10 Ways to Volunteer with UConn 4-H

UConn 4-H Legends soccer group
The UConn 4-H Legends.

No matter how much time you have, volunteering with UConn 4-H makes a difference by helping youth explore and discover the skills they need to lead for a lifetime. There are lots of ways to get involved! Please note, your volunteer experience and/or opportunities may be happening virtually or in-person. Contact UConn 4-H for more information and apply to be a UConn 4-H volunteer today at s.uconn.edu/helpus.

Help youth lead a club

  • Assist a youth club leader with organizing meetings, speakers, and other logistics.
  • Assist and/or mentor a 4-H volunteer who is serving as a project leader.

Teach a skill

  • Organize a club, or share your skills by teaching a club meeting workshop, devoted to your area of specialty.

Judge projects

  • Serve as a judge for 4-H exhibits, competitions or performances, providing encouragement and suggestions for improvement.

Plan or help at an event

  • Volunteer at a county/state special event; from set-up or clean-up to serving food or taking registrations, there are a lot of ways to get involved.

Serve on an advisory board/committee

  • Sit on a local advisory or county governing board to help determine program priorities.

Help with a specific 4-H project

  • Advise a 4-H member in their project work: help youth identify and set goals, create and implement a plan, and reflect on what they learned and would do differently next time.

Assist with program delivery

  • Volunteer at an after school program, a summer program, camp program event or club meeting.

Volunteer on a fair organizing committee

  • Volunteer at a local fair – be inspired by the talents and creativity of the next generation while promoting the country’s largest positive youth development organization!
  • Work in the food booth or help in the 4-H exhibit hall or at the 4-H show ring.

Utilize your professional skills

  • Share your technical skills and knowledge to develop subject matter for curriculum/project sheets.
  • Utilize your professional skills to assist with with creating marketing tools, graphic art, word documents, webpages, videos, online training modules, etc.
  • Intern at your local Extension office with the 4-H program, a great resume builder.

Share your experiences

  • Share your hobby/passion – inspire a young person as a guest speaker or short-term instructor.
  • Share your career path – invite a 4-H’er to shadow you for the day.
  • Share your educational path/give a testimonial – how did you get to where you are? (If you are a college student – how did you choose your school, what are you pursuing, what are you aspiring to do?)

Apply to be a UConn 4-H volunteer today at s.uconn.edu/helpus

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension. 4-H has access to research-based, age-appropriate information needed to help youth reach their full potential through UConn’s College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR). The mission of 4-H is to assist all youth ages five through 18 in acquiring knowledge, developing leadership and life skills while forming attitudes that will enable them to become self-directing, productive, and contributing members of their families and communities.

UConn 4-H uses the thriving model in our Extension youth development programs, and these align with all the strategic initiatives in CAHNR. These include climate adaptation and resilience; promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion; enhancing health and well-being; ensuring sustainable agriculture and food systems; and fostering sustainable landscapes at the urban-rural interface. Learn more at s.uconn.edu/4-H.

Youth Genetic Engineering Curriculum Available

cover of genetic engineering curriculum book
Education Professionals and 4-H Leaders: Use our genetic engineering curriculum (both formal and informal) for assistance in your classroom or with your 4-H club. Full curriculum downloads are available at s.uconn.edu/genetic-engineering-curriculum
These can also be used in other educational settings, learn more and explore the toolkit at s.uconn.edu/genetic-engineering-curriculum.
This work is supported by Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Professional Development for Secondary Teachers and Education Professionals Program Grant #2019-68010-29122 from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture.

Summer Program Updates

Empowering Connecticut Communities 

Extension programs are in full swing this summer, both in-person and online. we are here to serve and empower our Connecticut communities, while co-creating solutions to the critical issues that residents and communities are facing. Programs focus on the expertise of the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources (CAHNR) and incorporate UConn’s research. These areas include agriculture and food, climate adaptation and resilience, enhancing health and well-being, and sustainable landscapes at the urban-rural interface. All programs incorporate diversity, equity, inclusion, and justice, as we strive to empower all Connecticut residents.

There are opportunities for you to become further involved with Extension programs this summer. Our UConn 4-H program is preparing for the new 4-H year that begins on October 1st and we need help statewide implementing these programs. Volunteer opportunities include one-time commitments and ongoing involvement. Extension is hiring in different locations at our statewide offices. This summer, we welcomed 17 interns to work on various programs and extend our knowledge further while providing them with life transformative educational opportunities. Finally, we continue adding to our suite of online programs that are offered in both synchronous and asynchronous formats. We look forward to working with you on our various programs and initiatives.

Learn about all our updates.

UConn 4-H Escape Moves to the Next Level

group of girls wearing masks with their screen that says Escape RoomThe UConn 4-H program introduced escape rooms in 2019 as a tool for teaching concepts and content to youth in a fun and interactive manner. This saw great success among audiences of all ages and was repeated a second time in early 2020. Then March 2020 introduced the pandemic and shuttered all in-person 4-H programming. This necessitated the need to switch gears and discover new ways to reach young people in non-traditional formats.

