When the world began to shut down because of COVID-19, the 4-H program was left with many of the same problems that faced schools and service organizations: How can we continue our mission? When will we be able to hold face to face programs? How long will this last?

Rising to the challenge, the 4-H Staff began to utilize available internet resources (Zoom, Google apps, Mentimeter, etc.) to continue their mission of providing quality educational programming for youth in-school and outside of school.

When the shutdown began, the 4-H staff was in the process of conducting in-school club meetings with 4th grade classes.

Working hand in hand with teachers, the 4-H staff were able to visit the classes in their virtual classrooms to continue conducting club meetings for the remainder of the school year. As part of this effort, the 4-H staff reformatted their subject-matter based Friends booklets into interactive Google forms which allowed youth to continue exploring subjects in healthy living, weather & climate, public speaking, and agriculture.

Moving into summer, the 4-H staff added two new faces from AmeriCorps VISTA. VISTA’s are compensated volunteers who serve in a variety of environments providing support and/or education for organizations.

VISTA Avery Moore came aboard as part of a yearly grant to expand recruitment, outreach, and service with 4-H volunteers. VISTA Lauren Pike was brought on as part of a two-month grant to provide expanded healthy living education to youth over the course of the summer.

Lauren’s programs have included webinars on yoga, mindfulness and emotional health as well as virtual day camps about food and nutrition, healthy habits, and exercise that were made possible by a Healthy Habits grant from the Wal-Mart Foundation.

In addition to the VISTA programs, the 4-H staff conducted an internet based Digital Leadership training for middle and high school youth in collaboration with the J. W. Fanning Institute for Leadership at UGA.

The program covered several subjects including leadership styles, communication, and conflict management. The Digital Leadership program graduated twenty-four youth from ten Northeast Georgia counties.

Other virtual summer programs conducted during this time included a backyard bugs photography contest, virtual team trivia competitions, virtual teen leader training and a virtual escape room series. The virtual escape rooms made use of various themes in popular culture. Of the four virtual escape rooms used, three were created by 4-H Educator Jonathan Page, including one which he designed as an educational adventure for youth to explore the levels of government in their home community titled “The Lost Leaders of Jackson County."

He and 4-H Agent April Edwards presented this effort in civic engagement at a virtual meeting of the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents in June.

While the future still seems uncertain for many in-person events, the 4-H program is building a solid base in virtual and independent learning activities. Since the shutdown began in March, they have reached over 500 youth through their various programs.

Jackson County 4-H is part of the University of Georgia Extension Service which is located at 255 Curtis H. Spence Dr. in Jefferson.

For more information about the Jackson County 4-H Club and its programs contact 4-H Extension Agent April Edwards (apriledwards@uga.edu) and 4-H Educator Jonathan Page (jspage@uga.edu) at 706-367-6344.

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