Tag Archive: Youth

2017 National Youth Science Day

As part of National 4-H Week, 4-H’ers participate in 4 H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. This year’s 4 H NYSD event will take place on October 4. The 2017 4‑H National Youth Science Day Challenge is called Incredible Wearables!  This year’s challenge was developed by University of Nebraska-Lincoln and incorporates the fast-evolving field of wearable technology, teaching kids to not only use technology but to create it and understand how it works.

From watches and eyewear to fashion and virtual reality headsets, wearable technologies are fast becoming the must-have accessory for forward-thinking people around the world. Wearable technologies didn’t start out as trendy however – one of the world’s first wearable technologies was the hearing aid! Wearable technologies are now used in industries around the globe, from education and sports, to health, fashion, entertainment, transportation and communication. In this year’s challenge, youth use the engineering design process to build a prototype wearable technology that will gather data to help solve a real-world problem. They will design and build their own low-cost wearable health monitor following the engineering design process. This process includes defining the problem, designing and building prototypes (solutions) then systematically testing and evaluating enabling them to redesign for optimization of wearability and functionality.

During the innovative, hands-on project, these future engineers must work together to design, build and refine a wearable health-tracking device that is easy-to-use and aesthetically appealing. In fact, youth from Bay County have been training with their adult leaders to teach this challenge to other youth in their community on National Youth Science Day. Jason Scott, from Scott Innovative Solutions and an engineer at NSA PC, teamed up with the Bay County 4-H Agent to teach youth and adult partner teams about this project enabling them to be able to share their knowledge with others on October 4. When participants will attempt to solve the problem of people not staying active enough to lead healthy lives. In fact, youth will build a prototype fitness tracking device that could ultimately be marketed and sold to consumers to positively affect fitness behaviors.

After completing the challenge youth will have had an experience of using the engineering design process to build a device to help them monitor their health so they can gather data to make better decisions. They will understand more about how wearable technologies like FitBits, Smartwatches and other wearable devices are made.

The field of wearable technologies continues to grow in both quantity and quality. New technologies are being developed and put on the market on a regular basis, including virtual reality and augmented reality devices, clothing and accessories, as well as health monitoring devices. The future of wearable technologies is limited only by the imaginations of those designing them. By studying STEM and participating in this National Youth Science Day Experiment, youth could use technologies to develop products and mechanisms we haven’t even thought of, but definitely desire! To find out more information about other 4-H programs like this or volunteer your time to work with youth, contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office or visit http://florida4h.org.

Comparing device to prototype



Author: pmdavis – pmdavis@ufl.edu

4-H Youth Development Faculty Bay County Extension


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/10/04/2017-national-youth-science-day/

Florida 4-H Celebrates Global Youth Service Day

Teens from across the panhandle joined forces to take a stand against cancer by celebrating Global Youth Service Day.

This weekend, hundreds of Florida 4-H youth are taking a stand against cancer by distributing chemo kits to cancer patients.  Our 4-Hers are joining millions of others around the globe who are celebrating Global Youth Service Day during the weekend of April 21-23.

This youth-led initiative was spear-headed by Danielle Tinker, a 4-Her from Escambia County.  She and a committee of youth from across the Florida panhandle collected nearly 1,000 items for chemo kits, organized them, and packaged them with a handwritten note of encouragement.  One of the “H’s” in 4-H stands for “hands to larger service” and is a cornerstone of the 4-H positive youth development experience.  Because of programs like this, 4-Hers are 4X more likely to give back to their communities.

Regional Specialized 4-H Agent Heather Kent shares, “It has been a honor to support these youth in this project- they continue to amaze me!  I don’t know of a family that has not been touched by cancer and I can’t think of a more relevant cause to support.  This project has help our group grow compassion, and has helped the cancer patients grow courage!”

Youth collected nearly 1,000 items for the kits and organized them by age group and gender.

Each kit had a handwritten note of encouragement included.

Youth sewed fabric drawstring bags to contain the kit items.

