UConn 4-H

Learning by Doing with Heather Wirth, Extension Intern

Heather Wirth holding a Jersey heifer with sunshine in the backgroundMy name is Heather Wirth, and I am excited to be an intern this summer through UConn Extension. I am working with UConn 4-H – Tolland County to plan this year’s edition of 4-H Food Revolution. My job is to create a curriculum for a four day youth summer program as well as recruiting participants. During this program youth ages seven to eleven are given the opportunity to experience hands-on learning by partaking in STEM activities relating to preparation of food, gardening, and sustainable living. This program is an important enrichment opportunity for children during the summer, and it creates a foundation for healthy living habits as well as awareness of ecological topics. Food Revolution is a fun way to connect with youth about important environmental matters and to get them out in the field to experience exciting topics.The Food Revolution program also includes lessons and activities to get children started on a Junior Master Gardener certification. I hope to make an impact on the youth of my community by providing an exciting program that sparks curiosity and lifelong learning. 

During this internship, I am working on general recruitment of new members for Tolland County 4-H. By utilizing community based outreach, my goal is to spread awareness about getting involved in 4-H in order to bring in new adult volunteers as well as more youth participants. There are a vast array of ways for people to get involved and I would like to show those who are interested that they can bring valuable knowledge and skills to the 4-H community. I would like to implement educational sessions and resources (such as brochures and social media posts) to a broad audience to spur the interest of newcomers to the organization. Another major component of my internship program is to facilitate the Tolland County 4-H Fair in August. In preparation for the event I will serve as a resource for the youth participants, assist the fair board, and conduct general organization.   

Extension Recognizes Program Volunteers

Carol LeBlanc receiving her volunteer award
Carol LeBlanc receiving her volunteer award.

Volunteers are the heart of UConn Extension Master Gardener Program, UConn CLIR program, and our UConn 4-H program. We were honored to recognize a few of them for their contributions at an event on June 16, 2022. In total, our volunteers donated 156,597 hours (the equivalent of 6,524 days) to our programs in 2021. Thank you all for being a vital part of our Extension work! More information about our volunteer programs is available on our website. The following individuals were recognized for their contributions.

2022 UConn Master Gardener Acorn to Oak Award

Marlene Mayes

Marlene Mayes has been a constant at the Foodshare Garden at Auerfarm for the last two decades. She and the garden both began their Master Gardener relationship in 2004 when then-intern Marlene was one of the initial volunteers who dug, planted and nurtured the first rows of vegetables in a former hayfield at the Bloomfield farm. From those humble beginnings Marlene dreamed, encouraged, cajoled, taught and inspired literally hundreds of volunteers – both Master Gardeners and others – to help build the 50+ bed garden that exists today.

Throughout the years, Marlene has introduced countless would-be gardeners to the skills and satisfaction of growing healthy food, both for themselves and for those in need. The garden has yielded over one ton of food annually for Foodshare in several recent years, and volunteers from all walks of life have discovered the pleasures and the satisfaction of providing for those in need in our communities.

This year, as the garden undergoes a major renovation and upgrade, it is only fitting to honor the person who has been the constant, the rock, the teacher and the inspiration with the Extension Master Gardener Acorn to Oak Award.

2022 UConn Master Gardener Project Pollinator Award

Katherine Kosiba

Look carefully at almost any public garden project in the Colchester area and you will find that Katherine Kosiba was there at the beginning. A Master Gardener since 2007, Katherine has shared her passion for gardening and the environment with anyone and everyone who has shown an interest. Both as president of the Colchester Club and as a Colchester resident, her enthusiasm and inclusive attitude is on display throughout the area. Town parks, senior centers public road medians and the library are all beautified and ecologically healthier sites with diverse gardens and plantings spearheaded by Katherine.

