There is no better reason to take a group of youth for a walk in the out-of -doors than to unplug them (and ourselves!) from technology and just see what you see. This post talks about several ways to do that AND provides one way to keep technology in the mix on the trail or in the field.
There are many resources to help youth engage with the natural world on the state 4-H web site’s Natural Science Projects page http://oregon.4h.oregonstate.edu/natural-science. For one of these ideas please see my February 7 blog post “Virginia Bourdeau on Developing Customized Nature Journal Using the 4-H Natural Science Data Sheets”
For youth with specific interests in in-depth learning you can obtain the 4-H project materials for entomology, forestry, geology and water resources. Don’t miss the information in the geology Earth Science leader guide on field trip locations. This is available on line as a .pdf.
For more of a generalist approach look under the Environmental Stewardship heading for the Backyards and Beyond series which includes a spiral bound Explorer’s Journal for youth to document their discoveries, reflections, and questions that arise from their time outdoors. For adults there are both a Leader Curriculum and an Organizational Guide and Tool Kit available.
For youth who just won’t participate in ANY activity that doesn’t lead to a county fair project see the Outdoor Science display class. “A project exhibit relating to the out-of-doors.” This may be done as an individual project display or a club display about the activities.
And now for the technology! On the project page for Science, Engineering and Technology: http://oregon.4h.oregonstate.edu/science-engineering-and-technology see the link to the 4-H Mall to order the Geospatial –Exploring Spaces, Going Places CD. Activities in this book dovetail nicely with those in the Backyards and Beyond series. There is even a fair exhibit open only to Juniors, Intermediates or Seniors who are in their first year in this project area. “Using the (Exploring Spaces) Level 1 ‘Take Me on a Tour’ activity, create a map showing four to six tour sites, geo-tools used to create the map, positional data for the sites, and information about the selected site.”
Whether you choose to use any of these tools or project ideas I hope you’ll find ways to help youth spend time in the out-of-doors. It’s good for their heads, hearts, hands and HEALTH!
One of the best pieces of advice I’ve received as a new 4-H faculty member is to incorporate my hobbies and interests into my job. Well, my interests take me to the great outdoors and I intend to start taking Union County youth with me…
The project I’m dreaming up targets middle school girls and combines several goals: (a) develop a connection with nature, (b) build confidence through outdoor adventure, and (c) inspire girls to consider natural resource professions. Youth will participate in a series of outings, each focusing on a new skill, such as hiking, snowshoeing, mountain biking, kayaking, or birding. A natural resource professional will accompany us on each outing to serve as an inspirational female role model. For example, a forester may join us on a hike and show us how to take a tree core sample. Or, a hydrologist may join us in kayaks at the lake and show us how to measure water quality. Each outing will incorporate time for reflection through journaling and group sharing and the program will offer an opportunity for youth leadership to build confidence in the outdoors.
I’m starting slowly, reserving plenty of time to build the framework. The initial steps in planning a new outdoor program for my county have looked like this:
1. SEEK ADVICE: Make an early phone call to our stellar state experts: Woody Davis, Virginia Bourdeau, and Dave White. I bounced my disjointed, rambling ideas around the group and ended up with pages of useful notes! They offered advice on funding sources, gear suppliers, safety considerations, available curriculum, ways to engage schools, and much, much more.
3. REIN IT IN: Narrow down program goals, rather than attempting to address all of the needs at once. For example, I realized that incorporating heaps of STEM curricula was going to be more than I can handle. Starting simple will allow room to grow and expand. This is also a good time to seek out successful program models for insight and inspiration.
3. START GABBING: have as many conversations in the community as possible. I’ve been amazed by how many people in my networks have a hidden interest or talent that would be a tremendous asset to my outdoor program. Because 4-H is always on my mind, I find these things coming up in conversation constantly – this is where connections are made. For example, last week my dog made a friend at the bark park… I got to chatting with its owner who turned out to be a dynamic fish biologist who wants to be part of the program – score!
4. FIND FUNDING: Look for money under rocks (starting in your own backyard). This program is not going to be cheap! The best way to find money? For me, it has been through volunteer service in the community. Supporting the work of other organizations motivates them to support the work of our own. Connecting with United Way turned up grant opportunities for local education programs, and joining Soroptimist uncovered a pile of funding for local programs targeting women and children. This is low hanging fruit, and I intend to pick it!
I am a lifelong advocate for connecting kids with nature because the personal benefits it has had on my life are profound. I was fortunate to have parents who made outdoor pursuits accessible to me, but many kids are not. As youth development professionals, we are in a privileged position to make these opportunities available to ALL kids.
Outdoor programs may come in many forms: recreation and adventure, science and engineering in natural environments, environmental stewardship, etc. If nature simply isn’t your “thing,” find someone whose “thing” it is! With all of the resources at the state office, a passionate parent or community member could take this on as their passion project. I encourage you to start thinking about what form an outdoor program could take in your county. Woody, Dave, and Virginia are invaluable resources and can help turn your ideas into reality. And if I have my way, there will soon be a flourishing project in Union County for a replicable sample!