This project would not have been possible without the support of Youth Service America, State Farm and Farm Credit of Northwest Florida.  Farm Credit of Northwest Florida not only supported this project monetarily, but their employees also collected and donated items for the chemo kits.  This weekend marks the culmination of this project during Global Youth Service Day.  Global Youth Service Day recognizes the positive impact that young people have on their communities 365 days a year. GYSD is celebrated in more than 135 countries with youth-led service projects and community events and is the largest service event in the world.

“We know that young people are uniquely suited to help solve problems – if given the opportunity,” said Steven A. Culbertson, CEO and president of YSA (Youth Service America), the leader of GYSD. “Today’s social and environmental problems are immense; we need youth in Florida to be leaders and problem solvers today, not just the leaders of a distant tomorrow.”

4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization. Over 230,000 members in the State of Florida help to make up the community of more than 6.5 million young people across America. 4-H is a non-formal, practical educational program for youth and is the youth development program of Florida Extension, a part of the University of Florida IFAS.  To find out more information, or how to get involved, visit http://florida4h.org or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

Learn more and browse GYSD activities around the world on the GYSD Map at www.GYSD.org.

Connect on Facebook at www.facebook.com/youthserviceamerica and on Twitter @YouthService and #GYSD.



Author: Heather Kent – hckent@ufl.edu

Heather Kent is the Regional Specialized 4-H Agent in the Northwest Extension District.

Heather Kent

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2017/04/21/florida-4-h-celebrates-global-youth-service-day/

Teaching Youth Citizenship this Election Season

4-H youth practices parliamentary procedure for club meetings.  Photo Credit: UF IFAS Bay County Extension

4-H youth practices parliamentary procedure for club meetings. Photo Credit: UF IFAS Bay County Extension.

No matter what your political beliefs, there’s one thing we can all agree on: We have been inundated with election coverage. In November 2016, a new president will be elected to serve a four-year term, so now is an ideal time to start teaching kids about the presidential election process. Even though they may not be quite old enough to vote, kids can still benefit from learning about elections and how they can take part in the political process. Chances are that your child has noticed campaign signs, television commercials, news coverage, T-shirts, bumper stickers, buttons and conversations about the election. You may even hear them reciting what you say about each candidate.

Florida 4-H has a wonderful project that can help youth understand their government. It is Exploring Citizenship – My Government Unit 6. The My Government‖ project helps youth learn about our democratic form of government and understand the importance of citizen involvement in the government. It will also help youth find ways to get involved in government. 4-H Club officers are the beginning of the process learning basic parliamentary procedure. Another wonderful opportunity is the 4-H Day at the Capitol Program that provides youth with an opportunity to learn more about their state government and experience the political process first hand.  During the day, participants will hear from public officials, participate in educational workshops, and see their congressmen in action.
4-H also has an outstanding teen program, 4-H Legislature, in Tallahassee annually. Senior 4-H’ers, ages 13 to 18, develop their skills to debate, analyze legislation and speak publicly, all while making new friends. At this civic educational event, youth can sponsor a bill, amend, or lobby it, then debate the issues on the Capitol House and Senate floors. The 4-H Legislature Program enables youth to understand the basic principles of democracy.

Democratic government requires citizen participation. Each citizen has a responsibility to stay informed on public issues, to express an opinion on these issues, and to make sure that government stays sensitive to the desires of the people. In the United States, only a small group fulfills this responsibility. To most people, voting is the extent of their participating. After election time they wait until the next election to become active again. Many citizens never become active even to register or vote.

Don’t be a “let someone else do it” citizen. Get involved! Make sure your democratic government represents you and other citizens and make sure your child understands what it means to be a citizen of the United States. For more information visit our website . 4-H is one of the nation’s most diverse organizations and includes people from all economic, racial, social, political, and geographic categories. There are no barriers to participation by any young person. Participants are given the opportunity to engage in activities that hold their personal interest. If you wish to volunteer or for more program information contact your local Extension office.


