- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
Schools and children's social and club activities hastily moved online in the spring of 2020 when across the country Americans began to shelter-in-place to avoid spreading the coronavirus. Teachers, program directors and club leaders quickly made adjustments to continue serving children's education needs, often without access to proven techniques or training.
The volunteer educators and professional staff whose work provides thousands of California 4-H members aged 5 to 18 with invaluable learn-by-doing lessons were among those facing challenges, said Steven Worker, UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development advisor. To provide information about effective online teaching techniques, Worker consolidated and summarized best practices for working with youth online, and has now published the material in three free online fact sheets.
“The bulk of research on online learning is focused on college education,” Worker said. “There is much less research in conducting virtual learning during out-of-school time for youth development, such as the techniques we use in 4-H.”
Nevertheless, the search of scientific literature was affirming. Worker found that about 80% of what leaders and teachers do in person is also effective in remote learning sessions.
“You just have to adapt your content and teaching methods,” Worker said. “Educators can use real-time group activities, and individual at-home activities. Educators can be present and create a supportive environment. They can reflect with the youth after each meeting and ask the youth to provide feedback.”
While the fact sheets were developed with 4-H programs in mind, they are appropriate for leaders and teachers of any learning activity that takes place out of school, such as scouting programs, tutoring, music lessons and other youth groups.
The three fact sheets are three- to four-pages each and present best practices in short narratives, graphs and bulleted lists. The topics are:
Supporting productive educator practices for out-of-school time – Teaching during out-of-school time differs from school environments. Educators become coaches, mentors, facilitators and partners. This fact sheet offers key points for online learning: Teaching methods first, technology second; involve youth in choices of digital tools; and focus on relationships.
Integrating experiential education into the digital realm – Experiential education is critical to the mission of 4-H, which uses a hands-on approach to learning. Readers of this fact sheet will understand preferred outcomes, such as agency, competence and belonging. Examples help educators divide learning between times when the group is together on Zoom or another platform, and providing assignments that the youth can complete between meetings.
Promoting positive youth development – Just as in person, important components of youth development include safety and belonging, youth-adult relationships, life skills development and opportunities for youth leadership. This fact sheet lists and discusses the six C's of positive youth development: competence, confidence, connection, character, caring and contribution.
Although the options are better for distance learning than expected, Worker, like many teachers, still look forward to returning to in-person activities.
“On computers, participants will often keep their video turned off, so it's hard to gauge whether they are interested and on task,” Worker said. “But in this unique time, it's better to do something than nothing.”
The PDF fact sheets may be downloaded from the UC Agriculture and Natural Resources catalog, https://anrcatalog.ucanr.edu.
- Author: Ricardo A. Vela
"I guess the fact that my parents told me whatever I set on my mind I would be able to achieve set me up for success," Diaz Carrasco stated. "Once I enrolled in Food Science Engineering, I loved school so much that when I was done with that degree, I pursued two more."
UC Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR) is committed to developing an inclusive and equitable society by reaching all segments of the state's population. On the front lines building trust and credibility are professionals who bring their unique skills, passion and commitment to make California a better place.
"The most rewarding is the opportunity to build bridges between the university's research-based programs and our local communities. When they do not fit, I have fun creating new programs or adapting from what we do have. I do believe science mixed with traditional knowledge has an infinite power to change people's lives," said Diaz Carrasco.
A native of Atizapán de Zaragoza, México, Diaz Carrasco has been part of UC ANR since 2015 as Youth Development Advisor focusing on Latino and /or low‐income youth and families. She faces many cultural and economic challenges to achieve her mission; thanks to her tenacity, dedication and hard work, she and her team have turned their goals into a reality.
"When I joined ANR, there were really few people in the state and around the country doing work intentionally with Latino youth development and 4-H," she said.
Since joining 4-H, she has been instrumental in increasing Latino participation in 4-H programs statewide. Her geographical area of work is the Inland Empire, which includes Riverside and San Bernardino counties. These are two of California's largest counties, with almost 5 million residents, and 65% are Latino.
"About 60% of school-aged youth in Riverside and San Bernardino are Hispanic/Latino," said Diaz Carrasco. "Since the beginning, the primary focus of my position is to develop, implement, evaluate, strengthen and expand local 4-H programming to serve the current under-represented population better."
In an environment that is generally not friendly to changes and challenges, Diaz Carrasco faces a daily array of obstacles to achieving her goal. Among them are high levels of poverty in the families she serves, high crime rates in some communities, and a lack of interest from the parents, who in most cases work two or three jobs to make ends meet.
"The success of my work as the University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) advisor relies on how effective my extension team and I can be in sharing knowledge. We have gained this knowledge through research, education, program evaluation, and transfer these into the communities we serve in ways that are relevant for their day-to-day lives while embracing their cultural context," said Diaz Carrasco.
