UConn 4-H

2021 UConn 4-H Volunteer Award Winners

Volunteers are at the heart of UConn Extension and are an essential part of UConn 4-H! We are grateful for each and every one of you who show a dedication to service, leadership, and above all community! 

4-H clover

Our 2021 UConn 4-H Volunteer Award Winners are:

4-H Alumni Award – Elaine Brodeur, Litchfield County

Meritorious Service to 4-H Award – Robert Lyle, Hartford County

4-H Leadership Award – Harlan Hyde, Jr., New London County

Salute to Excellence Volunteer of the Year Nominee– Rachael Manzer, Hartford County

Salute to Excellence Lifetime Volunteer Nominee– June Zoppa, Hartford County

National 4-H Hall of Fame Nominee– Arnold Nieminen, New London County


Congratulations and thank you for your dedication to UConn 4-H!   

UConn 4-H Virtual Escape Rooms Keep Youth Engaged

4-H Escape Room banner photoEscape rooms have gained popularity with youth and adults worldwide as small groups work together to find clues, solve puzzles, and other tasks that allow them to escape from a room. Depending on the activity, there can be one or more rooms, and there is usually a time limit. Once the team has completed the task for each room there is a prize – in some cases the prize is just that they have escaped.

UConn 4-H, the youth development program of Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources, first introduced escape rooms in 2019 at the Middlesex County 4-H skill-a-thon event for youth ages 7-19. There were puzzles and a series of six treasure chests. The youth needed to unlock all six to get a prize. The escape room event was extremely popular and a fun way for youth to build teamwork skills and test their 4-H knowledge. Popularity was so high that parents and adult volunteers requested an opportunity to play and the entire experience was repeated with a new theme and puzzles at the same event in 2020.

When COVID-19 cancelled all in-person events, Marc Cournoyer, a member of the UConn 4-H team and designer of the 4-H escape rooms decided to move them to a virtual format to provide youth with an opportunity to continue participation.

“Teachers often use escape rooms as a fun way to teach learning concepts through puzzles,” Cournoyer says. “We created our first virtual escape room for younger 4-H members, primarily ages 7-12 in the summer of 2020, it’s called the Secret Clover Stash. Youth have to help Cris Clover find his way through all the puzzles to unlock doors and collect all the clovers.”

Youth from across Connecticut participated in the Secret Clover Stash. This virtual escape room was created using Google Forms and was basic in its design.

Several states from the northeast have adopted the Secret Clover Stash escape room developed by UConn 4-H and are using it with their youth members. The states are collaborating with UConn 4-H on a Computer Science Pathways grant through Google and National 4-H. Cournoyer shared the original escape room template with 4-H educators from other states.

A second version called “The Secret Clover Quest” is geared towards 4-H members of all ages. It was built in the format of a website through the use of Google Sites with gamification through the use of Google Slides, Docs and Forms. “This version is a much more immersive experience than the original due to the additional puzzle gaming aspects,” Cournoyer says.

“Youth can work as an individual or group to solve these escape room puzzles,” Cournoyer says. “These activities help youth build skills in creative thinking, problem solving and retention of key concepts through the use of gamification. Kids are learning through play.”

Cournoyer is currently submitting a proposal to educate others about escape rooms as a teaching tool this fall at the upcoming National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals annual conference. He is also meeting with colleagues interested in learning more about how these escape rooms work and the science behind the design. A future goal is to assemble a team of 4-H educators from around the country to design new escape room experiences that will be hosted on the UConn 4-H Escape website. “It only makes sense to work together to give youth learning opportunities that are also fun and interactive. Since these activities are virtual there is no geographic limitation to who can participate. Therefore, it makes sense to work in collaboration with educators from other states rather than everyone inventing their own unique versions,” Cournoyer says.

All these breakout experiences can be found on the new UConn 4-H Escape website at https://4-h-escape.extension.uconn.edu/. A new breakout activity is added each month. There are three additional breakouts currently under development that will be appearing on the website in the coming months.

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, 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 Stacey F. Stearns

County Connections: UConn 4-H Teen Council’s Quarterly Newsletter

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In an effort to enhance the UConn 4-H program, members have gotten together to form the UConn 4-H Teen Council. The Council consists of active members in UConn 4-H between the ages of 14 and 18, with no more than 2 members from each county in the state.

Check out UConn 4-H Teen Council’s Quarterly Newsletter, County Connections, to learn more about the council’s vision, officers, and more!

Access the newsletter here.


4-H Volunteer Spotlight – Elaine Brodeur, Litchfield County 4-H Program

Elaine BrodeurThe Bethlehem Busy Stitchers 4-H club is very fortunate to have Elaine Brodeur as their club leader.  Elaine’s daughter will tell you that Elaine needs 4-H as an excuse to own eight sewing machines and a stash of fabric and sewing supplies to rival any JOANN store. But Elaine goes on to explain, “I love to sew and share my skills with young people especially since it is not taught in schools anymore.” She joined 4-H at the age of 10 and has maintained her connection with 4-H for the past 65 years. As a youth, her project focus was clothing. She attended 4-H camp for several years at the Litchfield County 4-H Camp (what is now Warren Woods) and Junior Leadership conferences that were held at the UConn Storrs campus.