Author: pmdavis – pmdavis@ufl.edu

4-H Youth Development Faculty Bay County Extension


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/11/03/teaching-youth-citizenship-this-election-season/

Teaching Youth to be Smart Consumers

th“Experts estimate that 2 to 14 year-olds have sway over $ 500 billion a year in household purchasing (Calvert 2008).”  In other words, adults make decisions each day concerning purchases for their household, but youth have tremendous influence over what parents are buying. The 4-H Consumer Choices judging contest is ideal for helping youth understand the underlying value behind goods and services available for purchase in today’s free market society- a life skill that will serve them well throughout their life!

Judy Corbus teaches financial literacy classes for both youth and adults in Washington and Holmes Counties.

Judy Corbus teaches financial literacy classes for both youth and adults in Washington and Holmes Counties.

Last week’s post shared some research about how 4-H Judging programs help youth attain workforce skills for the 21st century.  The 4-H Consumer Choices program is a judging program that helps youth learn how to study and evaluate the latest consumer products in a friendly, competitive setting.  Each year, four topics, or products are selected by subject-matter specialists at UF.  They prepare guides for both coaches (volunteers) and youth with background information and sample scenarios to judge.

Judy Corbus is the Family, Youth and Communities Sciences Agent in both Washington and Holmes Counties.  She is part of a state-wide team that provides leadership for the Consumer Choices program for Florida 4-H.  When asked what inspires her most to work with this program, she shared:

“Teaching 4-H members how to evaluate a product and make an informed decision based on their needs and budget is an essential life skill they will use long after they graduate from 4-H.  A 4-H alum, now in his early 30s, who had participated in the Consumer Choices program in my county recently attended my homebuyer education class.  He shared that Consumer Choices was the one 4-H program in which he still uses the skills he had learned from it in his daily life as an adult.  That testimony really encourages me and validates the role of the program in developing financial literacy skills in young people.”

What products do youth evaluate?  Each year, different products are chosen. This year’s products are:

How do youth prepare for the contest?  Study guides are provided each year that contain all relevant information about each project. Contact your local 4-H agent to receive a copy of the study guides, or click on the links above to download a guide.  Contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office to inquire about the next scheduled training for youth or coaches.

When is the competition?  These events are usually conducted at county and area fairs across the state. Regional competitions are held at the Pensacola Interstate Fair, North Florida Fair, South Florida Fair, and the Florida State Fair. You will need to register through your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

How do I get involved?  Youth may want to explore this topic through a day camp, workshop or as part of an actual team, or even as an individual.  Enroll in 4-H online, then Contact your local 4-H agent for the date(s) of the Consumer Choices Contest, workshop or day camp in your area.  If you are an adult with a passion for money management, budgeting, or smart shopping, consider serving as a coach for a team or a speaker for a day camp or workshop.  To get started, contact your local office or visit http://florida4h.org.

Helpful Links:




Author: Stefanie Prevatt – sduda1@ufl.edu


Stefanie Prevatt

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/09/22/teaching-youth-to-be-smart-consumers/

Go Purple to Support Military Youth

Show military youth that you care- wear purple on April 8th!

Show military youth that you care- wear purple on April 8th!

April is the Month of The Military Child! When we think of honoring our military, we often think of Memorial Day and Veterans Day.  Did you know there is also a time identified to honor our youngest heroes, military children?  Since 1986, April has been designated Month of the Military Child. This allows us to honor military children and their families for their commitment and sacrifice. In Florida we have over 51,000 military youth who deal with situations like having their parents in harm’s way when they deploy. Most people think of the color green when they think of 4-H, but on April 8th, 4-H youth and volunteers in Florida will be sporting the color purple to show support for our military families.

Imagine if someone close to you were deployed.  Would you like to see all the news reports showing bombs exploding and people shooting at each other?  How would you feel about having long and repeated separations when your parent misses important events like birthdays, holidays, school and sporting events? Would you like it if your family had frequent relocations/moves?  Every time families move, children have to make new friends, get used to new schools, and find new 4-H clubs and teams to join.

