Connecticut has faced challenges related to sustainable landscapes, food and agriculture, health, and the climate for generations. As problems are solved, new issues arise. Our educators faced the unprecedented challenges of 2020 and pivoted programs to offer life transformative education despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Programming moved to virtual environments through online certificate programs, virtual field days, WebEx meetings, and YouTube videos. Our educators created and released 318 new videos on YouTube. These videos reached 305,200 people and had 39,501 viewers that watched 1,200 hours of Extension instruction.
One of every nine Connecticut residents struggled with food insecurity before COVID-19. For many individuals and families, challenges surrounding food insecurity increased when the pandemic arrived and continued throughout 2020. The stress associated with food insecurity challenges one of the most basic human needs and deepens income and health disparities.
UConn Extension programs addressed the food insecurity challenges that our community members are facing due to COVID-19. Educators coordinated dairy foods donations to help address food insecurity challenges—facilitating the donation of over 160,000 pounds of dairy products statewide.
Extension works collaboratively with our partners and stakeholders to find solutions that improve our communities. We serve thousands of people every year. Our work is in every town and city of the state and the broader impacts make Connecticut a better place to live for all of us.
The human, environmental, and agricultural issues that we face change. The needs of our residents’ change. Our commitment to providing life transformative education remains steadfast.
Land-grant universities have provided communities, organizations, farmers and individuals with practical knowledge rooted in research through the Cooperative Extension System since the passage of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914. Over the last 107 years a lot has changed with our Extension systems. The program has expanded beyond its agricultural production origin to encompass a wide variety of resources ranging from nutrition to environmental issues and technology.
UConn Extension is no exception to this evolution that the Cooperative Extension System has seen. However, one thing has not changed, in more than a century of working with Connecticut residents, producers, and communities; UConn Extension has always been about connection. Across the board, UConn Extension educators and programs strike at the very core of our 169 cities and towns to make each one of them a better place. Connecting Connecticut, our new podcast, showcases each of our programs through the eyes of those impacted by them.
Connecting Connecticut teaches individuals throughout our state about the programs in their communities. By talking to extension educators, volunteers, researchers, and community members each episode dives into the goals and impacts our programs have here in Connecticut. From learning about coastal resilience and the Connecticut Sea Grant program, looking into the impact 4-H has on the state’s youth and communities, to discussing the importance of volunteers across the Constitution State it is our goal to share the work of UConn Extension, and ultimately our impact on Connecticut.
Join us as we hop from Salisbury to Stonington, visit all eight counties, and talk to all of the wonderful people in between that truly make this state great. Our goal to reach every community, people from all walks of life, and strive for a better tomorrow and we have been fulfilling that mission since 1914. We are chronicling that journey and the people who make it
possible everyday. It is only fitting that in telling our story we do so by Connecting Connecticut.
Congratulations to Stephen Gustafson, Tolland County 4-H Volunteer, who has been selected by National 4-H Council to receive the Northeast Volunteer of the Year award for 2020. Steve helped create and is the leader of the Paca Pals 4-H club. The Paca Pals are an alpaca club. The club meets at the Round Hill alpaca farm monthly. At the meetings the youth conduct a business meeting, learn about alpaca care and showmanship, and plan their yearly calendar. Their calendar is youth driven and is for activities, competitions and community outreach. Steve empowers the club members to take on meaningful leadership roles in the club and their community. He works equally well with youth members and adult stakeholders. Steve looks for opportunities beyond the farm where the youth can learn and grow.
Off the alpaca farm, Steve found a place for the youth to learn and grow in the Tolland Agriculture 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 on the TAC property is the Creative Living Community of Connecticut (CLCC) Greenhouse and vocational program. The CLCC greenhouse sits right next to the 4-H Children’s garden. The work of CLCC, to create opportunities for people with and without disabilities to work and learn together, is a wonderful match with the work of 4-H. The garden and greenhouse being neighbors has enabled the CLCC farmers to work outside in the garden in the summer with the 4-H program. Steve has been instrumental in fostering this partnership. He is able to coordinate between the two groups because of his volunteer work with both. The 4-H youth and CLCC farmers are both learning valuable vocation and life skills. The UConn 4-H Program is honored to announce this well-deserved recognition for Steve.
When we think of environmental education (EE), we might think of connecting youth to nature, increasing student academic achievement, and developing the next generation of environmental stewards. These are all excellent and proven benefits of EE. But EE that specifically empowers youth and adults towards environmental actionin their community can also lead to direct environmental and community benefits.
Goal:I set out to assess collective environmental & community impact of conservation projects carried out by teen-adult volunteer partnerships participating in UConn’s Natural Resources Conservation Academy.