The knowledge that Diaz Carrasco and her team bring directly to the youth, their families, and communities in the Inland Empire creates positive changes and healthier lives. "The way we educate the public matters, and who are our educators matters. Science and culture are at the core of every program we have implemented since I started," she said.
She gives two reasons why her work is penetrating the thick layers of the communities she serves. The first is that she is an immigrant, like many of the families she works with. "I approach my work knowing that a lot of people are going or have gone through the same process I went through in 2014."
Diaz Carrasco also cites thinking out of the box as a reason for success. "I believe creativity and flexibility are at the core of any programs I develop," she stated.
For example, Diaz Carrasco and her team partnered with the Mexican Consulate in San Bernardino, where they held a successful summer camp and strengthened the partnership with the Consulate. Youth could participate in this unique program that aims to help them embrace their Mexican identity, even when, in some cases, they or their parents cannot travel outside the U.S.
The summer camp program was designed to increase positive ethnic identity, and to provide youth development reflecting the Latino and immigrant youth experience and the physiological and social effects of discrimination. The program also responded to economic challenges by assisting families with transportation, providing snacks, and in some cases other items such as toothbrushes, water bottles, or connecting families to health and food agencies. "Above all, we hold the camp in a place that the families were already familiar with and felt safe. This place was the Consulate!" said Diaz Carrasco. "Yes, we turned their art gallery, where official agreements are signed, into a playground. That is what I mean by out of the box,” she added.
The program's interest was visible from day one; in a matter of hours, they reached 100% of the participant count. In the end, the parents expressed their gratitude for offering the programs in an accessible way.
Thinking out of the box has also allowed Diaz Carrasco to partner with major companies in Southern California to benefit the youth.
In five years, she has increased 4-H membership in her area from 667 to 6,021. The overall percentage of Latino youth in 4-H went from 28% to 85%, and the number of volunteers grew from 175 to 354.
Diaz Carrasco measures her success by the words of Sofia, a Moreno Valley student and one of the participants to the 4-H Juntos conference: "Juntos 4-H provides a home and a place where you can safely feel like it is your community. I hope expanding the program gives more students, not only myself but an identity also as to what the community is like and that there are people that care for them and have someone to relate and trust."
Diaz Carrasco has a straightforward message to all those girls who contemplate the idea of getting into the sciences: "My success in science has more to do with resilience than with knowledge. So, the ultimate thing is to pick something you like, have fun doing it and find people around you that also like it or are willing to support you when things get hard."
Teens 13 to 19 years old and adults are invited to spend the weekend at beautiful Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria Nov. 1-3 developing their health and well-being at the 4-H annual Mindfulness Retreat. Participants will increase their personal skills in leading a healthy lifestyle, and gain skills needed to be health advocates in their communities. The retreat will focus on stress management, relationship building, nutrition, and a general understanding of mindfulness.
Activities include yoga, art, quiet listening, and time outside in nature.
The Mindfulness Retreat fee is $275 per person, including registration, lodging and meals. For more information and to register, visit the retreat calendar page. The registration deadline is Oct. 1.
Below are comments from teens who attended a previous 4-H Mindfulness Retreat.
Jada: The mindfulness retreat was refreshing for me to be able to worry about nothing but the present. I loved the morning yoga and and making collages. This weekend reminded me that I should stop and take a total break from everything more often, and that I don't have to constantly be accomplishing something. I learned that visualizing things, like the glitter in a moody jar, when I meditate or practice mindfulness helps me to focus.
TJ: Given the opportunity to focus on myself and the present for a weekend with no worries about the future was an amazing experience. I spent time learning more about myself, learning about others, and learning mindful tools to help me get through my everyday life. From meditating on the beach, tons of arts and crafts, hilarious skits, and meeting new friends, it was an experience I will remember for a very long time!
Rose: The mindfulness retreat was an enlightening experience that impacted me in so many ways. With all my college applications due, I've been extremely busy and extremely stressed. The retreat really opened my eyes to the impact that stress can make on my social, mental and emotional health. I was able to leave the retreat with mindfulness strategies that I now use to help me relieve stress, such as collaging, deep breathing, and journaling.
Addy: The mindfulness retreat was a great weekend for stressed teens and adults. It gave everyone some time to step back and live in the moment instead of being obsessed with future plans and responsibilities. The retreat provided everyone with helpful tools that will keep you on track, and keep your stress levels down. This retreat really opened my eyes to what meditation and mindful breathing is capable of and I now use these techniques as a daily stress reliever. This was an unforgettable experience that I would highly recommend people of all ages.
- Author: Mcircicillo@ucanr.edu
- Contact: Jennifer Bitker, (805) 234-5409, Jennifer@anddesignpro.com
4-H, the largest youth development program in the nation, is calling on all 4-H supporters to raise their hands to help bring 4-H to 10 million youth by 2025. Currently 4-H empowers nearly six million young people in every county across America, including 142,277 4-H'ers in California.
