UConn Extension connects thousands of people across Connecticut and beyond each year, with the research and resources of the University of Connecticut’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. We are comprised of more than 100 educators and a vast network of volunteers. UConn Extension works collaboratively to build more resilient communities through educational initiatives aimed to cultivate a sustainable future and develop tomorrow’s leaders. The work of UConn Extension connects communities and individuals to help make Connecticut a better place to live, and a better place for future generations.
Make sure the kids end the year with fun STEM related activities! Find a printable pdf here.
Connecticut has faced challenges related to sustainable landscapes, food and agriculture, health, and the climate for generations. As problems are solved, new issues arise. UConn Extension educators work in all 169 cities and towns of Connecticut to help solve the problems that our residents, communities, and state face. Connecting people with agriculture, the natural environment, and healthy lifestyles are critical components to a sustainable future. Extension works collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions that improve our communities for the next generation.
This time of the year, Connecticut residents are heading outside to enjoy the cool fall temperatures and beautiful New England scenery. Connecticut offers a wealth of outdoor spaces from city parks to rural area trail systems where people can engage in all types of activities such as hiking, biking, and nature watching while adhering to social distancing guidelines. Spending time outdoors is a great way to get exercise, reduce stress, and can be a good educational experience for kids of all ages. Additionally, doing activities outside can increase happiness and wellbeing.
For new trail users, heading onto the trails can seem a bit overwhelming as it can be hard to know what to expect on the trails. Information about what to pack, eat, and how to navigate trail systems is not always widely available. This is why we have launched a new video series called Trails 101 on our Connecticut Trails webpage. This series of four videos explains to trail users everything they need to know before stepping onto the trails. The videos cover topics such as how to prepare for a hike, what to bring, trail etiquette, and the leave no trace principles. Trail users of all levels have a responsibility to know how to respect themselves, others, and the environment when heading out into nature. These videos provide the tools needed for a successful adventure on Connecticut trails.
Other resources available for new trail users include websites such as AllTrails.com, a crowd-sourced website. AllTrails is a great resource to help people locate hikes in their area. On AllTrails, trails can be sorted by difficulty level, length, and type of trail. There is information about features of the trail such as vistas and waterfalls, and accessibility of the trails. The hikes are posted by community members so they do not always include all information available so cross checking with trail managing organizations would also be helpful. The benefit of AllTrails being a crowd-sourced website is that other trail users can leave reviews of the hike and the current conditions to help others decide if the trail is right for them at that time.
Another online resource for finding trails is the Connecticut Forest and Park Association Interactive Map. This map helps hikers find blue blazed trails near them. The website includes an informational video on how to use the interactive map which we would highly recommend watching as it shows just how helpful this interactive map can be.
As helpful as all these online resources can be, sometimes, the best option is a paper map. Paper maps can be printed from the internet, purchased from the organization that maintains the trail of interest, or, sometimes, found for free at trailhead information huts. Since cell service is not always available and cell phones can run out of battery, it’s always good to be prepared by having a paper trail map.
A final resource trail users should explore before heading outside is the Leave No Trace website which provides information on how to be a responsible trail user. On the website, they discuss the 7 principles of Leave No Trace (LNT). These principles outline ways humans can make the least amount of impact on the environment when visiting natural places. We all live in the same environment so it is the job of everyone to help preserve it. These principles are not hard to follow yet they have a huge impact on preserving our wild places. For example, the LNT principles of disposing of waste properly and traveling on durable surfaces are small actions trail users can take to maintain the beauty of the natural environments we all enjoy recreating in.
After watching the Trails 101 video series, looking at websites like AllTrails.com, and reviewing the LNT principles, it’s time to hit the trail, get some exercise and enjoy the great outdoors. Enjoy exploring all Connecticut has to offer.
Article by Marissa Dibella
These videos were made possible by a generous gift from the David and Nancy Bull Extension Innovation Fund to the UConn PATHS Team – People Active on Trails for Health and Sustainability. PATHS is an interdisciplinary team of University of Connecticut extension educators, faculty, and staff committed to understanding and promoting the benefits of trails and natural resources for health and communities, and implementing a social ecological approach to health education. Our team works in a wide variety of departments and disciplines including public health, health education, nutrition, community development, and landscape architecture.
Written and produced October 2020 by Jenifer Nadeau, Michael Puglisi, Umekia Taylor, Stacey Stearns, Dianisi Torres, Laura Brown, Mike Zaritheny, with review and special assistance from Dea Ziso, Marissa Dibella, Laurie Giannotti, Claire Cain, Kristen Bellantuono, Kim Bradley, and Amy Hernandez.