Elaine adds, “At that time we had county dress reviews and the best senior members were chosen to attend the state dress review. Winners from there went to National 4-H Congress. I was in the state review several times. I never went out of state…the competition was pretty tough then.”

Elaine gets her commitment to 4-H from her mother, Bernice Assard, who passed away in 2008. Bernice became the club leader of the Bethlehem Busy Stitchers back in 1956. During Bernice’s 50 years as club leader hundreds of youth benefitted from her instruction and guidance with many also participating in statewide activities and national trips such as Citizenship Washington Focus and National 4-H Congress. In 2002 Bernice was inducted into the National 4-H Hall of Fame during its inaugural year.

While the club’s projects focus on sewing and home economics, they have always participated in community service projects. In the past the club has sold soup at the Christmastown Festival, marched in the Memorial Day Parade and made hand warmers for the Woodbury Senior Center. The club also made lunches to serve the workers who volunteered to rebuild the local community hall after it burned back in the 1980s. More recently they have sewn and donated over 300 tote bags to a local women’s shelter which in turn fills the bags with much needed supplies for the residents. They have been participating in this project for the past eleven years.

With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the club has been sewing face masks for local nursing homes. This has turned into a major community effort in which the club has donated enormous time and effort in assisting the Caring for Bethlehem organization, a local non-profit charity that provides food and relief assistance to the surrounding community.

Elaine took over leadership of the club from her mother in 2006 and keeps club members busy with a variety of activities. She spends a great deal of time during the summer helping club members get their sewing, craft and cooking projects ready for the 4-H Fair held each year in August. She is also the coordinator of the Textile Arts Contest for 4-H Expressive Arts day and serves on the planning committee for this event.

When asked why she has stayed involved with 4-H for so many years, she replies, “To some extent I feel obligated to carry on my mother’s legacy. 4-H was very important to her. 4-H provides a structure for opportunities to practice many life skills in a low-risk environment like project planning, meeting deadlines, interviewing, public speaking, following instructions, record keeping and teamwork. I could not do it without the help of Jen Woodward my assistant or the help of the member’s parents.”

Article by Nancy Wilhelm, State 4-H Program Coordinator

UConn 4-H in 40: Surviving the Holidays

UConn 4-H presents

4-H in 40

A Series of Virtual Workshops for Adults the second Tuesday of each month at 7:00pm. 

These workshops are open to any interested adults- volunteers, 4-H leaders, parents, and community members. The opportunity to register will continue through the year. Each presentation is 20-30 minutes long, followed by 10-20 minutes discussion time (so the workshop is done in 40 minutes!).

Click here to register. The Zoom login will be emailed to you, along with any handouts that accompany workshops.

Alli is a social worker, nutrition and health coach, and personal trainer with an extensive back ground in mental health. She works with adults to find their bio-individual balance and achieve goals with nutrition, health, wellness, and lifestyle.

Register Here

words, basket with vegetables, christmas wreath

Meet the UConn 4-H Legends

UConn 4-H Legends soccer group
The UConn 4-H Legends at a pre-COVID event.

Meet the UConn 4-H Legends, a soccer playing 4-H club in Danbury, CT that’s been in existence for about three years.  This 35-member club, composed of boys and girls, has several projects:  sports, nutrition, leadership and community service. Although they do a variety of things, they are at the soccer field 3 times a week, improving their soccer skills and learning teamwork, personal responsibility, goal setting, decision making, and creative problem solving. Leader Anna Loor and her coaches, Julio Buestan and Narcisa Tenezaca lead and facilitate the club.

Until Covid 19 struck, 4-H Legends participated in soccer tournaments every month. Healthy snacks are part of the nutrition education and soccer practice. At monthly Family Nights Out, youth and their families increase their nutrition knowledge while making a group healthy meal for everyone to eat.

As a multi-disciplinary effort of the Fairfield County UConn Extension office, Heather Peracchio, Community Nutrition Educator, registered dietician organized and taught the classes at the Family Nights Out. German Cutz, our former Sustainable Community Educator organized the soccer portion, and Ede Valiquette, 4-H Educator, worked with the adult leaders to support the 4-H club.

As with any 4-H club, community service is a priority. At their monthly business meetings, the club discuses and makes decisions regarding service projects for the year. Although they have done a variety of projects, their “best” one was perhaps conducted this year, “Celebrating our Heroes”.  In “Celebrating our Heroes”, Legends soccer coach and chef, Julio Buestan helped the Legends, prepare 150 meals for healthcare workers at Danbury Hospitals during the height of the Covid 19 virus outbreak.

Article by Edith Valiquette, Extension 4-H Educator