- Author: Carolyn McMillan
Canoeing on a mountain lake, telling stories around a campfire, sleeping under the stars — it's the quintessential summer camp experience — and for thousands of California kids it's also their first introduction to UC's 4-H program.
And just like the popular program that teaches children to raise and care for animals, 4-H summer camp is as much about leadership training and science education as it is about making new friends and getting out in nature.
“So many of the kids live in the city and for a week they get to escape,” says Tiffany Marino, who joined the Monte Vista 4-H Club in Chino as an 8-year-old and has loved it ever since — especially summer weeks spent at Camp Seely near Lake Arrowhead, with the Los Angeles 4-H program.
The camp is set on a hill with cabins, a fire circle, a mess hall and lodge. There are volleyball and basketball courts, and a pool. “It's all surrounded by trees and greenery. It's so beautiful. It's this one week in summer where everything is OK,” Marino says.
Kids from all over Southern California come to this magical spot, making tight friendships and getting a breather from city life.
But the thing that really makes the camp special is not the setting, Marino said. It's that the teachers and counselors are themselves kids — high schoolers who spend months before camp working together to plan it out, developing educational programming and other fun activities for the week.
A growth experience for teens and campers alike
When summer comes, they put their plans into action, getting first-hand experience teaching classes, leading activities and ensuring that campers have a memorable time.
Adult volunteers keep an eye on things, but the teens themselves run the show, said UC Cooperative Extension's Keith Nathaniel, the Los Angeles county director & 4-H youth development advisor.
Along with archery, nature walks, swimming and other traditional camp activities, the teens hold science-based classes that challenge campers to work in teams to come up with solutions for things like how they would improvise a shelter to get out of bad weather.
“The teens come up with the activities,” says Nathaniel. “It's an applied experience where they get to use the leadership skills they've developed in a really meaningful way.”
Rose Clara and Connor Gusman, rising seniors at C.K. McClatchy High School in Sacramento, have both spent time as teen leaders with On the Wild Side, a 4-H camp that brings fourth through sixth graders from disadvantaged communities out for a weekend in the mountains near Nevada City.
The goal is to give campers a chance to explore and learn about the natural world in a way that is fun and builds confidence.
“The kids are so excited to be on a camp-out, but sometimes they are sort of scared too — for some of them, it's their first time away from home,” Clara said. “It's super cute to see how excited they are by everything. By the end of camp, they're hugging you and crying and they give you their name tag so you'll remember them.”
Clara helps her young campers quickly feel at home by playing an icebreaker, like the game where each person names a favorite thing — maybe a food or an animal — and everyone else who likes that same thing steps into the circle with them.
“It's a way to unite everyone,” Clara says.
‘You can inspire someone and cause a change'
Both she and Gusman discovered that they liked teaching and bonding with the kids so much that they went from being camp counselors to joining the program development committee, a team that chooses the curriculum and plans the whole camp.
Gusman even helped write a grant that secured $500 from the Sacramento Region Community Foundation to help off-set the cost of buses and meals for the campers.
“Most of the kids haven't been outside Sacramento. They haven't seen the stars or had a camp experience before,” Gusman said. “They always love the campfire and the songs.”
One of his biggest surprises was learning how much of an impact he could have as a teacher.
He used the small lake by the camp to show the kids how to assess water quality, including analyzing the prevalence of indicator species that can tell you if the water is clean and healthy.
“Going through the process of developing the lesson, I wasn't totally hooked until we were at camp. There was one really shy girl who on the first day said, ‘I don't like science.' Then at the end, she was like, ‘I really loved it and I'm going to take as many science classes as I can,'” Gusman said.
“I wasn't a pessimist before, but I also wasn't super positive that there was a magical moment when you could inspire someone and cause a change. The camp has shown me that you can do that. You can help other people grow to love science and the earth, and see them grow like that.”
Marianne Bird, the 4-H youth development advisor in Sacramento County who oversees 4-H On the Wild Side as part of her work with UC Cooperative Extension, said that teens are particularly effective as teachers.
“They have a rapport with the little kids that as adults we don't always have,” Bird said.
Both she and Nathaniel evaluate the camps once they end, and survey both participants and teen leaders about their experiences. The responses on both sides are overwhelmingly positive.
One of the questions they ask the teenage teachers is whether they feel that they've made a contribution to their community, Bird said.
“That's a big part of 4-H — citizenship. Not just voting, but being a part of your community and believing that you can make a difference on issues that are important to you.”
The proof comes in seeing how these young leaders grow and change from their experiences.
A lasting legacy
Rose Clara, for instance, knew she liked teaching before she started volunteering with 4-H, but the camp experience has given her a new passion for advocacy and political science. She has joined the California Association of Student Councils and used her newfound leadership skills to host a mental health awareness week at her school.
