills for outdoor living
Popular programming like the Minnesota 4-H Shooting Sports and Wildlife Invitational transformed into local matches with smaller groups. 190 youth from across the state participated in these events, which got them outside enjoying some fresh air while demonstrating their growing skills.
Being outdoors is valuable for youth’s growth and development. Nicole Pokorney, Extension educator based in Rochester, leads a team of 4-H youth development professionals who are actively expanding opportunities for Minnesota youth to explore the outdoors, no matter the season. “Getting youth away from screens is growing increasingly important,” explains Pokorney. “Being outdoors for even five minutes can improve youths’ physical, cognitive and social wellbeing.”
4-H Choose Your Outdoor Adventures and Bold North 4-H Adventures focus on outdoor skills, wildlife, habitats and the importance of protecting Minnesota's natural resources. “We’ve designed these experiences to provide youth opportunities to see how they can learn and thrive during the winter months,” says Jeremy Freeman, Extension educator from Chisago County. “During our cross-country skiing event, our goal was for youth to disconnect from the busy-ness and distractions of life and have an afternoon in tune with nature and mindful of the world around them.” Peter Freeman, a youth from Chisago County said “The volunteers took their time with us and helped us identify animal tracks.”
4-H has programming for youth of all ages, interests and skill levels. Whether they are outdoor explorers or just interested in learning a new topic in the comfort of their home. OWLS or 4-H Outdoor Wilderness Leadership and Service provides 6-11th graders with intensive hands-on exploration in an area of interest associated with the outdoors. “I learned a lot so far, like leadership skills and what I can do for the environment,” said 11th grader Olivia Nienaber. “I also made new friends and tried new sports like broomball and snowshoeing.”
Spreading warmth through winter gear
Lack of adequate gear can limit time that youth spend outside in the cold Minnesota winters. 4-H recently launched the Heads, Hands and Toes Winter Gear Drive as a way for Minnesota youth to share the joys of winter with others in their communities. Gear collected through this drive will be donated to community partners who serve families in need.
Learning about community needs and taking action is a key component of 4-H. Youth leaders from 4-H in Redwood County recently made hats for their local community center after learning that it is a place where local youth go when they need a little extra help. "I like these hats!” said one 4-H’er at a recent hat-making event. “I wish we could keep them, but it's so cool we can help kids who need them."
Folks from any part of Minnesota are welcome to contribute to the Head, Hands and Toes winter gear drive. Contact a local 4-H educator to find the closest collection site. You can make a difference for fellow Minnesotans this winter.
Find your next 4-H outdoor adventure.