4-H Robotics Shines at The Big E

Our UConn 4-H members participate in the Big E, the world’s only multi-state fair, with their projects every September. It provides an opportunity to showcase their project and develop lifelong skills to serve them in their future careers and activities. The robotics program offers demonstrations in the New England Center, and shares information on STEM topics with audiences from throughout the region. Learn more about the Big E at https://www.thebige.com/ and the UConn 4-H program at https://4-h.extension.uconn.edu/.


Bonnie Kegler: Empowering Youth with UConn 4-H

Bonnie KeglerBonnie Kegler (’88 CAHNR, ’90 NEAG) joined UConn Extension and the 4-H program in Windham County as an assistant extension educator in July, after an award-winning teaching career at Killingly High School in the agricultural education program.

“I want youth in the UConn 4-H program to have a sense of accomplishment on any level, whether it’s receiving a ribbon at the 4-H fair, being recognized for their contributions, or being in a peer group among other people with similar interests,” she says.

Bonnie was an agricultural education student at E.O. Smith High School and wanted to be a veterinary technician. She went to Sul Ross State University in Alpine, Texas; at the time, their vet tech program was the second highest rated in the country. She only intended to stay two years but discovered the livestock judging team.

“It changed my life, I didn’t even know they had one,” Bonnie says. “I love decision making with the information you have, and the confidence that comes with making that decision and living with the consequences.” She ended up coaching the team her senior year at Sul Ross, a significant recognition for her livestock evaluation and teaching skills.

After graduating, she got a job at a veterinary practice in West Texas, it was the only practice for 100-miles, so they treated all animals. Bonnie recalls taking a metal coffee can with rocks out to the barn section of the clinic to feed or treat animals, shaking the can along the way to scare the rattle snakes, who slithered out of the barn.

Bonnie returned to Connecticut in 1985, and pursued a masters degree in animal science, also coaching the livestock judging team at UConn, and then earned a teaching certificate from the Neag School of Education.

She loves education and animals, so it was a natural fit to teach agricultural education in the high school setting. Bonnie was always involved with 4-H through her own children too and adds that she loves watching the relationship and learning process between kids and animals.

“Watching youth find out something they didn’t know or get better at something excites me,” she says. “They want to improve, those ‘aha’ moments and watching growth, or having someone get recognized for something they’re passionate about, and helping kids understand how much they are capable of accomplishing. Seeing youth understand that what they know and the skills they have is the coolest thing, and it carries over to adult education too.”

Connecticut has a lot to offer, and Bonnie enjoys living in Mansfield with her husband, and spending time on the shoreline. She also raises and shows Hampshire sheep, and participates in dog agility with Tucker, her Corgi.

Her positive impact is already being felt by youth in Windham County, she led her first 4-H Fair shortly after joining Extension in July and is currently recruiting youth and adult volunteers for the program. Bonnie is also working on statewide agricultural and food literacy programs to educate residents. All her work with UConn 4-H is united in the effort to empower youth to make a positive impact and reach their full potential.

“Youth need to hear from someone that believes they have the ability to do something. I see things in kids where they weren’t sure they would be good, and I give them a different way to look at it,” Bonnie concludes. “I help them understand that what they know is valuable. If they’re willing to learn there isn’t anything they can’t do.”

Visit s.uconn.edu/4-H to learn more about the UConn 4-H program, enroll your youth member, or become a volunteer.

Why Support Extension During UConn Gives

It’s UConn Gives, a 36-hour giving initiative that brings UConn Nation together to support and celebrate what they care about at UConn. We are asking you to support our Extension programs during this event. Matt Syrotiak and Stacey Stearns share information about the 4-H and Master Gardener programs, and why your support of $5 can help these programs grow and expand:



Support these programs at s.uconn.edu/givetogardeners and https://s.uconn.edu/give4-H23.

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