“I think that comes from 4-H — stepping up like that. I want to help people,” Clara said.
Marino, who as the youth director was in charge of the entire week at Camp Seely last year, says simply of 4-H:
“It has taught me so much and given me everything: leadership skills, people skills, role models.”
At 19, she has now reached that bittersweet moment where she has “aged out” of 4-H. But through its programs, she learned to raise and show animals, came to understand civics through trips to Sacramento, and developed her leadership skills and style.
A sophomore majoring in business at Cal Poly Pomona, 4-H has taught her that she can succeed.
“It's definitely given me lots of confidence and substance — I know that I am capable.”
This article courtesy of the UC Office of the President.
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- Author: Ricardo Vela
For more than 200 youngsters in California, including 45 Latinos, the last weekend of January was a unique experience, full of physical activities and workshops that will help them build a successful future. Under the theme “Be a leader, Be a hero,” they participated in the 4-H Youth Summit carried out in several California counties. The event showcased the efforts of UC Agriculture and Natural Resources to increase the participation of young Latinos in its 4-H Youth Development Program.
“We are very excited that for the first time 45 Latino youths participated in the Youth Summit,” said Lupita Fabregas, 4-H assistant director for diversity and expansion.
The participating youths, ages 11 to 19, enjoyed hiking and other outdoor activities at the various 4-H camps. Among the camps were Mountain Center, located in the San Jacinto Mountains in Riverside County; YMCA Camp Jones Gulch in La Honda, located in the Santa Cruz mountains in San Mateo County; and Wonder Valley Ranch in Sanger, located in Sierra Nevada Mountains in Fresno County.
The adolescents had the opportunity to learn skills to help them develop their potential in addition to other topics of interest.
“Participants also had the opportunity to learn about engineering design process and the importance of bees to the environment,” said Claudia Diaz-Carrasco, 4-H advisor in San Bernardino and Riverside counties.
The increase of Latino youth in these 4-H camps, is the result of an initiative that has been implemented within the last couple of years.
Seven California counties including Kern, Riverside, Merced, Monterey, Orange, Santa Barbara and Sonoma were selected to participate in a pilot model to increase the number of young Latinos participating in the 4-H program.
The model was designed to ensure that young people living in urban areas could receive the same benefits as those who have participated in 4-H since it was founded in 1902 in Ohio.
“The original goal was that young men and women learned leadership skills through interaction with farm animals and food conservation,” added Fabregas.
For the 21st century, 4-H has designed new methods for young people in rural communities, urban and suburban areas based on the same original principles – offering leadership skills to its participants.
"The 4-H participants learn about issues of global importance such as food security, climate change and sustainable energy. It also teaches them about other issues, such as childhood obesity, and basic finance," said Diaz-Carrasco, who has seen a considerable increase of Latino participants in the 4-H programs in the Inland Empire.
“It was hard, we had many challenges,” said Diaz-Carrasco, who works in a county that is 50 percent urban and its young population is almost 59 percent Latino. Lack of transportation, time and money were the biggest threats to the success of the pilot model.
In 2016, Diaz-Carrasco was selected to participate in UC ANR's Latino initiative, under the direction of Lupita Fabregas. The first step taken was to hire the first bilingual educator of the 4-H program and establish the first bilingual club in a community center in a heavily Latino populated part of the city of Riverside.
"These new models have had an impact on the program in the seven pilot counties," said Fabregas. Two years later, there are three bilingual clubs in the county.
The response from the Latino youth has exceeded expectations. In 2015, the California 4-H program worked with less than 1 percent of children in the state. By 2017, participation in the program grew 16 percent and the participation of Latino children increased 89 percent.
Parents of these young Latinos participating in the 4-H program are seeing positive changes in their kids. According to the parents, 4-H gives their kids an opportunity for social and personal interaction. “It enables young people to understand who they are and prepares them to choose what they are going to do with their life as adults,” said Sergio Sierra, whose children are participating in the 4-H program in Indio, California.
Studies have shown that young people participating in the 4-H program are 1.9 times more likely to get better grades in school and 2.1 times more likely to report being engaged in school activities.
California leads the country with more participants in the 4-H Latino Initiative than other states. In spite of the gains achieved, there is still more outreach to be done, Fabregas said.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
4-H members in Santa Clara County will work with Google employees to develop computer science technical skills, digital fluency, creativity and problem solving skills in a new 10-week program made possible with a donation from the Silicon Valley internet search giant.
Youth participants, teen leaders and adult volunteers are now being recruited to take part in the 4-H Computer Science Career Pathway, a weekly series that begins Sept. 27. The pathway will translate abstract concepts into practical experiences the participants can use to explore the field of computer science. Fill out an online interest form to get more information.
