Since its inception more than a century ago, 4-H has been about helping young people gain new skills and experiences through both time-tested methods and new technologies.
So it’s no surprise that 4-H clubs in the Chippewa Valley adapted swiftly to the major changes caused by the COVID-19 pandemic over the past year. Like numerous other educational and social groups, 4-Hers have shifted their learning largely online. And they’ve been gratified to learn that kids and their families have enthusiastically embraced virtual 4-H activities.
“Not only were we thrilled that there was engagement, but we were thrilled that we reached people who hadn’t been in 4-H programming before,” said Rachel Hart-Brinson, the 4-H program educator for Eau Claire County. She was speaking of last fall’s “Discover 4-H” program, which offered six weeks worth of learning activities over Zoom. Families who signed up received boxes full of materials and tuned in online each Thursday for projects such as making freezer jam or string art to growing bean plants in bottles. The program was aimed at kids in kindergarten through fifth grade, and at times there were 80 to 120 kids participating on the Zoom call.
This spring’s follow-up sessions will be similar, but are designed for older kids, Hart-Brinson said. The upcoming “Digging Deeper into 4-H” program is open to fourth-through eighth-graders in Dunn, Eau Claire, and Chippewa counties. Participants in this virtual program – which will run each Thursday night beginning April 1 – will take part in five different projects, ranging from making corn tortillas to digital photo editing to making model rockets. Registration is limited to 100 participants, and the deadline to sign up is Tuesday, March 2. The fee is $25 per student, and kids don’t have to be 4-H members to sign up.
Local fourth- through eighth-graders are also invited to sign up for a six-week STEM mini-camp which will run Tuesday evenings starting March 16 via Zoom. Enrollment for this camp, which costs $20 per student, closes on March 1. Workshops will cover topics including robotics, electricity, and 3-D printing.
As you may guess from such subject matter, 4-H in the 21st century is about far more than showing off livestock at the county fair – although plenty of kids still do that, too! 4-H is designed for all kids, whether they live on a farm or in the city, Hart-Brinson noted. “4-H is the premier positive youth development program in the United States,” she said. “It’s based on research about what works to help young people grow and develop into confident and competent leaders in our communities.”
And, as the United States continues to face the pandemic and other serious challenges, creating a new crop of confident and competent leaders is more important than ever.
LEARN MORE ABOUT 4-H
Are you or the kids in your life interested in 4-H? Find out more about these and other programs by contacting your county’s 4-H program educator.
EAU CLAIRE COUNTY: Rachel Hart-Brinson • firstname.lastname@example.org • (715) 513-6440
DUNN COUNTY: Luisa Gerasimo • email@example.com • (715) 232-1535
CHIPPEWA COUNTY: Heidi Vanderloop Benson • firstname.lastname@example.org • (715) 726-7956
VIRTUAL LEARNING COMMUNITY
4-H leaders and members from around the state have collaborated to form a Virtual Learning community, which offers programs online that are open to anyone, whether they are in 4-H or not. Learn more at 4h.extension.wisc.edu/virtual-learning-community/.
Photo at top: Inga Godsave proudly displays things she made (and grew!) in the “Discover 4-H” virtual program. (Submitted photo)