It's been almost four months since the coronavirus transformed our communities and created changes that, just last February, we would never have dreamed possible. The shutting down and now gradual re-opening of where we work, shop, live and play has affected all of us in different ways. Some have lost jobs. Others work from home amidst supervising children and schoolwork. As someone who lives by herself, I've felt tremendous loneliness and loss as I've missed my family and had to let go of the weekends I would have been at camp leading 4-H programs.
While 4-H On the Wild Side didn't happen at Camp Gold Hollow this spring, it did take place in a virtual format. Seven teens and two adult volunteers created and delivered an environmental education lesson for 4th grade classes in Elk Grove. It was in working with this dedicated group, and interacting with the elementary school students and their teachers, that I realized how the epidemic has impacted our youth. Never, in all my years in the field, have I worked with teenagers so available and eager to meet, to plan, to deliver. Never have classroom teachers been so eager to include 4-H programming in their day. And never have I been so convinced of how much 4-H is needed.
What is it our kids need at this point in time? They need to feel empowered to affect their own lives and their community. They need to feel accomplished and a sense of mastery, to see their skills grow. They need connection with their peers, to work with others and feel comradery. And now, more than ever, our youth need trusted adults to coach, to listen, to support, to care. They need you.
In the coming weeks we'll be releasing protocols for safe, in person 4-H meetings. For those of you who will choose to meet with project members in person, the guidelines are straight forward and fairly easy to implement in many project areas. For those of you who are parents and deciding if your child will attend in person project meetings, I would invite you to review the protocols and talk with those adults who will lead the project to better understand their plan.
If a virtual format works for your project, we'll support that, too. We plan to offer training on making online learning engaging and experiential, key components to any quality 4-H program. I learned first-hand that a virtual experience can be very meaningful as one of our 4-H On the Wild Side teen teachers shared. “Having this online project this year helped me stay productive with these shifts in life, and it is going to do so much to engage the students in their classrooms,” she wrote in an email. “I will continuously say thank you for these past three years in being a part of this family.”
Kids seek meaningful experiences, especially now, and it's what we do so well. So thank you for your willingness, the creative energy and extra time you give to make things work for our youth. Jen, Beryl and I are here to support you in whatever you need to move forward. We appreciate you very, very much.
[In case you missed it on Big Dig Day! Just our way to say Thanks...https://youtu.be/2mJlHze50wc]
4-H Youth Development Advisor