Master Gardeners interns in the Haddam office are also the beneficiaries of Katherine’s energy and generosity as she guides many of them through their first outreach projects, demonstrating not only the nitty-gritty gardening details, but also the organizational and planning skills that are crucial to a successful endeavor. Additionally, she has provided many a nervous Master Gardener with a welcoming venue for their first public talk!

For her tireless efforts developing so many projects and moving from one to the next, and the next, we are delighted to present Katherine Kosiba with the Extension Master Gardener Project Pollinator Award.

2022 CLIR (Center for Learning in Retirement) Outstanding Lifetime Volunteer Award

Compton Rees

Compton passed away on March 14 shortly after being told of his recognition for his longtime service to CLIR.  Compton is a charter member of CLIR joining immediately after his retirement as a UConn English professor.  Over almost 30 years as a member of CLIR, he has presented many classes on Shakespeare’s works and served for years as a member of the CLIR Executive Council including as vice-president several times.

Howard Raphaelson

Howard has been a CLIR member for 25 years, serving on the CLIR Executive Council as Treasurer for several terms where he worked tirelessly to coordinate CLIR’s bookkeeping with UConn and State of Connecticut accounting practices.

Erika Kares

Erika has been a CLIR member for 24 years with more than a decade of service on the CLIR Executive Council.

2020 UConn 4-H Rising Star Award

Stephanie Bicknell

As a 4-H member Stephanie participated in many of the local, state and regional activities which support the 4-H dairy project.  She became a volunteer shortly after aging out as a member and has taken on major leadership with her club “Herds ‘R Us” and serves as the organizational leader.  She also continues to work with the Middlesex & New Haven 4-H Fair and serves as a Fair Program Advisor – one of the key volunteers working with the 4-H Fair Association and the Extension 4-H Staff.  She supports all of the tenets of the 4-H program and epitomizes what the experience in the 4-H program provides for a young person.

Stephen Gustafson

Steve helped create and is the leader of the Paca Pals 4-H club.  The Paca Pals are an alpaca club.   Steve found a place for the youth to learn and grow in the Tolland Agricultural Center (TAC) 4-H Children’s Garden.  The garden was established in 2002 and has been maintained by the 4-H club program for many years.  A neighbor of the TAC property is the Creative Living Community of Connecticut (CLCC) greenhouse and vocational program.   The work of CLCC is to create opportunities for people with and without disabilities to work and learn together.  Steve has been instrumental in fostering a partnership between the 4-H club and CLCC.  Working with CLCC the 4-H club members learn vocational skills and working with diverse populations.  Steve is able to weave science, healthy living and civic engagement into all aspects of the 4- H program through his dedication and hard work.

Megan Hatt

Megan has been a leader of the Happy Hoofbeats 4-H club since 2015.  She is passionate about 4-H and horses.   She is a positive influence on both the county horse program as well as the public speaking program.  Megan is always ready to put teams together and arrange practice for the state horse contests and has served as the coach for 4-H teams participating in the Eastern National 4-H Horse Roundup.  She is very involved in the New London County 4-H Fair and has helped to create a Horse Exhibition at the fair which includes clinics and games and leadership opportunities for the youth involved.  She is generous with her own horses, time and equipment and believes that 4-H helped her become a successful adult and wants to help others find these benefits as they grow.

2021 UConn 4-H Rising Star Award

Margaret Hall

Peg Hall has been an incredibly active, supportive and positive presence in Litchfield County 4-H since she established the Diggity Dogs 4-H Club 8 years ago.  She has also helped to establish and is serving as a co-leader for a new club, the Grow Getters 4-H club.  This new club, the first horticulture based club in Litchfield County drew over 20 new members to its first meeting.  They exist because of Peg’s hard work and determination to help a local garden center owner who is new to 4-H get this club established.  Peg also serves as a Litchfield County 4-H Fair Association director.  Her involvement includes helping to plan and implement the fair as well as cleaning up the fairgrounds.  Peg has also been instrumental in the success of the Operation Community Impact dairy distribution program which provides milk to over 1400 food insecure familes in Litchfield County.