The Goshen Fairgrounds in Litchfield County stretches out in an expanse of open space, rings, and buildings that host the annual fair and other events. On Sunday, September 27th vehicles towing tractors slowly started arriving for the first annual Litchfield County 4-H Garden Tractor Pull. UConn 4-H, Extension’s youth development program in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR), hosted this socially distanced event.
Diego Marks of Bethany woke up early the morning of the tractor pull. He hadn’t participated in a pull with UConn 4-H before. The pandemic cancelled the other tractor pulls he was supposed to compete in this year. Diego, a 9th grader at the Engineering Science University Magnet School in West Haven, was looking forward to getting his tractor out and testing the modifications he had made. He packed extra masks and hand sanitizer, in case anyone needed them, and secured his tractor for the trip to Goshen with his parents.
Youth acquire engineering and math skills when they’re working on their tractors and participating in a tractor pull. Machines pull sleds with weights at a tractor pull. Those that can pull the sled the farthest, win. Weights become progressively heavier as the day continues. Tractor operators must be strategic and skilled. Tractor engines lose momentum and torque when they are continuously pulling weight. A successful pull requires momentum and torque. The operator that can modify his machine’s engine to withstand the most pressure and successfully manage the engine throughout the demands of the day often wins.
“My son has been tractor pulling since the age of six, and was very disappointed with the season being cancelled,” Wendy Marks ’92 (CLAS) says. “The day he heard that Litchfield County 4-H would be able to host the tractor pull, he was beyond excited! It instilled a joy and excitement in him that was missing for a long time because of the pandemic. Immediately he began preparing his tractors and discussing with his friends how great of an opportunity this is.”
Opportunities to participate in a program can introduce a whole new world of ideas and experiences to youth. UConn 4-H offers transformational life experiences for youth through our club-based programs, afterschool programs, and various other events and activities. The Garden Tractor Pull is one example of our commitment to offering youth opportunities to learn and grow.
“We had over 35 entries at the Garden Tractor Pull,” says Bill Davenport, the UConn 4-H Educator in Litchfield County. “It was a team effort and many volunteers made it happen while adhering to strict safety and social distancing guidelines due to coronavirus. Volunteers and sponsors that helped coordinate the event include Shawn Uscilla, O & G Industries, Missy Cole and the Willing Workers 4-H Dairy Club, and Dean Florio and the Working Wheels 4-H Tractor Club.”
Diego’s father, William Marks, volunteered in the pit crew area of the tractor pull all day, helping hitch and unhitch tractors from the weight and measure distances pulled. Diego’s grandparents, Edward and Hazetta Jackson spent the day at the tractor pull with the family, cheering on all the participants.
Edward Jackson ’62 (CAHNR) was a 4-H member in his youth and started a lifelong journey for his family with UConn. Wendy and her three sisters all graduated from UConn. Hazetta helps Diego every step of the way, helping him with school and getting his tractors ready. She drives him to the different stores for tractor parts; both grandparents are a big part of encouraging Diego and his engineering interests.
“In my spare time, I enjoy working on my tractors, and inventing items that help homeowners make chores easier and faster,” Diego says. “Skills I have learned at school have helped me to fix and modify my garden tractors. My future career goals are focused on owning an engineering and construction company where large equipment is a daily part of my business. One of my goals in the future, is to be able to give back to the community and help others have a 4-H experience.”
Diego is new to 4-H, he’s a member of the 4-H dog club in Hamden and recently joined the Working Wheels in Morris after meeting other youth at the tractor pull. “4-H is very important to me because it gives me the opportunity to be outdoors and work with nature. I am a kid that loves the outdoors,” he says.
“My son is a hard-working student in school, however, with no activities to look forward to, it is hard to keep him motivated on his studies,” Wendy Marks says. “The 4-H tractor pull is exactly the type of activity he needed to keep him working hard in school. What a way to raise a child’s self-esteem, interest and keep them motivated to be involved! At the 4-H tractor pull, for the first time, he placed first in one of the classes.”
Transformational life experiences can happen anywhere, at any life stage. The magic in the UConn 4-H program is that there is something for every youth member. Diego Marks, a young man with a keen interest and skills in engineering, found a new community and opportunities for continued growth and lifelong learning at the Litchfield County 4-H Garden Tractor Pull.
UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over six million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, civic engagement, and life skills through their 4-H project work. Learn more and enroll your child in the UConn 4-H program at http://4-H.uconn.edu/.
UConn CAHNR Extension has more than 100 years’ experience strengthening communities in Connecticut and beyond. Extension programs address the full range of issues set forth in CAHNR’s strategic initiatives:
- Ensuring a vibrant and sustainable agricultural industry and food supply
- Enhancing health and well-being locally, nationally, and globally
- Designing sustainable landscapes across urban-rural interfaces
- Advancing adaptation and resilience in a changing climate.