A lot of military children take these changes in stride and some even thrive on them, but it is also hard – kids have to rebuild their world every time they move.  UF/IFAS Extension and 4-H are proud to be a part of the military family working with youth centers across the nation to have some consistency for youth in these situations and who are making these moves.

Here locally we want you to join us in showing your support and to celebrate our young heroes! Participate in the 6th annual Purple Up! For Military Kids Wear purple on Friday, April 8th, as a visible way to show support and thank military children for their strength and sacrifices. Why purple? Purple is the color that symbolizes all branches of the military, as it is the combination of Army green, Coast Guard blue, Air Force blue, Marine red and Navy blue.

The goal is for our military youth to see the support of their community. Please join us in honoring these young heroes as we Purple Up! For Military Kids on April 8th! Be creative….the goal is for military youth to see the support in their school, youth groups, and the community! If you don’t have or own a purple shirt wear a purple ribbon, tie, headband etc. Just show your support and let our youth know we care about them! Can’t make the 8th then do something another day in April. We would like to encourage you to take pictures of your group wearing purple and share them on social media. If you are willing to share then e-mail them to us.:bay@ifas.ufl.edu or post photos to Facebook and tag us https://www.facebook.com/bayifas/ or comment and add your photo.


Author: pmdavis – pmdavis@ufl.edu

4-H Youth Development Faculty Bay County Extension


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/04/01/go-purple-to-support-military-youth/

4-H Teaches Youth to Think Globally and Act Locally Through Energy Conservation Education


By 2050, the United Nations estimates that the total population will total around 9 billion people globally (United Nations: 2004). Meeting the challenge of addressing the needs of so many people is an opportunity for growth that can be gained through scientific developments and personal responsibility, areas in which 4-H eagerly works to educate youth and adults.

We learn that our everyday behaviors, even if they seem very small, can actually put a lot of strain on our environment when so many people do the same things.

We often ask our youth, “If everyone were to do the same things you do every day, what would that look like? What kind of impact do you think it would have?”.

We know that much of our daily energy use, like the amount of water we use, how much trash we produce, the kind of food we buy and where we buy it, and how much energy we use in our transportation, for example, can make a big difference if we all make decisions that keep our environment in mind.

We can help prevent environmental damage that leads to climate change and human illness by conserving energy and making a smaller ecological footprint. An ecological footprint is the amount of resources from the environment that are required to meet the demands of our everyday consumption of goods. 4-H encourages youth to make thoughtful decisions about their behaviors such as:

  • Eating locally grown and in season produce
  • Using reusable bags for shopping
  • Buying products with less packaging and that are less processed
  • Turning lights off when they aren’t in use
  • Doing outdoor rather than indoor activities
  • Walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transportation
  • Recycling
  • Conserving water when brushing teeth and by displacing water in toilet tanks
  • Only running washing machines with full loads

However, motivating people to change their behaviors can be difficult. In 4-H we work to encourage young people to understand at an early age the enormous impact they have on the health and well-being of others.  The World Health Organization tells us that “…environmental factors are a root cause of a significant burden of death, disease and disability – particularly in developing (poor) countries. The resulting impacts are estimated to cause about 25% of death and disease globally, reaching nearly 35% in regions such as sub-Saharan Africa.” (World Health Organization: 2016). A good portion of environmental damage that affects us in negative ways is caused by our using more resources than our planet has the ability to renew at the same rate we use them and by extracting our resources in harmful ways. This may seem overwhelming, but there are actually very simple things that each of us can do that can significantly help lessen the impact. Actually, when we change our behavior is western countries like the United States, we can make more significant differences since we are one of the primary consumers of energy in the world.

And as always, youth learn not only by DOING but by helping to teach others! We encourage our youth to educate their friends and family as well as to mentor younger 4-H’ers in project areas like environmental science. If your youth or club is interested in learning more about energy conservation and environmental science projects, there are an array of wonderful resources, listed below, to help get you started. Your county 4-H agent is happy to help any youth or volunteer interested in this or any one of the project areas that help provide youth with research based education.