Thus, the 4-H Escapes digital breakout website begun. There was a desire to replicate the success of these in-person breakout activities into a format that could be delivered in the new digital environment everyone suddenly found themselves living in. We designed the first digital escape room activity titled The Secret Clover Stash in the summer of 2020. This first escape room was very rudimentary in its presentation due to limited knowledge by designers at the time. Over the course of the summer new skills were learned and more sophisticated ways to present the content was developed. Using Google Drive software such as Sites, Slides, Forms and Docs, designers crafted immersive, educational experiences for youth using video game design concepts. Similar to the live escape rooms, this digital model challenged participants to solve a series of puzzles to unlock doors to delve deeper into the experience until they reach their ultimate goal.

From the beginning, the desire of the design team was to develop a series of digital breakout experiences on a variety of topics. Many teachers from around the country have used this format to create fun and interactive learning opportunities for their students. However, there was nothing that directly focused on 4-H themed topics. Therefore UConn Extension 4-H educators Marc Cournoyer and Emily Alger began creating content that would fill this void. The Secret Clover Stash was the first but not the last. Since its start in the spring of 2020 the 4-H Escape website now houses a total of seven separate digital breakout activities with more added regularly.

This led to additional partnerships within UConn, as well as with outside educators from other institutions around the country. In the spring of 2021, Michael Puglisi from the UConn Department of Nutritional Sciences inquired on ways to potentially partner some of his students with the design team. Like 4-H, the EFNEP program was in search of innovative ways to deliver educational content to their youth audiences throughout the state. 4-H educators partnered with nutritional sciences undergraduate students to give them the tools to create additional content they would be able to deliver electronically to their audiences. This was a win for everyone, since now EFNEP had new resources and the 4-H Escapes website benefited from the additional content available to their growing audiences.

The summer of 2021 saw the addition of undergraduate Colleen Brady to the design team as part of her summer internship with the Windham County 4-H STEM program. Colleen quickly became a valuable asset to the team designing five new digital breakout activities during the summer months. She is now serving as a peer mentor to the next batch of nutrition students who are interested in becoming content designers.

The growth of the 4-H Escape project goes beyond UConn as partnerships have been developed with 4-H educators throughout the country. This includes universities such as Michigan State, Virginia Tech, the University of Wisconsin. The most recent partner is a 4-H educator from Hawaii who was interested in replicated The Secret Clover Quest to use with her 4-H members throughout the state.

There is also a proposal to design a 4-H horse themed digital breakout in partnership with Dr. Jen Nadeau of the UConn Department of Animal Science to be presented in the spring of 2022 at a national level conference.  This will provide the design team with additional opportunities to share what they have created and the various ways this technology can be replicated and used throughout the country.

The greatest value is that this resource is not limited by geographic borders or space limitations.  Anyone can participate from anywhere.  For more information of the program contact Marc Cournoyer at marc.cournoyer@uconn.edu or 860-774-9600.  All digital breakout activities can be found at https://4-h-escape.extension.uconn.edu/.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn CAHNR Extension. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living. 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 Marc Cournoyer

4-H Mentoring Continues Serving Youth 

Antwon with his 4-H mentoring awardsYouth in Waterbury continued benefitting from the 4-H Mentoring project during the pandemic. The 4-H Mentoring Project is a prevention program where youth gain knowledge, build character, and develop life skills. It is a fun learning environment that helps them become self-directing, productive members of society.  

Approximately 45 youth ages nine through 14 participate annually. Mentoring is a proven strategy for helping at-risk youth achieve a better future. They are more likely to succeed with the extra support of a caring, consistent adult mentor. 

The program increases their interpersonal skills and strengthens family bonds through the 12-month mentoring program. The three project components, mentoring, 4-H activities, and family nights, all contribute to positive impacts.  

The 4-H Mentoring Project provides youth and their families opportunities to broaden their horizons with positive involvement in all that UConn 4-H offers. It’s a win–win for both agencies we partner with, and for youth and their families. 

By Edith Valiquette 

Extension Donor Support is Growing Statewide Programming

high school student sitting with a notebook by the Fenton River
Photo Kara Bonsack

The work of UConn Extension serves thousands of people across Connecticut. UConn Extension educators work in all 169 cities and towns helping Connecticut residents to solve problems in their communities and provide transformational learning experiences to program participants. This couldn’t be done without the financial support of generous donors, many of whom have experienced Extension programs firsthand. 

Donations for Extension programs are made through the UConn Foundation which is an independent nonprofit organization that operates exclusively to promote the educational, scientific, cultural, research and recreational objectives of the University of Connecticut and UConn Health. Housed within the Foundation are funds specifically earmarked for Extension programming that provide critical support to these programs and make it possible to develop innovative programming for Connecticut residents. Here are some examples of programs made possible by the generous contributions of UConn Extension donors.