Lauren Manuck

Lauren is an alum of the Hartford County 4-H Program.  She is currently serving as a club leader of the 4-H Clovers.  She has also jumped into action on the county level as well serving as a Hartford County 4-H Advisory Committee member and as a 4-H Fair advisor since 2013.  Within Advisory, Lauren eagerly steps up and takes the lead on projects, ensuring that youth thougout UConn 4-H have numerous opportunities to participate in activities beyond the club level.   She has been instrumental in the success of the Nutrition and Food Show, Hartford County Teen and Volunteer Banquet and Awards Night to name a few.  She was a recipient of the 2020 Winding Brook Community Service Award for her efforts in assisting with the Operation Community Impact milk and ice cream distribution in Hartford County.  She continues to see opportunities to provide nutrition education and work with youth.

2020 UConn 4-H Hall of Fame Award

Colleen Augur

Colleen is the organizational leader of one of New Haven County’s largest and most active 4-H clubs.  Colleen works with 4-5 registered 4-H volunteers conducting 4-H meetings and teaching the youth how to care and manage their animals which are primarily dairy and beef. The member’s involvement does not stop at the club level.  Yearly, they have 100 percent participation in the 4-H fair ad campaign, showing at the 4-H fair and other county activities.  Her teen members become managers, superintendents and officers in the 4-H fair on a regular basis.  Colleen often provides project animals from her own herd for members without animals of their own, helping the members transport their project animals to and from the fair.  Colleen shares her love of farming, agriculture and 4-H with youth and the general public.  She is a great example of what youth can learn and achieve with hard work and responsibility.

Stephen and Nancy Hayes

Some people choose to join 4-H, other, such as the Hayes family, are born into it.  Stephen and Nancy Hayes have made a lifelong commitment to 4-H.  Both are guiding forces for the Granby 4-H club and have been instrumental in many other aspects of the Hartford County 4-H Program.  Nancy has served the goat program in Hartford County and UConn 4-H extensively.  For 15 years Nancy has been instrumental in the very successful UConn 4-H Goat Day.  In 2017 a robotics team was formed as part of Granby 4-H. Stephen became involved as a mentor to members, sharing his programming knowledge.  Shortly after that Nancy became involved.  Both Stephen and Nancy spend hundreds of hours meeting several times a week with the youth members.  They are both skilled in empowering the youth to make decisions, allowing them to safely ask questions without hesitation, make mistakes, master their skills, then celebrate the successes as a team and individuals.

2021 UConn 4-H Hall of Fame Award

Wendy Kennedy

For over 35 years Wendy has been an active part of the success of the Litchfield County 4-H Program.  She grew up in Litchfield County 4-H and has been the co-leader of the Busy Farmers 4-H Dairy Club for over 20 years.  As a club leader Wendy makes sure her members hold regular meetings, participate in county and state-wide activities and that members are learning something while having fun. She has served as a director on the county 4-H Fair Association for many years.   She serves on the Board of Directors for the Litchfield County 4-H foundation and has held many leadership positions on the foundation board.  She has volunteered to chaperon many county and state-wide 4-H trips and was also involved in the Operation Community Impact dairy distribution project providing over 1400 food insecure families with dairy products.  Wendy embodies the true spirit of 4-H in everything that she does.

Patricia Miele Bianchi

Pat grew up in a home where 4-H was a significant component of daily life and she was an active and enthusiastic 4-Her.  She served as a club leader for 18 years and helped foster an interest in 4-H in many youth including her own children.  Pat served as a Hartford County 4-H Camp Trustee holding numerous officer positions and participating on many committees.  In addition to her work with 4-H camp, Pat is involved as a Director within the Hartford County 4-H Fair Association.   Pat’s county-wide contributions include judging for the Nutrition and Food show, the Fashion Review as well as for the County and State Public Speaking Contests.  Her experience with Toastmasters has contributed to the learning of public speaking contestants.  On a broader level, Pat was active in the College’s Strategic Visioning process.  She uses her first-hand experiences as a 4-H’er and volunteer to champion the positive impact that 4-H has on the lives of young people.