Emily Anderson is the 4-H Program Coordinator in Union County
Water safety has always been a concern in Curry County, as the Pacific Ocean is our backyard. With all of the access to the outdoors we still face rising obesity and inactivity for our youth. The 4-H Stewardship Surf Program has been successfully building over the last 4 years. The common goal of protecting our coastal environment while enjoying the highly active sport of surfing has connected youth with community members and natural resource professionals. We educate about the hazards of the ocean and how to avoid or minimize risks while enjoying the Pacific as well as other waterways. Many youth in this area have not experienced aquatic recreation sports, simply because they have no safe place to learn. The goal of this program has been to create a safe environment for youth to become stewards of our coastline, waterways and community.
Each summer 4-H partners with Surfrider and Warm Current volunteers to host 2 day surf camps for youth in Curry County and surrounding areas. The camp is designed to incorporate safety on the beach and in the water. Volunteers teach basic surf skills, etiquette and environmental stewardship via direct 1 on 1 mentoring. Each year we have progressively built up the program and now have two year around 4-H water sport
By developing partnerships with people that are in the water rain or shine and professionals that are passionate about engaging the public in environmental stewardship, Curry County 4-H has been able to coordinate a highly successful outdoor recreation program that has an impact on our youth and the environment. Warm Current a non-profit that runs surf camps up and down the coast along with Surfrider, provided expertise and guidance to safely coordinate and run 12 different surf camps at multiple beaches over the course of 4 years. All of the events, camps, weekend surf sessions, and beach clean-ups encourage involvement from the whole family. The emphasis is not just on mastering a skill, but on developing a healthy respectful relationship with the environment, the community and their families. clubs and have reached over 250 youth. Starting with donated used gear to equip the kids we have maintained a very small fee for a 2 day camp of $30 per camper. Fees cover food, swag bags and usually a towel or t-shirt. After trying different age groups and camper limits we established 15 campers and a 1 to 1 volunteer ratio in the water as optimum for learning and safety guidelines.
Curry County 4-H recently received a grant for new kayaks, boards and wetsuits as well as a sabot sail boat and trailer to host a larger regional outdoor recreation camp and year around activities. The program isn’t just about surfing or kayaking it encourages youth to develop a lifelong passion for the outdoors and a respectful relationship with the world they live in. The Tsunami Surfers 4-H club volunteers as citizen scientists, tracking debris along a 100 yard stretch of beach in Gold Beach for NOAA’s data collection efforts to better understand marine debris related to the Japanese tsunami.
Curry County 4-H Program Coordinator
When you think of Oregon 4-H Challenge and Adventure (C & A) you might be tempted to think about a program called Project Adventure that gained traction in the mid 70’s, mainly due to the efforts of Karl Rohnke (1984). And, you would be right in your thinking. Project Adventure includes initiative problems, adventure games, and trust activities. Participants enter a facilitated world of perplexing challenges designed to promote personal growth and group development. Leadership retreats, summer camps, and counselor trainings are common places to find Adventure programming designed to help youth gain confidence and self-esteem, build mutual support systems, test agility and coordination, and develop physically and socially (Karl Rohnke).
The common thread of that program and the Oregon 4-H Challenge and Adventure program is the Experiential Learning Model. Regardless of the 4-H project or 4-H program area, there are always ways to engage the minds, bodies, and spirits of youth leading to opportunities for doing, reflecting, and applying that go beyond the project discipline. Why not make club meetings and outings common places for Adventure? The Blind Square, warp Speed, Group Juggle, Hula Hoop Pass and many other games/activities can add fun and excitement to any clubs; photography, horse, shooting sports, etc.
What you might not think about when it comes to Oregon 4-H C & A is its drive to connect or reconnect youth and families to the great outdoors. Why not make 4-H club meetings the gateway to C & A? Have your leaders thought about taking clubs on day hikes, fishing, paddle boarding, snow shoeing, or kayaking? In addition to traditional club work, C & A activities can add value to existing club structure by increasing experiential learning opportunities.
Or, last but not least, why not encourage the development of clubs with C & A as the focus? There are some counties that are taking steps to design day hiking clubs, snowshoeing clubs, kayaking clubs. Did you know Oregon already has a 4-H surfing club?
So, I challenge you to work with your volunteers to look at ways that they can expand existing club activities to include C & A or start new clubs that offer a wide array of Challenge and Adventure.
If you have questions or concerns about broadening the learning horizon of existing clubs by adding Adventure programming or designing an Adventure Club, contact Woody Davis at email@example.com.
Rohnke, K. (1984). Silver bullets: A guide to initiative problems, adventure games, stunts and trust activities. Hamilton, MA. Project Adventure.