David E. and Nancy H. Bull CES Innovative Programming Fund

A generous gift from Nancy H. and David E. Bull provides funding to support innovative programming in Extension through a competitive application process open to personnel with a full or partial Extension appointment. Applications must explicitly identify the innovation proposed and the risks involved along with the potential to influence future program delivery. Some of the projects funded include:

UConn CAHNR GMO Team received funding to address the lack of science-based information for citizens regarding genetically modified organisms (GMOs). A multi-faceted educational approach provided unbiased information which included a web site, a panel discussion on the Storrs campus, development of curriculum for youth audiences, and short videos on GMO subjects.

Assistant Extension Educators Abby Beissinger and Shuresh Ghimire received funding to establish a hot water seed treatment program to combat seed-borne pathogens that cause early infections in fields. Identified in 2019 listening sessions as a top agricultural priority in Connecticut, Dr. Ghimire and Ms. Beissinger shared the hot water treatment protocols and workshop curricula and work collaboratively with other states to contribute to best practices.

UConn Natural Resources Conservation Academy program leaders received funding to address equity and inclusion within community conservation practices. NRCA implemented a series of participatory processes to co-design local conservation projects with multiple community stakeholders in the metro-Hartford area. The goal of this project is to allow communities to meaningfully contribute to the development of conservation that is most in demand within their community.

Master Gardener Fund

UConn Extension’s Master Gardener Program began in 1978 instructing participants in science-based horticulture practices and garden management, after which students apply their knowledge by engaging in community education, including lectures, educational displays, demonstrations, and plant clinics, as well as various outreach projects throughout Connecticut. Donations to the Master Gardener Fund within the UConn Foundation are critical to the ongoing training and community outreach that they provide. Donations contribute to salaries of the Master Gardener coordinators housed in each of the local Extension Centers in Connecticut. Donations literally keep the program going and also allow for increased accessibility and flexibility in learning modalities which combines online learning with traditional classroom instruction. 

4-H Centennial Fund

The 4-H Centennial Fund was created in 2002 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the national 4-H program. Donations to the fund ensure that participants in the UConn 4-H program have the opportunity to participate in unique and exciting state, regional and national 4-H events. Many 4-H alumni remember their experience at Citizenship Washington Focus or National 4-H Congress. These trips provide important leadership and civic engagement experiences that youth don’t get elsewhere. A delegation of youth once again attended the 2021 National 4-H Congress and plans are underway for the 2022 Citizenship Washington Focus. 

Donations to UConn Extension through the UConn Foundation have made it possible to reach more people with unique and innovative programming that solves problems in communities and enriches the lives of Connecticut families. Donors can rest assured that their contributions matter and significantly impact the lives of Connecticut residents. 

Please consider supporting Extension at s.uconn.edu/GiveToExtension

Article by Nancy Wilhelm

Online 4-H Record Book using ZSuite

Have you started your 4-H record book for 2021-2022? This year you can record keep on your mobile device or computer through ZSuite, use printed sheets, and handwrite or download and type into the sheets.
Please check with your club leader or local 4-H Office for more information on how record sheets will be reviewed for project entry at fair.

Learn how to use ZSuite for record keeping by watching this video s.uconn.edu/4-hrecord

Job Opening: 4-H Educator – Food and Agricultural Literacy

Extension is seeking applicants for a full-time (11-month), non-tenure track Assistant/Associate Extension Educator, primarily based at the Fairfield County Extension Office in Bethel, CT.  Extension Educators are community-based faculty who make a difference in communities by connecting community needs with university resources. Position level/rank will be commensurate with experience working with Extension.  The anticipated start date is January 2022.

The successful candidate shall create an active 4-H youth development program with a focus on STEM, food, and agricultural literacy.  The program of work shall meet critical needs in the heavily urban southwest region of the state and build the community knowledge base through a multidisciplinary, collaborative program especially in diverse, underserved communities. State and multi-state programming are also expected.  Work will be accomplished by utilizing innovative approaches to deliver timely, evidence-based solutions for participants to significantly increase youth and adult volunteers’ understanding of how food, agriculture, and STEM activities improve their communities. This position may work closely with Agri-Science programs to transition K-8 youth into high school agriculture/aquaculture science programs and other related workforce and career development programming such as MANRRS (Minorities in Agriculture, Natural Resources and Related Sciences).  In addition to community-based learning, this position will extend the reach of UConn Extension by integrating distance-learning technology into program delivery through computer applications, web pages, electronic mailings, multimedia, and emerging technologies.  This 4-H Extension educator is a vital member of the UConn 4-H Youth Development Team and reports to the Head, Department of Extension.  For more information about the University of Connecticut 4-H Extension Program, see http://www.4-h.uconn.edu/

Read the full job description.