2020 4-H Salute to Excellence – Volunteer of the Year Regional Winner

Stephen Gustafson

Steve helped create and is the leader of the Paca Pals 4-H club.  The Paca Pals are an alpaca club.   Steve found a place for the youth to learn and grow in the Tolland Agricultural Center (TAC) 4-H Children’s Garden.  The garden was established in 2002 and has been maintained by the 4-H club program for many years.  A neighbor of the TAC property is the Creative Living Community of Connecticut (CLCC) greenhouse and vocational program.   The work of CLCC is to create opportunities for people with and without disabilities to work and learn together.  Steve has been instrumental in fostering a partnership between the 4-H club and CLCC.  Working with CLCC the 4-H club members learn vocational skills and working with diverse populations.  Steve is able to weave science, healthy living and civic engagement into all aspects of the 4- H program through his dedication and hard work.

2021 4-H Salute to Excellence – Lifetime Volunteer Regional Winner

June Zoppa

June is a positive and integral part of the 4-H community in Hartford County.  She is the only volunteer who serves or has served simultaneously on the Hartford County 4-H Advisory Board, Hartford County 4-H Fair Association and the Hartford County 4-H Camp, Inc. Board of Trustees along with being a club leader.  Within her 4-H club, June works patiently with club members as they learn to master sewing projects.  Many judges have rewarded the projects submitted by June’s club with ribbons, special honors, and awards.  In addition, a major component of June’s 4-H experience is built upon community service and leadership development.  June’s involvement as Fair Advisor includes helping the Fundraising Committee plan and execute an ambitious fundraising drive.  She supports the youth in assessing decisions required to promote, design and print the premium book, roll out the sponsorship campaign and additional fundraisers.  Her work ethic and compassion for youth has been demonstrated since her initial days in 4-H and has been evident in the relationships she has formed with members, parent, volunteers and mentees.

2021 4-H Salute to Excellence – Volunteer of Year Regional Winner

Rachael Manzer

Rachael Manzer exemplifies science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) in 4-H.  She understands the importance and need for STEM and Agricultural Literacy, and she has increased opportunities for STEM learning by establishing the only 4-H Vex Robotics program in New England.  This robotics program has its own “Cinderella” story – big dreams, few resources and the amazing efforts of many to make it a success.  Out of approximately 12,500 teams across the world, about 500 earn a spot to compete in the World Championship.  At VEX World Championship, the largest robot competition in the world, teams from around the world compete. Rachael’s robotics program acheieved this honor three times.  Rachael is also a very accomplished educator, astronaut and STEM teacher.  She uses these experiences, knowledge, skills and networks to enhance the experiences and opportunities for her 4-H club members.

2022 – 4-H Salute to Excellence – Volunteer of the Year State Winner

Margaret Hall

Peg Hall has been an incredibly active, supportive and positive presence in Litchfield County 4-H since she established the Diggity Dogs 4-H Club 8 years ago.  She has also helped to establish and is serving as a co-leader for a new club, the Grow Getters 4-H club.  This new club, the first horticulture based club in Litchfield County drew over 20 new members to its first meeting.  They exist because of Peg’s hard work and determination to help a local garden center owner who is new to 4-H get this club established.  Peg also serves as a Litchfield County 4-H Fair Association director.  Her involvement includes helping to plan and implement the fair as well as cleaning up the fairgrounds.  Peg has also been instrumental in the success of the Operation Community Impact dairy distribution program which provides milk to over 1400 food insecure familes in Litchfield County.