Games: http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=kids.kids_index

Curriculum: http://www.chesapeakebay.net/channel_files/18256/handout_-_4-h_environmental_curriculum.pdf


Resources for teachers: http://www.eia.gov/kids/energy.cfm?page=6




United Nations. 2004. “World Population to 2300”. United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs: Population Division. United Nations: New York, NY.

World Health Organization: The Health and Environment Linkages Initiative (HELI). 2016. “Environment and Health in Developing Countries”. URL http://www.who.int/heli/risks/ehindevcoun/en/index1.html. Accessed February 5, 2016.

Photo: Wake County, North Carolina 4-H. http://www.wakegov.com/humanservices/family/4h/traditional/Pages/default.aspx


Author: Jenny Savely – jsavely@ufl.edu


Jenny Savely

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/02/19/4-h-teaches-youth-to-think-globally-and-act-locally-through-energy-conservation-education/

4-H Grows: Environmentally Conscientious Youth!

Grow Card Supplies and products

Grow Card Supplies and products

4-H literally got its start with gardening. The very first 4-H Clubs focused on growing tomatoes and corn for boys and canning for girls. Many youth and volunteers still enjoy gardening projects today.  One great curricula that is used is the Junior Master Gardening Program. This program allows youth to enhance their life using gardening as the spark of interest. Gardening enriches youth’s lives, promotes good health, gives a sense of environmental awareness and saves money.

One of the activities I enjoy doing with youth combines gardening with recycling and crafting. As a group we will make our own paper grow cards or ornaments that have seeds embedded in them.  Once the cards are dry, we deliver them as a service project. The cards are fun and inexpensive to make and are a perfect activity for your next club meeting!  Try making them as valentines for Valentines Day.  For beginners, we recommend growing tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, cucumbers, basil, chives, or parsley. Not into vegies? Try starting marigolds, cosmos, sunflowers, zinnias, pansies, or petunias.

Download our detailed factsheet with photos and directions. This activity is great for any occasion when you need a card or small gift. You can use as party favors by making them into ornaments using raffia to hang them from a tree or gift bag. You can take them to a nursing home, veterans center, hospital or other site as a service project for your club.  Just be sure to share with the individual that they need to plant your card or ornament.  It is a great way to help youth share their joy of gardening with others.
Other Extension gardening resources include:
Florida Vegetable Gardening Guide

If you have a green thumb, consider going “totally green” as a 4-H gardening volunteer! 4-H needs caring adults like you to share their knowledge and passion for gardening with the next generation. Through the 4-H gardening project, youth not only learn gardening knowledge and skills, they also learn responsibility, teamwork, and other life skills that will help them grow up to be compassionate and competent citizens. To get involved, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office, or visit Florida 4-H.


Author: pmdavis – pmdavis@ufl.edu

4-H Youth Development Faculty Bay County Extension


Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2016/02/05/4-h-grows-environmentally-conscientious-youth/

Youth Gain from Camping Experiences

Boys at camp
With summer around the corner, it’s a great time to enroll your children in residential and/or day camps. For most communities there are a variety of camps offered. Camping experiences not only give children something to do, they are also great learning experiences.

Just as a garden or flowerbed requires critical elements like water, sunshine, space, and freedom from bugs to grow and to flourish, so do children. Similar to other living things, you need nourishing, supportive and protective environments where youth can grow to be healthy and contributing adults.

Each young person needs to:
Know they are cared about by others: Belonging
Feel and believe they are capable and successful: Mastery
Know they are able to influence people and events: Independence
Practice helping others: Generosity
Camps offer environments for growth, rich in the essential elements that support healthy development.

Very enthusiastic older youth and caring adults are the staff that lead the camps. Participating youth develop meaningful relationships with admired and trusted adults and older teens. New relationships begin as the campers share cabins and engage in camp activities. As a result of these experiences, the campers develop a sense of belonging as they realize that they are cared about by others.

