Making A Difference in Our County
University of Georgia Cooperative Extension is working hard for its constituents. The following are examples of Extension’s impact in the county over the past year.
Virtual Programming for Youth Development During COVID-19 Pandemic
Heard County Extension Agent, Dinah Rowe
On March 11, 2020 the Novel Coronavirus Disease, COVID-19, was declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. On March 13, 2020 a national emergency was declared in the United States concerning the COVID-19 Outbreak. Businesses and schools closed temporarily in order to slow the spread of COVID-19. This forced most of the population to self-quarantine in their homes. Under normal circumstances, 4-H programming was delivered through in-school meetings and extracurricular activities were held at local Extension/4-H offices. Since all face to face contact was cancelled, Heard County 4-H staff were faced with the challenge of delivering youth development programs and opportunities in a virtual format.
Heard County 4-H staff were tasked with finding a creative solution to deliver youth programs and activities. The decision was made to try different options with the goal of reaching diverse audiences while remaining connected to the youth as well as recruiting new 4-H’ers. Many youths were experiencing loneliness and seclusion as a result of being separated from their classmates and friends. Since Heard County 4-H usually offers cooking classes as part of extra-curricular programming, they decided to offer cooking videos. The goal was for these videos to be kid friendly and challenge kids to learn about health and nutrition while being productive at home. A different video was posted each day of the week offering a different dish whether it be breakfast, lunch, dessert or snacks. A recipe card and ingredients card was posted each day to accompany each video. Another staff member from Oconee County assisted in the videos and added tips and pointers from her experiences working with kids in the kitchen.
As days turned into weeks and months, many youths began experiencing social isolation. In order to help ease the effects of social isolation, Heard County 4-H began having weekly Zoom sessions. Emails were sent to parents in order to establish parental consent and Zoom links were sent to parent emails each week. These sessions included indoor scavenger hunts, making everything bags from t-shirts, making coke bottle bird feeders, creating pollinator drinking stations, stuffing socks for the homeless, building a 4-H time capsule, how to make slime, preparing marshmallow cereal treats, and making safe hand sanitizer at home. (At that particular time, all the stores had sold out of hand sanitizer) For most of these 4-H’ers, it was their first time to see each other since school closings and their first experience using Zoom.
Once summer vacation started and the normal school calendar year was officially over, Heard County 4-H staff started offering activity kits. Each week the free kits were made available for youth (pre-K -12th grade). Each participant would register in advance and then pick their kit up a few days later. The kits included the supplies needed to carry out the activity. Brief evaluations were included with each kit. The kits encouraged kids to be creative and engaged them in several STEM activities. Some of the activities were lessons centered around summer /aquatic themes while others were just fun things to do at home. The youth that participated enjoyed some of the following experiments:
- How do Fish Breathe Underwater?
- Squid Locomotion – (exploring how squids move through the water)
- How do Whales Stay Warm?
- Building a Salt Dough Starfish
- How to Make a Kaleidoscope
- How to Build a pom-pom shooter
- Canvas Art
- Kindness rocks and rock painting
Normally in the summer months, Heard County 4-H offers day camps, summer “day” trips and various overnight summer camps. These virtual activities not only provided a way for kids to remain active, but they also served as public outreach bringing new kids on board.
The cooking videos that were posted on Heard and Oconee County’s social media pages had a combined total of 5,825 views. Heard County 4-H agent was also invited to present a brief overview(virtually) of the cooking videos for the National Association of 4-H agents “Feel Good Fridays” segment.
The Zoom sessions gave kids a chance to “see” and visit with their friends while learning something new in the Zoom world. They also had to learn online and virtual classroom etiquette. As each experiment /craft was completed, everyone got to see each other’s “handiwork”. Each participant got to tell or show their Zoom class what they did to make it their own creation.
At the conclusion of each activity kit, the youth were asked a few questions and listed below are a summary of their responses:
- 75% indicated that they would share with others what they learned from the activity kits
- 79% indicated that they learned about primary, secondary and tertiary colors
- 100% said that as a result of the activity kits, they are more interested in underwater creatures
- 100% stated that the activity kits were fun and a great stress reliever
- 100% stated that by taking part in the activity kits made them realize that they had a creative side
- 100% said they learned how fish breathe underwater
Some participant quotes after completing activity kits:
- “I’m going to show my mom my work”
- "I learned the difference between primary and secondary colors”
- "I can’t wait to tell all my friends”
- “I’m going to share by posting on Facebook”
- “People are very creative”
- “I learned that you can mix red and yellow to get my favorite color orange”
- “I have Hermit crabs and I’m going to compare how their gills work compared to my sister’s fish”
While these activities did not take the place of summer camp, they did help ease the boredom of being inside and provided experimental learning for the kids. Each week there were kids who were new to 4-H that participated in the activity kits. Not only did the kits provide them with something to do at home, but it introduced them to the world of 4-H. In addition, as each youth mastered each activity it helped boost their self-confidence so they were eager to try the next activity.