For more than 100 years, the 4-H impact on young people has been immeasurable. “Having experienced our programs first-hand, our supporters and alumni know best what a positive impact 4-H had on them growing up, which is why we're reaching out to them to support the next generation of true leaders,” said Mary Ciricillo, California 4-H Foundation Director.
“Whether they're running Fortune 100 companies, performing to sold-out crowds, leading community programs or volunteering to empower local youth, 4‑H supporters and alumni are the epitome of true leadership,” said Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4‑H Council. “We now have the perfect opportunity to pay it forward by raising our hands for 4-H, ensuring that the next generation has the opportunity to benefit from the experience.”
Raise Your Hand
As part of the Raise Your Hand call to action (running April 1 – May 15), 4-H is asking the millions of 4‑H supporters and alumni across the nation, to ‘Raise Your Hand' and pay it forward in support of providing the hands-on learning that empowers kids across America.
Joining is easy – alumni & friends can go online to www.4-H.org/raiseyourhand, vote for your state, and fill in their details. Raising a hand in this way is a vote towards a $20,000, $10,000 or $5,000 award for the states with the most hands raised, including California. Then support the activation by tweeting, posting and sharing their #4HGrown experience, or support and tag fellow supporters and alumni by asking them to raise their hands for their state.
“4-H gives kids the opportunity to learn by doing, to grow from not only the encouragements brought by success, but also through challenges and failures, as these skills will help them to handle whatever life may throw their way,” explains Jennifer Nettles, Grammy-award winning musician, actress and 4‑H national spokesperson.
About California 4-H
4-H, the nation's largest youth development organization grows confident young people who are empowered for life today and prepared for career tomorrow. The University of California 4-H Youth Development Program promotes hands-on, experiential learning for all youth ages 5-19. Our 4-H programs are delivered locally through the County University of California Cooperative Extension (UCCE) offices. Find your county UCCE office. 4-H is offered in 57 out of 58 counties in California.
- Author: Jeannette E. Warnert
The joyful reunion of two 4-H children, Leia and Caroline Carrico, with their parents after spending 44 hours lost in the Humboldt County wilderness in early March has raised awareness about the benefits to youth involved in the UC Cooperative Extension 4-H Youth Development Program.
Established more than 100 years ago, UC Cooperative Extension launched 4-H to teach children research-based agriculture and rural living skills. Over time, it has evolved dramatically, reaching children in urban centers, inner cities, suburbs as well as rural communities with leadership opportunities, life skills, nutrition education and other information to help them grow into resilient adults.
The Carrico children, ages 5 and 8, had participated in a 4-H outdoor training training program. They lived in a rural area and were well acquainted with the redwood forest surrounding their home. Recalling lessons they learned, the sisters stayed in place when they realized they were lost – a key survival skill, said Yana Valachovic, director of UC Cooperative Extension in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. There were more things they learned from 4-H project leader Justin Lehnert's teaching that helped them survive unscathed.
“Justin told them to leave signs. Searchers found granola bar wrappers and deep boot marks. They knew that they should shelter in a dry place,” Valachovic said. “They knew to keep positive and how to find safe drinking water without endangering themselves by drinking from a creek.”
The 4-H program in Humboldt County has been inundated with calls for a curriculum that can be used elsewhere to teach these valuable skills. The UC 4-H Youth Development advisor for Humboldt and Del Norte counties, Dorina Espinoza, is working with Lehnert to develop a project sheet so the survival skills used by the Carrico sisters can be made available in 4-H and other settings to young people throughout the U.S.
The sisters' odyssey and its happy conclusion shows the hoped-for result of the research-based 4-H learning model, Espinoza said.
“The sisters are smart girls,” Espinoza said “They attribute their application of survival skills to family camping trips, movies about people who get lost and 4-H adventures. 4-H reinforced new or existing skills. We know kids learn with multiple exposures. 4-H is a hands-on approach to learning that other settings don't offer.”
In 4-H, children choose “projects” they are interested in. The projects are led by adult volunteers from the community.
“What's different about 4-H is we have adult volunteers who develop partnerships with youth. They partner in learning, leadership and decision making,” Espinoza said. “That's a beautiful part of 4-H.”
Lehnert is a 4-H parent and volunteer who operates a business in Humboldt centered on enjoying the outdoors.
“Justin brings years of personal and professional experience, having completed a Wilderness First Responder Course of the National Outdoor Leadership School. He studied outdoor recreation at Feather River College and has been an outdoor recreation enthusiast for years,” Espinoza said. “We are so very grateful to Justin for sharing his expertise with our 4-H community.”
Californians can find UC Cooperative Extension 4-H projects near them at http://4h.ucanr.edu.