Programs delivered by Extension reach individuals, communities, and businesses in each of Connecticut’s 169 municipalities.
Article by Stacey Stearns
Participate in STEM-related activities with us all month long!
Click here for a printable pdf.
Written by UConn Dietetics Student Hannah Waxler
The Fall season brings to us a favorite squash!! Pumpkin! Did you know it’s a squash? Pumpkin and the spices that seem to flavor it best are added to just about everything: pumpkin coffee, pumpkin muffins, and of course, pumpkin pie! As delicious as pumpkin treats are, did you know that the seeds of a pumpkin can also be roasted and enjoyed?
Pumpkin seeds are an excellent source of many nutrients, including fiber, protein, magnesium, and potassium1. Pumpkin seeds can be seasoned in many ways and are delightfully crunchy when roasted, which makes them a great addition to salads, trail mixes and for a simple snack-in-a-handful!
Check out this simple way to make your own roasted pumpkin seeds:
- Get a pumpkin!
- Fill a large bowl with warm water
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees
- Wash your hands!
- Carefully, use a sharp knife to cut around the top of the pumpkin around the stem, and then pull on the stem to take off.
- Using a large spoon or your hands, pull all of the seeds out of the pumpkin and place the clumps of seeds directly into the bowl of water. This will get messy, but it’s fun! The stringy orange pulp in the pumpkin can be discarded when pulled out with the seeds.
- Use your hands to separate any remaining pumpkin pulp from the seeds in the bowl of water. The pulp will sink, and the seeds will float once in the water.
- Strain seeds out of the water with a colander, and pat the seeds dry with a paper towel.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Place cleaned and dried pumpkin seeds in a bowl. Now it is time to season them! This is the fun part!
- For a sweet, pumpkin pie flavor, use equal parts cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
- For a savory flavor option, use equal parts salt, pepper, garlic, and cumin.
- Use your own spice mixture as well!
- Once seasonings sprinkled on, use your hands to mix seeds well.
- Lay seasoned pumpkin seeds out in a single layer on the baking sheet.
- Bake the seasoned pumpkin seeds for 30-35 minutes at 275 degrees. Every 15 minutes, carefully open the oven and using a spoon or pancake flipper, stir the seeds around so they are able to roast evenly.
- Once the seeds are lightly browned, remove from the oven and allow to cool on pan.
- Store the roasted pumpkin seeds in a sealed container at room temperature.
There are many ways you can enjoy your toasted pumpkin seeds! A few ideas:
- Sprinkle on top of a green salad
- Add them into a trail mix or granola
- Sprinkle on top of yogurt
- Enjoy these crunchy treats on their own
- USDA https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/784459/nutrients. Accessed October 10, 2020.
This material was funded by USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
This institution is an equal opportunity provider.
Each year, the National Lead Poisoning Prevention Week (NLPPW) outreach campaign is aimed at awareness, action, and prevention. We bring together individuals, diverse organizations, industry, and state, tribal, and local governments nationwide. NLPPW is held this year from October 25‐31, 2020. NLPPW highlights the many ways parents can reduce children’s exposure to lead in their environment and prevent its serious health effects. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and our partners work to heighten awareness of lead poisoning, provide resources, and encourage preventive actions during NLPPW and beyond.
We thank our presenters for their hard work, support of and presentations during NLPPW. The target audiences for our webinars are a wide spectrum of professionals, who we hope will join us, ask questions, and most importantly, benefit.
More information can be found at https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/healthy_homes/nlppw The support of our partners helps us reach target audiences and broadens the range of techniques for
educating families and individuals.
- Monday, October 26th at 11:00 am: Running a Successful Program / Overcoming Barriers in your Lead Program
- Tuesday, October 27th at 11:00 am: Renovation, Repair and Painting Rule ‐ Contractors
- Tuesday, October 27th at 2:00 pm: Incorporating Lead Safety in Building Inspection and Code Enforcement
- Wednesday, October 28th at 11:00 am: Decline in Blood Lad Testing in Young Children Following the Onset of the Pandemic / Lead Poisoning Prevention Efforts During COVID‐19
- Wednesday, October 28th at 2:00 pm: (Spanish Webinar): Role of lead prevention and remediation in health/ Keys for lead poisoning prevention during the COVID‐19 pandemic El Papel de la Prevención y Mitigación del Plomo en la Salud / Claves
Para la Prevención del Envenenamiento Por Plomo Durante la
Pandemia del COVID‐19
- Thursday, October 29th at 11:00 am: Lead Hazards and Housing Discrimination
For more information and registration information please click here.
A new month means new ideas and activities for our 4-Hers and other youth. Each day has an activity for you to complete. Follow along and check off the days, or participate as you have time. For a printable pdf click here.