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State 4-H offers online activities

PHOTO PROVIDED Kohana Yamashita kneels next to her goats.

MILL HALL — Local 4-Hers are working just as hard as ever to raise and trains their animals, nurture their gardens, perfect their sewing skills, improve their archery scores and much more.

You wouldn’t even know that the Clinton County Fair has been canceled, said Kirsten K. Dubbs, Penn State Extension educator and 4-H and Youth Development director.

“They’re completing their 4-H learning experiences a little more independently this year than they normally might, but they’re still engaged, and they’re still learning,” she said.

Some has happened online, which can be a challenge in itself for some, she noted.

“As a state 4-H organization, my colleagues and I have worked hard to develop online educational programs for our 4-H animal science project members. For example, all of our animal science members completed their required annual 4-H Quality Animal Management Training via live webinars (or by using a printed version of the materials, for those with poor or no internet connectivity) this year,” she said.

The lack of a good internet connection was the biggest hurdle for most, she said.

“Although we do see local youth participating online to a degree, the issue that I encounter here in Clinton County with regard to virtual programs is, unfortunately, a lack of broadband access,” she said.

Struggling to have Zoom or Skype meetings, watching instructional videos due to slow internet speeds and frequency in service interruptions have occurred.

“For some 4-H families, the issue goes further, with computer access and/or lack of any internet access at home being problematic. And, while I’ve continued to encourage 4-H clubs to meet online, many of our dedicated volunteers have the same difficulties accessing technology that our members experience,” Dubbs said. “We’ve had one or two clubs meet online here in Clinton County, but we’re finding that it’s just not as feasible for us here as it is in parts of the state where broadband access is pretty universal.”

This year the Pennsylvania 4-H Junior Horse Championship Show and Pennsylvania Championship Dressage Show (another horse event) are going to be virtual, and Dubbs said she does expect participation from some of the local 4-H horse club members.

“I’m also waiting for guidelines from the University to see what kind of 4-H project judging opportunity I can offer this year,” she said.

Project judging usually involves an in-person interview. Dubbs said they judge and score based on the 4-H curriculum materials and items such as posters, sewing projects, gardening exhibits, and more, during the Clinton County Fair.

She is working to still try to do this, virtually somehow.

As time moves on, Dubbs said they are looking to the future and expecting lots of additional safeguards to be required, and hoping some smaller-scale, face-to-face activities to begin this summer.

“That being said, Pennsylvania 4-H is offering an outstanding series of online activities in which our local youth here can participate. The online offerings so far have included virtual 4-H camp, an online dog club, a variety of educational workshops for equine youth, a series of cooking challenges, a shooting sports quiz bowl contest, a series of in-depth webinars for poultry project youth, and much more,” she said.

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