“We are thrilled to begin our partnership with Google and prepare our youth for successful careers in any field they choose through this innovative program,” said Fe Moncloa, the UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development advisor in Santa Clara County.
The outreach will go beyond the 10 weekly sessions. During the first year, an estimated 700 youth in traditional 4-H community clubs, in after-school programs, and in programs offered by partnering community organizations will be touched by 4-H computer science. Booths will be set up at festivals and fairs to reach still more young people.
“There are many different opportunities for our youth to explore computer science,” Moncloa said.
The Santa Clara program is one of dozens funded through the National 4-H Council, which received a $1.5 million grant from Google to build skills youth need for the future. Santa Clara is the only California county involved.
“We don't know what the jobs of tomorrow will look like,” said Charlotte Smith of Google.org when the grant was announced. “Some of them might require computer science skills, but it's much more than that – problem solving, collaboration. We want to give kids as many kinds of tools as we can so they can succeed in any discipline and in any field.”
To reach underserved youth in Santa Clara County, 4-H will partner with two well-established community organizations. Youth Alliance, based in Hollister, provides innovative and culturally relevant services to local youth and families. Youth Alliance offers after-school programs for elementary and junior high school youth to give children a safe place to spend afternoons, get homework help and participate in cultural arts programs.
A second community partner is Sacred Heart Community Service in San Jose, which assists families with a wide variety of needs, including after-school programs, housing, food, nutrition education, citizenship classes and English-as-a-second-language training.
Santa Clara County UC Cooperative Extension 4-H has formed a team to launch the 4-H Computer Science Career Pathway.
UCCE 4-H program representative Claudia Damiani will train college students to offer the computer science curriculum to young people in Youth Alliance and Sacred Heart Community Service programs.
Google employee and 4-H volunteer Curtis Ullerich will teach the computer science curriculum to other volunteers in Santa Clara County.
“Some people think computer science is limited to coding,” Moncloa said. “Curtis, the way he teaches, he presents computer science in a different way. Sure, coding is one element, but there is so much more.”
Fiona Reyes and Santiago Piva are 4-H Teen Leaders in this project. They will teach and mentor youth, and collaborate with Ullerich to extend the curricula to 4-H volunteers.
- Author: Kathy Keatley Garvey
It's a soft, flannel blanket or cover-up that provides privacy to breast-feeding mothers and their newborns, but it's much more than that.
It's a 4-H project launched in 2013 by longtime Dixon 4-H leader Audrey Ritchey, an x-ray technician at the North Bay Medical Center, Fairfield. It helps promote breast-feeding and its many health and bonding benefits.
To date, Solano County 4-H'ers, under Ritchey's direction, have sewn 1,000 one-yard blankets for the new moms at North Bay.
“I was told that one mom started to cry when she got the cover-up,” Ritchey said. “She stated that it was the only thing she had for her baby.”
Ritchey, a co-community leader of the Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, and vice president of the Solano County 4-H Leaders' Council, recalled that “three years ago I thought that 4-H was missing an opportunity to share the 4-H program with new moms at North Bay.”
She contacted a director at North Bay and learned about “a baby friendly program that encourages new moms to breast feed and have skin-to-skin contact with their newborns.”
So, Ritchey, along with a group of 4-H youth and their parents, gave birth, so to speak, to the “Cuddle Me Close” cover-up project. It is her pattern and her sewing machines.
Ritchey applied for and received a 4-H Revolution of Responsibility grant. They've toured the North Bay Medical Center. They've given presentations at the hospital and at club and community events. Two years ago, a Girl Scout troop donated $250 from their cookie sales and many nurses have donated their Christmas gift cards to the project.
The project is closely linked to the 4-H Pledge:
“I pledge my head to clearer thinking
My heart to greater loyalty
My hands to larger service, and
My health to better living
For my club, my community, my country and my world.”
Ritchey says the youngsters in her project not only learn how to sew, but learn to connect with one another, learn to budget, and fulfill a public service need. Studies show that breast milk contains antibodies that help babies fight off viruses and bacteria and lowers the risk of allergies, ear infections, respiratory illnesses and bouts of diarrhea. Breastfed babies have a lower risk of childhood obesity.
Ritchey said the project “promotes mother-baby bonding through skin-to-skin contact, supports positive and physical and mental development, is healthier for mother and child and is inexpensive in comparison to formula."
“As long as I have youth that want to do this I will keep making them,” Ritchey vows.
In addition to the sewing project, Ritchey teaches a number of countywide 4-H projects, including poultry, rabbits and cavies (guinea pigs).