NRCA comprises programs that provides place-based, environmental action programs for teens & adults
Teen & adult volunteer teamsformed
Trained inconservation science&technology during field experience or workshop
Teams identify &address a local conservation issue(projects tailored to individual circumstances & community need)
Participants share projects atregional conferenceQuantifying impact:I assessed impact of167projects carried out by308teens and adults participating in two UConn NRCA programs (Conservation Ambassador Program and Conservation Training Partnerships).
The challenge: develop a systematic protocol to quantify metrics fromdiverseconservation efforts
Connecticut Sea Grant is encouraging teachers and parents to check out the many online educational resources available that can be used for virtual and at-home lessons about Long Island Sound and the larger marine environment.
These can be found on theeducational publications section of the CT Sea Grant website. In addition to online resources, a limited number of print copies ofLiving Treasures: The Plants and Animals of Long Island Sound, and the Spanish language version,Tesoros Vivientes, that can be mailed to homes free of charge during the viral outbreak on a first-come, first-served basis during the pandemic. A limited number of print copies of CT Sea Grant’s biannual magazine,Wrack Lines, can also be mailed free of charge. Please send requests to:Judy.firstname.lastname@example.org.
UConn Extension has collaborated with our partners, communities and stakeholders for over 100 years. We are proud to serve all 169 cities and towns in Connecticut. The worldwide pandemic involving COVID-19 (coronavirus) has produced unprecedented challenges in the UConn community and around the world. Our services continue during this challenging time.
We are still delivering the science-based information you need. We are ready to answer your questions. Consult with us by email or on the phone. All of our educators are working and ready to serve you. Ask us a question online.
We are developing virtual programs to offset canceled in-person learning opportunities. Our educators are writing and updating fact sheets and other information. You have access to educational materials on our YouTube channel. We are growing our suite of online resources every day to meet the needs of our communities and stakeholders.
UConn CAHNR Extension educators have curated resources related to COVID-19 for our statewide audiences, including families, businesses, and agricultural producers.
Listings of open farms/farmers’ markets and school emergency meal distribution
Parents and families with children out of school can use the resources from our UConn 4-H program to provide new educational activities for youth. Activities available will keep youth engaged and learning and are appropriate for a variety of age groups.
A list of resources has been collected for Connecticut businesses. It is a clearinghouse of resources, and not an official site. Business owners can connect to the state resources we provide for official and legal advice.
Agricultural producers are still working on farms, in greenhouses and along the coast in Long Island Sound during the COVID-19 outbreak. Extension educators have developed resources for specific agricultural sectors, including fruit and vegetable farms, aquaculture, and nursery and landscape professionals. Links to important updates from the Connecticut Department of Agriculture also are available.
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.
Limit Social Interactions: The key to slowing the spread of COVID-19 is to limit social interactions as much as possible. Parents should minimize play dates, and if held, parents should keep the groups small. Advise older children to hang out in a small group and to meet up outside rather than inside. It’s easier to keep and maintain space between others in outdoor settings, like parks.
Practice Social Distancing: If you have small meetups, consider hanging out with another family or friend who is also taking extra measures to put distance between themselves and others (i.e. social distancing).
Clean and Disinfect: Make sure children practice everyday preventive behaviors, such as cleaning and then disinfecting frequently touched surfaces. Parents are role models for kids.
Revise Spring Break & Travel Plans: Parents should help their older children revise spring break plans that included non-essential travel to crowded areas.
Remember, if children meet outside of school in bigger groups, it can put everyone at risk.
Many schools are adapting in-person lessons to online or virtual learning. Review assignments from the school, and help your child establish a reasonable pace for completing the work. You may need to assist your child with turning on devices, reading instructions, and typing answers.
Communicate challenges to your school. If you face technology or connectivity issues, or if your child is having a hard time completing assignments, let the school know.
Create a schedule and routine for learning at home, but remain flexible.
Have consistent bedtimes and get up at the same time, Monday through Friday.
Structure the day for learning, free time, healthy meals and snacks, and physical activity.
Allow flexibility in the schedule—it’s okay to adapt based on your day.
Consider the needs and adjustment required for your child’s age group.
The transition to being at home will be different for preschoolers, K-5, middle school students, and high school students. Talk to your child about expectations and how they are adjusting to being at home versus at school.
Consider ways your child can stay connected with their friends without spending time in person.
Look for ways to make learning fun.
Have hands-on activities, like puzzles, painting, drawing, and making things.
Independent play can also be used in place of structured learning. Encourage children to build a fort from sheets or practice counting by stacking blocks.
Practice handwriting and grammar by writing letters to family members. This is a great way to connect and limit face-to-face contact.
Start a journal with your child to document this time and discuss the shared experience.
Use audiobooks or see if your local library is hosting virtual or live-streamed reading events.
School meal services
Check with your school on plans to continue meal services during the school dismissal. Many schools are keeping school facilities open to allow families to pick up meals or are providing grab-and-go meals at a central location.
Keep children healthy
Watch your child for any signs of illness.
