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No off-season for 4-Hers

Some people might think this time of year is a little slower-paced for the 4-H program.  After all, the 4-H clubs are up and running, and the fairs don’t start until July. However, we do have plenty of things to work on during the winter months.

It’s never too early to start working on your 4-H projects, and 4-H members who show livestock are already hard at work caring for their project animals. Earlier this month, 4-Hers who plan to show steers got some practice working with their animals as they brought them to the weigh-in. We had a good turnout and look forward to seeing the 4-Hers and their animals at the fair. At the Extension office, we are working on updating the fair book with new information for this year’s fair.

Four-H families had the opportunity to participate in some fun events this month as well. With the help of 4-H Federation, we held an awards program to recognize our volunteers and 4-Hers for their achievements, and took a trip to Snowstar Winter Sports Park to go snow tubing (a multi-county event). The fun doesn’t end there – our next multi-county event will be curling at the Waltham Curling Club in March.

The winter and spring months are also the time when many 4-H clubs conduct fundraisers to support their club’s activities. We are grateful for all of the people who support their local 4-H clubs at these events. Planning and working at the fundraisers provides many important life lessons for the youth, as does working together as a group to make plans for how to use the money they have earned.

We are extremely grateful for the work of our dedicated 4-H volunteers, who lead 4-H club meetings and activities, assist 4-Hers with their projects, raise funds to support our programs, help market our programs, and contribute ideas of new programs or audiences for Extension to reach. Our volunteers help us to reach many youth through our 4-H Community Clubs and Special Interest (SPIN Clubs).

With the help of these volunteers, we have been able to start several new programs this year. We are very excited to announce an informational meeting for 4-H Shooting Sports, which will be held in March. Keep checking your local media or like our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/blmp4H) for updates and final details. We plan to offer air rifle and shotgun programs this spring.

If you have seen young people with cardboard cars powered by balloons, bags of slime, artificial snow, or homemade spinning tops, that is probably because they have been participating in one of our new 4-H Science Special Interest Clubs. These clubs meet once per month at several different after-school programs throughout the county.  Currently more than 150 youth participate in this program each month in Bureau County alone. In hopes of better weather in the weeks to come, the clubs are planning an egg drop for the month of March.

That may sound like enough to keep anyone busy, but I’m not finished yet. Our unit’s 4-H Youth Development Program includes healthy lifestyles, employable youth and youth gardening programs. We recently trained Ohio High School students to teach the Health Rocks program to elementary students in their district, and we are working with several other organizations and businesses to help Reagan Middle School students participate in our Health Jam program. Students at Ohio High School are also participating in the Welcome to the Real World program, designed to teach young people about budgeting and career choices (DePue High School students participated in the same program last fall). Several Bureau County schools are already signed up to plant lettuce beds, which will begin as soon as it is warm enough to plant seeds.

There isn’t really a slow time or an off season in the 4-H program, but that is fine with us. We enjoy every opportunity to work with the wonderful young people and adult volunteers in Bureau County, and we look forward to seeing many of you at our upcoming events!

Jennifer Caldwell is the 4-H and Youth Development Program coordinator for the local office of the University of Illinois Extension.

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