During camp, youth develop many new skills. Camp teaches children to communicate, to work together as part of a team and to be a leader. Residential camps do this as the children learn to live in the same cabin and perform daily living chores. Leadership is developed by asking campers to fulfill responsibilities that may not be expected of them elsewhere.  Additionally, sharing resources and attention helps foster teamwork and the desire to participate. Campers gain the sense of mastery as they become capable and successful at new skills.

There is a sense of adventure and challenge not usually found in daily home life. Most camps offer time for youth to test new ideas in a non-threatening environment. It pushes children out of their comfort zone and exposes them to new activities and experiences that they may not be familiar with. Many youth discover new hobbies or passions. By exploring various types of activities, children have a greater chance of finding something that they excel at or that makes them happy. Independence is gained as they are able to influence people and events.

Camp also provides many opportunities for youth to help fellow campers through daily chores of cleaning up cabins and dining hall, encouraging campers who may be homesick, cheering on their team, assisting camp staff, and so on. Our society needs for more people to gain the practice of helping others – that element of generosity.

Camp offers youth an opportunity to accept new responsibilities in leadership, conquer fears, practice new skills, and discover individual differences in an environment that reinforces the value of each person. These essential elements should be a focus of every camp. So as you seek camp opportunities for you children this summer, look for ones that feature these four essential elements. 4-H camping opportunities are available in every county in the state of Florida.  Look them up and enroll your child today.


Author: Monica Brinkley – brinkley@ufl.edu

Monica Brinkley has served as an Extension Agent since 1985 in Jackson, Calhoun and Liberty Counties. She currently is the County Extension Director, Family and Consumer Science, and 4-H Youth Development Agent.

Monica Brinkley

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/05/28/youth-gain-from-camping-experiences/

“From Seed to Plate” – Youth Enjoy the Fruits of Their Labor

Students learn how to plant and cultivate a garden.  Photo credit Melanie Taylor, UF IFAS Gulf County Extension.

Planting Time

Did you know that something as simple as a garden can help youth not only learn to love vegetables, but also improve their science scores?  Fifth-graders at Port St. Joe and Wewahitchka Elementary Schools experienced the benefits of gardening this year through the 4-H Seed to Plate Program.  This program teaches youth how to plant, maintain, and harvest a vegetable garden, and is part of the science curriculum taught by 5th grade teachers.

Before the 130 students ever stepped foot in the garden they spent class time discussing the act of planting, the role that bees play in pollination and took a field trip to the North Florida Research and Education Center for 4-H Ag Adventures Day. This program is under the direction of Gulf County Extension Director Roy Lee Carter. The garden program is also supplemented with nutritional and food safety programs taught by Gulf County 4-H/Family & Consumer Science Agent, Melanie Taylor and Family Nutrition Program Assistant, Kay Freeman.

Carter said that the fifth grade is the ideal age level to learn gardening because the students are able to retain what they learn, and apply their new skills at home. The program is part of the science classes taught by the fifth-grade teachers each year.  David and Sally Beyl have been volunteers with the program for the last seven years. Both are Master Gardeners who trained at the University of Florida for 12 weeks and contribute more than 50 hours of horticulture-related volunteer work each year.

“The students love it,” said David Beyl. “You can tell that they enjoy the experience.”

Harvest Time

Harvest Time

A portion of what grows in the gardens was donated by Bonnie Plants in Alabama, the Florida Farm to School program, and the University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.  The Farm to School Partnership (administered by IFAS) works with local farmers to improve the supply of fresh produce to schools.  Cabbage, lettuce, strawberries, potatoes, carrots, onions, eggplant, watermelon, beans, peppers, squash, sugarcane and various herbs made up this year’s garden with produce grown in-ground and in pots.  “We use pots to show the students that even if you don’t have room for a garden, you can still have a garden,” Beyl said.  In small groups, students learned how to plant seeds, rake, fertilize, cultivate, and harvest. Students even took home cabbages, carrots and potatoes to prepare and share with their families. Those who had an interest in starting their own gardens were given seeds to plant at home.