If you see any sign of illness consistent with symptoms of COVID-19, particularly fever, cough, or shortness of breath, keep your child at home and away from others as much as possible. Follow CDC’s guidance on “What to do if you are sick.”
If you are unable to stay home with your child during school dismissals, carefully consider who might be best positioned to provide childcare. If someone at higher risk for COVID-19 will be providing care (e.g., older adult, such as a grandparent or someone with a chronic medical condition), limit your children’s contact with those people.
Consider postponing visits or trip to see older family members and grandparents. Connect virtually or by writing letters and sending via mail.
Meet 4-H Alumni and UConn undergraduate Cloe Labranche. We met with her and chatted about her 4-H experience, and what she is up to at UConn.
How did you become involved with 4-H? Can you tell us about your 4-H experience?
I came from a non-ag family and found out about 4-H when I was eight years old from a neighbor. I was very interested in larger animals, and I was lucky to find a dairy club close to my hometown of Ellington. I joined the Merry Moo-er’s of Enfield a year later, and was involved with them until I aged out of 4-H.
Did you visit UConn for a 4-H event prior to attending UConn?
My 4-H club was full of wonderful leaders who pushed me to take advantage of as many 4-H experiences as possible, including the ones at UConn. I showed at the UConn poultry show and Dairy Day, along with various workshops that were held throughout the years. I spent a lot of time at UConn before I came here as a student.
Why did you apply to UConn? What are you majoring in, and when is your expected graduation?
I am a sophomore majoring in Animal Science and will be graduating in May 2020. I applied to UConn because I knew that the connections I made here in my 4-H years would open up many opportunities for career options. I also knew that the Ag program here is unlike any other.
Did 4-H influence your choice of university or major?
4-H played a major part in my decision; however; I think I would have ended up here regardless. I knew I wanted to work with animals before I knew about 4-H, and I also come from a family of UConn alumni.
What was the most challenging part of 4-H?
The most challenging part of 4-H was doing things out of my comfort level. I had many mentors who pushed me to do things that I might not have pushed myself to do in my youth. I was lucky to have people to encourage me to join the CT Quiz Bowl team, show at the Big E, attend the Citizenship Washington Focus trip, run for club and county officer positions, and many more. After 4-H, I have learned to push myself to do things that I might not have done otherwise. Doing so helps anyone make the most out of 4-H, college, and life.
What was the most rewarding part of 4-H?
The opportunities. Every single aspect of 4-H that I took advantage of made me a stronger person with skills I will use forever. It opened up a world of career options that made me excited for my future in animal science, and I hope to become a passionate worker when I begin my career, whatever that may be.
What is your favorite 4-H memory?
I attended the National 4-H Dairy Expo Trip in Madison, Wisconsin when I was 16. After a long day of educational workshops and hands-on activities, the whole group of 4-Hers from all over the country gathered in the dining hall of our housing area and had a square dance. I can’t think of a time I had more fun.
Is your course work at UConn building off of your 4-H experience?
Yes. This is something I notice especially now as a sophomore, where my classes are becoming less generic. I have had a slight advantage in almost all of my classes I have taken this semester because of the knowledge I have gained throughout my 4-H years.
After you earn your degree, what are your plans for the future?
I would love to work with animal genetics, or possibly biosecurity and research with animal products. If you ask me again in a month, that answer might be different, because I have many interests within animal science careers. All I know is that I would love to do anything where I can help create more sustainable agriculture in the world.
Can you tell us about some of your other interests?
I have a passion for music and have been playing piano and guitar for 12 years.
As I was kneeling by a raised garden bed, planting snap peas with a couple of students, I heard a third grader scream “NOOOOOO!” from the other side of the garden. An array of thoughts immediately sped through my mind in the split second it took me to get over to her section of the garden—
“Is she hurt?”
“Did someone pull a kale plant thinking it was a weed?”
“Did she accidentally pour the watering can on herself instead of our radishes?”
It turned out none of the above scenarios were what caused a quiet eight year old to yell out in fright. When I reached her side, she had a small trowel in one hand, and a half of an earthworm in the other. The rest of the earthworm, I presume, was somewhere left in the soil of the garden bed she had been weeding in.
This girl was absolutely heart broken that she had killed a worm. Obviously, I too was a little upset- here I had a distraught girl in the garden, and, a dead worm. However, I was also proud. I was proud because this student had taken to heart our number one garden rule “respect all living things” — fellow classmates, beautiful sunflowers, tasty strawberries, slimy worms, scary beetles, buzzing bees, and much, much more. She knew that worms were good for our soil, and therefore our plants, and was disappointed that she had killed a beneficial creature. I consoled her by explaining there were a lot of worms in our garden, and it wasn’t that big of a deal. She decided to be more careful in the future, and then gathered the rest of the group to give the worm a proper burial in the compost bin.