Why 4-H still matters: San Juan County 4-H providing youth resilience, connection and focus

Submitted by Wendy Waxman Kern

Washington State University

As daily lives, school, work and health are disrupted, Washington State University Extension, San Juan County 4-H program has persisted and adapted as a way to support youth resilience, connection and focus. The 4-H model of experiential learning has always been applied in kitchens, backyards, and fields with whatever resources were available. In 4-H, we pledge our “head to clearer thinking, our heart to greater loyalty, our hands to larger service, and our health to better living” for our club, our community, our country and our world. In a pandemic, these words calm our nerves and call us to service.

The 4-H motto, “learning by doing,” now truly guides our approach to positive youth development programs. After schools closed, the knitting club was the first to begin meeting via Zoom, sharing videos and files, and learning a pattern that will ultimately be used to make hats for cancer patients.

Volunteers and families are exploring new gardening projects to contribute to the food supply of the islands. Riding horses is providing a much-needed break from time spent indoors, allowing for exercise and fresh air. Pigs, lambs, and chicks are arriving and being raised as project animals. Youth are being encouraged to spend extra time with their “4-H Record Books” because we know that this is a time that they will reflect upon as adults, and keeping good records is one of the core elements of their 4-H year.

The annual Northwest 4-H Teen Summit, otherwise hosted at YMCA Camp Orkila, will now be taken online the first weekend of May. While we will miss the opportunity to meet in person, the teen planning committee hopes to reach a broader audience with their workshops revolving around the topic of self-esteem.

It is our hope that, through 4-H and programs like it, we are building our youth’s resilience and ability to face challenges now and in the future. As we move closer toward that future, please keep 4-H in mind; our members will be looking forward to opportunities to pledge their “hands to larger service”.

If you are looking for activities for your own children, have ideas of creative ways to support youth in our community, or ideas for service activities please contact San Juan County 4-H Program Coordinator, Wendy Waxman Kern at sanjuan.4-H@wsu.edu.