The highlight of the program is a luncheon prepared by cafeteria staff with produce grown by students.  Everything the students munched on came from the garden they spent eight months cultivating. Both school principals are supportive and find this hands-on opportunity a great addition to the science program. This 4-H and public school collaboration is a very successful, educational and fun-filled learning experience.

If you have a green thumb, consider going “totally green” as a 4-H gardening volunteer or Master Gardener. 4-H needs caring adults like you to share their knowledge and passion for gardening with the next generation. Through the 4-H gardening project, youth not only learn gardening knowledge and skills, they also learn responsibility, teamwork, and other life skills that will help them grow up to be compassionate and competent citizens. To get involved, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office, or visit http://florida4h.org./volunteers.

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Author: Melanie Taylor – metaylor@ufl.edu

Melanie Taylor

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2015/05/22/from-seed-to-plate-youth-enjoy-the-fruits-of-their-labor/

Youth Gardening Grows Across the Country

Youth Gardening Grows Across the Country

Backyard gardens have increased in popularity the last few years, with record calls to Extension offices statewide on how to grow tomatoes and preserve produce.  Along with the boom in home gardening, schools have steadily added gardens to their campuses. There are countless benefits to including children in growing their own food. Personal experience and numerous studies have shown that children improve their attitude towards fruits and vegetables and are more likely to try new foods if they’ve helped grow it themselves.  Urban-dwelling youth find a safe place to interact with nature, increase their awareness of where food comes, and learn to be responsible for a living thing. Youth of all ages can gain critical math and science skills from measuring, planting, observing and problem-solving.  Even toddlers enjoy scooping up soil, holding worms, and seeing the growth of a tiny seed or plant over time.  Any veteran gardener will tell you that the fresh air and physical work improves their health and mental outlook.

This raised bed garden is used at the Roy Hyatt Environmental Center to teach youth about gardening and provide food for numerous animals housed at the center.  Photo credit: Molly O'Connor

This raised bed garden is used at the Roy Hyatt Environmental Center to teach youth about gardening and provide food for numerous animals housed at the center. Photo credit: Molly O’Connor

School gardens are being used around the country to achieve all of these objectives, including intangible skills such as teamwork, confidence, and patience. The utility of gardens for lessons on art, poetry, creative writing, and music should not be underestimated; countless writers and artists have been inspired by the natural world.

Across the country, Extension programs, Master Gardeners, and 4-H staff are lending their gardening expertise to schools and learning centers from preschool to the University level. The Junior Master Gardner 4-H program is an excellent hybrid between horticultural and youth education, and is set up with curriculum and lessons for working with kids in both a classroom and field setting.  The Florida Ag in the Classroom “Gardening for Grades” program has curriculum for elementary through high school levels  correlated with state standards and ready to go for a classroom.  Youth study soil structure, chemistry, botany, environmental science, agriculture, meteorology, and wildlife ecology in an engaging, hands-on way.  In-service training workshops are held periodically to prepare teachers for beginning and teaching from a school garden, so ask your local Horticulture or Agriculture agent about these programs.

Typically, backyard gardeners, schools, or Scout groups will create a raised-bed garden, which reduces weeds and water needs and allows for easier control of soil type and maintenance.  Guidelines for raised bed gardens, for home or educational institution, are available here.

Vegetable gardens aren’t the only teaching tool in the horticultural world. Butterfly and wildlife gardens are (pardon the pun) perennially popular, and are typically easy to implement.  Youth may learn valuable lessons on food webs and insect life cycles in addition to the soil and botanical information. For more information on the benefits of gardening with youth, visit the UF school garden site or contact your local horticulture Extension agent.



Author: Carrie Stevenson – ctsteven@ufl.edu

Coastal Sustainability Agent, Escambia County Extension

Carrie Stevenson

Permanent link to this article: http://franklin.ifas.ufl.edu/newsletters/2014/02/18/youth-gardening-grows-across-the-country/

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