(Posted July 8, 2020)
By Kristy Zurbrick, Madison Editor
When state leaders issued stay-at-home orders in March, The Ohio State University shut down in-person operations which impacted not just its campuses but its Extension offices, too.
As a result, in-person Extension activities were put on hiatus. One of the programs Extension runs is 4-H, so that meant 4-H club meetings had to go virtual.
“4-H is about resilience. Our big message has been that 4-H isn’t cancelled. It might look different, but you can still do it and give kids positive youth development,” said Frances Nicol, Madison County’s 4-H educator.
“It’s been really exciting to see everyone get creative and make good out of a tough situation.”
Nicol and her staff led the charge with activities like a countywide demonstration contest. As active club members, 4-Hers are required to give demonstrations. The Extension office encouraged youths to record their demonstrations and post them to the county 4-H Facebook page. The youth whose video got the most likes won a pizza party for their club. Ben Ryan, a member of the Madison Kountry Kids 4-H Club, took the prize with his presentation on dental braces.
Many clubs took to Zoom and other online video conferencing platforms to conduct their meetings. Beginners to Winners was among the first clubs in Madison County to give the technology a whirl.
“The kids got a kick out of it,” said Heather Feliks, one of the club’s advisors.
In at least one instance, the set-up allowed a club member to do something he wouldn’t have been able to do if the club was meeting in person–display a gun during his demonstration on a gun’s different parts. With parent supervision and from his own home, a Beginners to Winners member taking a shooting sports project did just that.
Kristin Furbee, an advisor with the Eager Achievers 4-H Club, said the transition to virtual meetings has been a challenge, but that she and her fellow advisors have worked to keep members engaged.
“We’ve been meeting on Zoom about every two weeks. The whole club gets on,” Furbee said. “We’ve done some challenges, like asking kids to post videos of themselves working with their animals or the progress their making on their projects.”
In addition to attending a certain number of meetings and doing demonstrations, 4-H club members must perform a community service project. Because large group gatherings have not been permitted, 4-Hers were encouraged to find different ways to give back.
The Beginners to Winners club made pictures and wrote letters to residents at the Bluebird Retirement Community in London, as well as residents in facilities in Franklin County.
“It put a little cheer out there for seniors who haven’t been able to see their families,” Feliks said.
Eager Achievers advisors encouraged their members to help out their neighbors with tasks like yardwork.
“My kids picked up buckets and buckets of walnuts for a 77-year-old veteran who lives down the road from us,” Furbee said.
4-Hers missed out on 4-H camp this year, so camp counselors came up with camp-like activities kids could do at home during what would have been camp week (June 4-8).
“They held social media challenges each day. One day, it was sidewalk chalk art. Another day was a circus theme, so they asked kids to post a photo or a video of their best acrobat trick,” said Olivia Rinesmith, a Fairfield Rascals 4-H member, intern at the Madison County OSU Extension Office, and student at OSU’s ATI campus studying agriculture communications.
Camp counselors also posted videos of typical camp traditions, like vespers–when campers hike up Inspiration Hill at Camp Clifton to reflect on the day.
As the 2019 fair queen, Rinesmith took it upon herself to reach out to fellow fair royalty members. Their job is to promote the fair, so she helped them to coordinate social media challenges that encouraged 4-H members to post photos or videos of themselves working on their projects with the hashtag #Madco2020.
“We did it for two weeks. Darrell Champer, the senior fair board president, asked if we could make a whole video to send to the governor’s office. This was before we knew if we could have a fair or not,” Rinsemith said. “We took it as an opportunity to show what Madison County is all about, which is the kids.”
Rinsemith compiled photos and footage of 4-Hers and FFA members getting ready for fair. The two-minute video did make it to the governor’s office and garnered 4,000 views along the way.
The ban on in-person 4-H meetings and activities lifted on June 29.