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4-H From Home - Staying Connected When We Are Apart

Friday, April 3, 2020   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Matthew Newman, Rutgers Cooperative Extension
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For many around New Jersey and beyond, it is hard to believe that it was only a little less than a month ago that the sense of “normal” that all took for granted was suddenly changed. Every day and even every hour, the COVID-19 crisis impacts all people from all walks of life in new and startling ways.

Closures and repeated reminders of social distancing greatly impact all of us, none more perhaps than youth in our communities. These limitations to slow the spread of this disease have drastically changed the way youth socialize, learn, and have fun – literally just being a kid.

With youth no longer attending classes, parents and educators may be searching for new ways to engage children with easily accessible and relevant content. How can the school year continue and conclude in May or June when it seems to be cut off in mid-March, even before many school districts had their spring break?

Looking to respond to the needs of our youth and New Jersey families, the 4-H Youth Development Department within Rutgers Cooperative Extension has pooled together resources near and far to create a new “4-H From Home” website.
An ad hoc task force was assembled to develop online, interactive courses that can be accessed from any county in New Jersey. Though designed for 4-H youth and club members, these sessions are open to all age appropriate youth.

As 4-H Agent Marycarmen Kunicki said, “These events we find ourselves in today are unlike any we’ve ever faced before. Programs offered through 4-H are open to all youth, and those of us in 4-H are uniquely situated to help provide educational programs to families during these trying times."

Since its roll-out on March 19, over 70 youth participants have engaged in four different interactive online programs. Youth participants have come from every county throughout New Jersey, and even a few participants from outside the Garden State. Though these programs are being conducted by Rutgers Cooperative Extension 4-H youth development professionals, these programs are offered to all youth regardless of their status as a member in 4-H program.

The programs offered include interactive lessons on varying topics such as healthy living, STEM, civic engagement, the arts and more. Webinars take place every Tuesday and Thursday from 3:00 to 4:00 p.m., utilizing Zoom video conferencing.

Though originally designed primarily for a middle school audience, 4-H From Home is looking to expand its focus to reach elementary and high school youth as well. County 4-H Agent Matthew Newman stated, “when our team initially got together to plan 4-H From Home, we did so at first with middle school youth in mind as our primary audience. Now that we have seen the overwhelming response to this program, and the interest from both younger and older youth, we are exploring programs to reach those audiences as well.”

Newman went on to add that, “the 4-H From Home program lets young people connect with their peers. Just because we have to remain physically distant doesn’t mean that we have to be emotionally distant.”

Online website registration is required to participate in these webinars. New topics are being added daily and new short term virtual 4-H clubs will be enrolling soon.

Resources and programs offered through “4-H From Home” are open to all youth. To learn more, as well as register for upcoming sessions, visit http://nj4h.rutgers.edu/4h-from-home.

Rutgers Cooperative Extension educational programs are offered to all without regard to race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, age, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity and expression, disability, atypical hereditary cellular or blood trait, marital status, civil union status, domestic partnership status, military service, veteran status, and any other category protected by law.

For additional information, contact: 4hfromhome@njaes.rutgers.edu

or go to http://nj4h.rutgers.edu/4h-from-home

National Association of Extension 4-H Youth Development Professionals
701 Exposition Place, Suite 206 | Raleigh, NC 27615 | T: (919) 232-0112 | E: nae4ha@nae4ha.com