2022 – 4-H Salute to Excellence – Lifetime Volunteer Regional Winner

Carol Ann LeBlanc

Carol’s 52 year 4-H volunteer career began in 1970 when she wanted to expand upon her early 4-H experiences.  She has established three 4-H clubs, including Snoopy’s Pals 4-H Club, serving youth from Connecticut and Massachusetts and she served in numerous other county, state and regional roles.  Members of Carol’s club have earned showmanship championships, AKC certifications, record book awards, leadership medals and county fair fundraising awards.  Club members have served in county Fair Association roles and as delegates for various award trips.  With Carol’s careful guidance and commitment to positive youth development, club members and mentees demonstrate the traits of independence, confidence, leadership and perseverance. Carol’s leadership on the New England 4-H Dog Committee, and her pioneering partnership with the Eastern States Exposition (The Big E), has ensured a three-day, two night 4-H dog program during The Big E.  Carol has been a tireless 4-H volunteer who leads by example.  Her compassion for youth has been demonstrated since her initial days in 4-H.

Community Promise Week – Thank You Volunteers!

To celebrate our amazing volunteers, we are recognizing the work they’ve done. This April 24-30 is our #CommunityPromiseWeek, where we’ll be highlighting a few key leaders that make our programs possible. Thank you to Carol, Sandy, Ellen, Kim, Peg and Rich for all that you do! Stay tuned throughout the week as we highlight more of our volunteers.

Carol LeBlanc Sandy Eggers

 

Ellen PaineKim Osga

Peg HallRick Page

Waterbury 4-H Youth Mentoring Program is Thriving

Waterbury 4-H youth dance squadWaterbury’s 4-H program is going strong! As we all know the past two years have been far from ordinary. While Waterbury Youth Services, Inc. (WYS) has been facilitating 4-H programing for 30 years, we have had to face new challenges and with them, new joys. While in person programming was not an option, our team of mentors put together bi-monthly activities which we mailed to our 4-H families. Just like if we were in person, our activities were seasonally themed and encouraged members to get outside, collaborate with their families and communities, and hopefully learn a thing or two while having fun. We sent out monthly challenges, in which youth would send back evidence of a completed “challenge” such as a scavenger hunt or science experiment, each submission an entry to a gift card drawing.

This summer, our summer camp had a blast integrating 4-H Healthy Living activities into our camp day. We ate food from every color of the rainbow, reminded each other to drink plenty of water, and even prepared “go-bags” that members were able to take home and discuss emergency plans with their families. They were so excited to receive achievement awards from our UConn Extension collaborators (Ms. Peggy and Ms. Maryellen) at the end of summer.

4-H youth with a mentor working on codingOur dance program is back in full swing with our new dance coach Ms. Tatiana. Their first performance was at Waterbury Youth Services annual Back to School Rally in August, a citywide event where families can get free backpacks, school supplies, and resources for their students. The 4-H dance team’s debut was a huge success, with an original performance followed by the team leading the crowd in line dances like the cha-cha, slide and cupid shuffle. They also put together an original dance for our Halloween family night as well as our Winter Holiday family night.

Creative arts has been working on seasonal decorations for our WYS hallway now that peopleWaterbury 4-H youth coding project are back in the building. From paper crafts to painting to sculpture, there is no limit to this group’s creativity. This spring they will be taking on photography, and we cannot wait to see what the capture.

Our new Coding group is thriving. We are balancing computer activities with “unplugged” computer science, such as coding your own name, designing and troubleshooting a maze, and finding the computer science skill of error detection to be quite helpful in magic tricks.

Waterbury Youth Services is proud of our 4-H groups and look forward to many more years of collaboration!

Article and Photos: Amanda Augeri, 4-H Mentoring Coordinator

 

Enrolling in 4-H Using Z Suite

The new 4-H year began on October 1st, and here at UConn 4-H we use the Z Suite enrollment system. It helps our educators and staff serve over 17,000 youth and 4,000 volunteers annually. We offer a how-to video on how to use Z Suite to add a new youth or volunteer to UConn 4-H or re-enroll for the new program year.

