For the past five years, HAREC has offered the 4-H Sustainable You! Summer Camp for youth ages 9-12. Fun, hands-on activities teach youth how they can make a difference in conserving natural resources. The City of Ventura has collaborated with the HAREC education team for the past four years to make this half-day camp possible by providing educators and promotional materials. This partnership allows the program to be offered county-wide at an affordable cost. Environmental Educators, Haili Matsukawa and Brandon Kaysen did an amazing job working with the 27 participants. Teen leader Mikaelle Arcaya-Velez was on hand to assist and engage youth.
Today's blog includes a short article written by 4H Sustatinable You! 2017 participants ans summerizes their experience.
We had a lot of fun at Sustainable You! 4-H Camp held at the UC Hansen Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Santa Paula in June. About 27 members took part in this camp with an emphasis on learning about how to preserve our environment and natural resources. Topics such as Air, Energy, Food, Water and Land were explored. We learned about ways we can make a difference in reducing air pollution such as riding our bikes to school, carpooling and using public transportation when possible. We also talked about strategies to reduce water use, especially since California is in a drought. Shower timers were given out so kids aim for a 5-minute shower and we were also encouraged to turn off the water when brushing our teeth. Other ideas discussed were not to over water plants and lawns and to try to buy energy efficient appliances with the Energy Star logo on them. We also learned about the best way to dispose of waste and recognize if it's trash, recycling, compost or a hazardous waste.
There were fun activities and games planned every day. We got to tie-dye shirts and ride a “smoothie bike” that powered a blender that made smoothies with fruit that we just picked. One of our favorite activities was making a solar oven out of a pizza carton and use it to make s'mores! It took about an hour—but it worked and tasted great!
We had fun getting a tour on the farm, picking fruits and vegetables and met the farm chicken, too. One fun game was about the cycle of water and all the places water can go after a rain.
We think this camp had a lot of great ideas for people to try in their own homes. Our family switched to solar power because we wanted to use the cleanest energy that we could. We would recommend this camp to help kids learn way they can make a difference and help the world be a better place. It's a great and fun camp!
We are happy to introduce two new staff members. Sergio Santiago, Agricultural Superintendent joined HAREC in July and Katelyn Beckmann, 4-H Community Education Specialist II came on board in September.
Sergio grew up in Puerto Rico. He earned degrees—BS in Horticulture and MS in Horticulture-urban forestry and environmental management from the University of Puerto Rico—Mayaguez. Professional work in his native Puerto Rico includes tropical crop culture, germplasm management, and urban forest. He also worked the field of tropical ethnobotany, medicinal plants and biofuels. He furthered his education earning a doctorate in Natural Resources and Environmental Management—water management and plant uptake physiology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. He has spent the last five years working with irrigation, plant physiology and propagation, integrated pest management (IPM), ecosystem restoration and endangered species management with the University of Hawaii and the U.S. Army. Sergio says he is “excited to be a part of UCANR and HAREC team and be able to learn and contribute with Ventura County's amazing agricultural industry. Let's make it happen!”
Fall Student Farm came to a close last week with a celebration. Student farmers taught parents and siblings how to lay irrigation tape and plant kale seeds. Some shared excerpts from their farm journals. To the delight of Ashley Parrish Decker, Food Corps Service Member and Student Farm lead, the students had nothing but great things to say about their experience at HAREC. The highlight of the afternoon entailed of making…and enjoying veggie pizzas and smoothies made in the bicycle-blender.
Fall Student Farm is offered to Balboa Middle School. The program resumes in spring with DeAnza Middle School, both in Ventura Unified School District. HAREC Student Farm is a collaboration with VUSD and FoodCorps.
What is healthy food? Where does the food I eat come from? How is the planet affected by the fast food industry? What strategies do food companies use to encourage me to buy their food products? Dara Stork, Language Arts teacher at Briggs School in Santa Paula, explored these essential questions and more with her 8th graders.
As part of a fall study unit, Mrs. Stork incorporated Common Core State Standards in reading and writing with studying our food system. The students read Chew on This, by Eric Schlosser and Charles Wilson. The book is written for youth and critiques the fast food industry but also delves into production, labor conditions and negative health effects of the fast food industry. Additionally, they studied the history of fast food in our country as well as the role that media, advertising and big companies play in influencing the kinds of food people eat, especially children. Stork employed various learning activities to study these pertinent topics and assigned culminating projects that included debating for and against fast food, writing a business letter to the school district board requesting a functional kitchen for their school to replace the current frozen-food based cafeteria and/or an edible schoolyard for their campus.
As a grand finale, the 72 students walked across the street to HAREC for a day on the farm. The education team prepared hands-on activities that supported Stork's essential questions exploring local food—food mile discussions and harvesting vegetables to take home; global food—origin of food and food packaging activities; sustainable food—planting seeds, learning about soil and composting; healthy food—nutrition and making a delicious farm fresh persimmon salad. Additionally, the 8th graders participated in activities that explored Ventura County agriculture and Ag related careers.
Overwhelmingly, the standout activities included harvesting, cooking and tasting healthy foods. The cooking lesson exposed many of the students to Fuyu persimmons for the first time. By a show of hands, most voted that given the choice, they would pick healthy persimmon salad over Hot Cheetos. Mrs. Stork and HAREC educators counts this as a great success. Teen leaders from the Human Services Academy at Santa Paula High School assisted with educational activities during the field trip. This new collaboration with Briggs and Santa Paula High will be replicated next fall.
Fall education outreach season: 4-H Farm Field Trips and Classroom Outreach at HAREC, ended last week with three days and over 1000 thrilled Kindergarten students enjoying a pumpkin themed morning on the farm.
This season, the education team reached over 3000 youth in grades K-8th. To the delight of teachers and parents, hands-on learning activities entice, teach and entertain youth while reinforcing science and math concepts taught in the classroom. Nutrition activities teach where food comes from and promote healthy choices.
Planning and implementing HAREC programs is a team sport! Staff and UC volunteers play equally important roles from planting and caring for the bountiful field trip harvest and education gardens to preparing lesson and building props, to delivering the program on site and in classrooms all over Ventura County. Staff relies on the expertise and support of volunteers that devoted over 1200 hours in educating students and over 1700 volunteer hours supporting the education gardens used as "classrooms" in the 2014-2015 fiscal year.
Here are highlights from Pumpkin Pumpkin at the Farm and Volunteer Appreciation Luncheon