The 4-H Youth Development Program is a non-profit youth educational program administered through the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources Cooperative Extension. In 4-H, youths from ages 5 to 19 learn skills through hands-on learning and have fun doing it, said Valerie Williams, Solano County 4-H program representative. The international organization draws youth from all ethnic, racial, and socio-economic backgrounds who live in rural, suburban, and urban communities. The four H's in 4-H stand for head, heart, hands, and health. Its motto is “To make the best better.”
The heart of 4-H's hands-on learning are age-appropriate projects within each club. 4-H is more than “cows and chickens.” Each project focuses on a topic, anything from A (art) to Z (zoology). Among the many projects: animal sciences, bicycling, camping, computers, drama, entomology, leadership, music, photography, quilting, rocketry, textile arts, and woodworking.
For information on the Solano County 4-H Program, access http://cesolano.ucanr.edu or contact Valerie Williams at firstname.lastname@example.org or (707) 784-1319. For donations of fabric or funds to the “Cuddle Me Close” 4-H project, contact Audrey Ritchey at email@example.com.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Butler was city-raised back East and became enamored by the local food movement, urban agriculture and farmers markets in California's Bay Area. She first ventured to a county fair at the age of 31. When she did, she was enchanted by girls in the livestock barn dressed in snow-white uniforms tending goats.
“When I first learned about 4-H, I thought I had found a genuine American relic, a throwback to a simpler time,” Butler wrote. “I couldn't have been more wrong.”
Butler forged relationships with a handful of suburban California 4-H members raising livestock, though she noted in the book that animal husbandry is just one aspect of today's 4-H program.
Butler visited the homes of 4-H members and attended their meetings. She trailed 4-H'ers as they fed, watered, and walked goats, sheep and pigs. She sat through long, hot competitions and auctions at county fairs. She befriended the parents who were cheering their children from the sidelines.
“The kids were fascinating individuals,” Butler said. “They were regular teenagers in addition to being experts in showing goats, sheep or pigs. I wanted to get their personalities across, how they looked and what motivated them, rather than just their participation in a club.”
Allison Keaney, 4-H program representative for UC Cooperative Extension in Marin County, said she enjoyed the book.
“I appreciate that she (Butler) has gotten into the essence of our program, all the wonderful things that come out of 4-H: communication skills, interpersonal skills, managerial skills,” Keaney said. “She touches on what 4-H is providing to young people that they are not getting at school.”
In the book, Butler recounted the stories of two 4-H'ers who were excelling in their 4-H projects, but not doing as well in their structured school settings. One is Anthony, who is struggling with math class, but managing quite well when calculating the amount of food his animals need based on their weight.
“But that version of Allison is hard to reconcile with the one that I am getting to know – the confident, knowledgeable and outgoing 4-H Allison,” Butler wrote.
Keaney said she recommends the book for 4-H leaders, classroom teachers and after-school program facilitators.
The UC Agriculture and Natural Resources program representative for 4-H animal science education, Sarah Watkins, was quoted several times in the book. Watkins said when she spoke to Butler, she didn't know her comments would be published in a book, but she is pleased with the result.
“She puts 4-H in a very nice light and was able to connect it back to UC,” Watkins said. “Even people who are involved in 4-H at the club level don't always understand that connection.”
Watkins recommends the book for young parents, so they will learn about opportunities for their children.
“It's a great read for anybody to fully understand the depth of modern 4-H,” Watkins said.
UCCE 4-H Youth Development advisor Marcel Horowitz saw Butler's book mentioned in Sunset Magazine. She read the book and found it to be an excellent introduction to the animal side of 4-H. She was also intrigued with the chapter about 4-H in Ghana, Africa.
Butler said she received a grant to travel to Africa, where she met 4-H leaders and members, including a young man in a small community who received hybrid maize seed from DuPont. The superiority of the crop amazed local subsistence farmers, but gave rise to new problems. The seed cost 10 times more than their traditional seed, and, because it is a hybrid, cannot be collected and held over to plant the following year.
“Please tell DuPoint to give us more seeds; we don't have wigs to fly,” Butler quoted a small town science teacher in Ghana. “We are praying that DuPoint will continue to provide for us.”
Horowitz said she was interested in the ethical dilemma.
“How do you fund 4-H projects without the conflict or bias of the fund source?” Horowitz said.
The Ghana chapter is a short departure for the book, which is firmly rooted in Northern California 4-H animal programs and Butler's discovery that 4-H isn't just for children growing up on farms. 4-H is a way to learn-by-doing in the areas of science, citizenship and healthy living.
“When I try to imagine my original ideal 4-H'er now, I find that I can't do it,” Butler concluded in the book's Afterword. “She has been replaced by all the actual 4-H'ers I know. Luckily for me, they're much more interesting.”
The book is available from University of California Press, Amazon.com and other outlets.
An initiative to maintain and enhance healthy families and communities is part of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategic Vision 2025.