ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The world is experiencing a health crisis. Social distancing recommendations have forced in person gatherings and programs to come to a halt. 4-H has a one hundred year history of promoting hands-on learning. How does 4-H accomplish this virtually? With the help of innovative volunteers and staff, 4-H is carrying on with hands-on learning and developing a sense of belonging in youth.
Social connection and learning has not stopped in Monroe County. Clubs and school programs have continued to meet using virtual learning and meeting platforms. 4-H members and volunteers are using video software and online classrooms to maintain connection.
All ages are able to participate in these virtual connections. Cloverbud group, 4-H Friends, is meeting online regularly. Club members are reading books to one another, singing songs, and baking soft pretzel treats. During one meeting, club member Avery led the groups in making a paper flower craft.
Despite social distancing, 4-H groups are still able to share meals together and play games. The Posh Ponies club has incorporated food into part of their club meetings, eating dinner together, and asking people to bake something in advance to “share” with the group virtually. Virtual meetings allow groups to see aspects of each other’s lives that perhaps they would not see under typical conditions, such as pets. Games can be played online. With a little creativity the Posh Ponies were able to learn more about horses with an online trivia game.
Mariah Meadows 4-H Horse Club also met virtually. They took the time to connect and were thrilled to see each other. One member joined the meeting with her horse!
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The Westside Science and Nature Explorers have turned to electronic devices to keep in touch. Club leaders delivered Fairy House kits to members of the group. The youth worked with their families to construct the kits and then spent time decorating them. The group followed up with a Zoom meeting to connect with each other and share the stories of how and why they decorated their houses, including what type of fairies they expect to attract.
Sabrina Woodhams, 4-H Leader of the Top of the Hill Gang at Crestwood Children’s Center, has been able to connect with youth during this time. Sabrina has shared the Ag Literacy Week book, Right This Very Minute with youth she works with.
The Mary Cariola Busy Bees 4-H Club is not taking a break either. With support from Club Leader, Kathy Lee, and their speech therapist, members are preparing for virtual public presentations. This event will take place in June.
The 4-H UNITY (Urban Neighborhoods Improved Through Youth) group continues to meet weekly. They have been participating in virtual icebreakers and forging ahead with their community action project. They are working through details of creating a video while not being able to meet in person.
School based programs are continuing to meet as well. The Bishop Kearney High School Horticulture class has been meeting virtually and completing online assignments. Students took part in a food scavenger hunt in the home to learn about the food system and how they participate in it. Students have participated in online workshops on plant growing zones and kitchen scrap gardening.
Afterschool club, Green Team, at the Children’s School of Rochester, has been meeting virtually every week. During these meetings, the group shares stories from the week through photos and other creative means. To celebrate Earth Day, group members made Earth collages. The team works on individual projects, including measuring how high squirrels can jump and germinating maple seedlings, and group projects.
The group participated in kitchen scrap gardening and soil workshops.
—Susan Coyle, Cornell Cooperative Extension