4-H Bugs Summer Activity

Article by Sara Tomis ’22 (CAHNR)

youth around table doing activityThis summer, UConn 4-H New London County completed their first in-person program since early spring, 2020. The program focused on entomology and STEM and was facilitated through Preston Parks and Recreation summer camp. Students ranging from 4 to 12 years in age participated in a variety of activities designed to “break the ice” with bugs while learning about insect habitats, developmental stages, feeding behaviors, and anatomy.

Although many younger campers were eager to get their hands dirty and learn by doing (even when this involved making ‘ant restaurants’ that combined a variety of sticky, creamy, and crunchy foods), older campers exhibited a limited interest in engaging with these activities early in the program. However, by the end of the summer, young and older campers alike were enthusiastic about trying new things, interacting with the natural world, and engaging with content that they were initially apprehensive about. Additional impacts resulting from this experience involved promoting science education and science-based careers to young women, as well as teaching young learners how to overcome their fears and insecurities during their pursuit of knowledge and growth.

two kids huggingThe 4-H Bugs program further served as an environment where students were able to develop a sense of community and teamwork. One student found a cicada exoskeleton at camp and brought his new ‘friend’ to 4-H Bugs program sessions over multiple weeks. His peers encouraged his newfound interest in entomology and together the group made a habitat for the exoskeleton and created paper ‘food’ for the exoskeleton to enjoy. The students applied what they had learned about insect diets and life cycles as they interacted with the exoskeleton, who was named Steven.

All students expressed increased interest in engaging with insects as the weeks progressed. The last session of the program involved creating habitats for live mealworms, which went home with students inside plastic water bottles filled with leaves, sticks, banana peels, and sheep grain for the worms to eat. The students were each allotted one mealworm each. However, as the worms were purchased in packs of 12, there were extra worms at the end of the session.

Almost all of the students asked for a second or even a third worm to add to their habitat and talked about their plans for feeding and caring for their insect as they moved on to their next camp session.

Cultivating positive interactions with peers and the natural world has a profound impact on how young students view their world and their future. The 4-H Bugs program was successful in providing such an experience to participants through experiential learning. Students benefited from an in-person learning modality after an extended period of time where their primary educational interactions took place in a virtual environment as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This program is reflective of UConn Extension’s commitment to improving the lives of residents and stakeholders through quality educational programming.

Faces of Extension: Bill Davenport

Bill DavenportBill Davenport quote

Meet Bill Davenport, our UConn 4-H Litchfield County Educator. “After growing up as an active UConn 4-H member, my ultimate career goal was to become a UConn 4-H Educator so I could help provide 4-H youth with the life-changing experiences, skills and friendships I received from my own 4-H experience. I am thrilled to finally reach my goal of being the Litchfield County UConn 4-H Educator!”

What is a 4-H Escape, and how can I sign up? – #AskUConnExtension

This week, we put the #AskUConnExtension Showcase spotlight on “4-H Escape,” a UConn 4-H program connecting and teaching students and campers across CT.
To learn more and start your escape room journey, check out 4-h-escape.extension.uconn.edu
blue and green boxes with 4-H escape image and kids in the background
Text: This summer, stay connected with 4-H and try your luck at one of their online escape rooms! UConn 4-H is excited to offer “4-H Escape,” a library of virtual escape rooms and puzzles for families and students to enjoy.
blue, white and green boxes with text and image of Marc
Text: Escape rooms were first introduced to the program at the Middlesex County 4-H in 2019. Since then, the COVID-19 pandemic has made virtual escape room opportunities an extremely important activity for the program, with demand skyrocketing. Marc Cournoyer, a member of the 4-H team, 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.”
boxes with text, 4-h escape images and laptop background
Text: Escape rooms are not only educational, but they are extremely fun skill-building exercises. Currently, 4-H Escape offers escape rooms in different subjects, such as “The Secret Clover Quest,” “Life on the Farm,” and “Under the Sea.” These activities are available to the public, and are just waiting to be solved!