Clubs go online to stay connected, and work on projects
Provided photos: Hugh Gabalski, 13, of Byron makes a presentation on Wednesday using Zoom.
Press Release, Orleans County 4-H Program
KNOWLESVILLE – Orleans County was represented recently during the first-ever Western District 4-H Public Presentations held via Zoom.
4-Hers in the western counties of Orleans, Niagara, Erie, Wyoming, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua and Allegany were offered the opportunity to present online either May 2 or May 6. Makenzie McGrath, 12, of Medina, a member of the Abundant Harvest 4-H club, and Hugh Gabalski, 13, of Byron, a member of the Rabbit Raisers and Outback Orleans 4-H clubs, presented during the May 6 Zoom session.
Makenzie McGrath, 12, of Medina makes her public presentation on Wednesday.
Both qualified during Orleans County 4-H Public Presentations in February. The traditional face-to-face District Public Presentations event was scheduled for late March in Erie County, but was cancelled due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“4-H educators and program coordinators in the Western District met and decided to offer the Zoom option to youth,” says Kristina Gabalski, Orleans County CCE 4-H program coordinator. “We knew it would be a learning experience for youth as well as ourselves. It was a great opportunity to learn a new technology and to gain skills in utilizing that technology.”
In all, 14 youth from throughout the Western District participated. Makenzie McGrath presented on the “History of Tap Dance,” and Hugh Gabalski presented on “Safety and Exterior Lighting Used on Law Enforcement Vehicles.” The experience using videoconferencing was a bit strange, Hugh said.
“It was interesting, it was challenging because you were not presenting to an in-person audience,” he said.
Youth were able to present using Power Points, photos and their posters. Evaluators provided immediate feedback and encouragement during the Zoom, and 4-H participants were also able to provide peer feedback during the event, Kristina Gabalski said.
Zoom and Facebook are becoming popular mediums for continuing local 4-H programs while social distancing and other safety measures are in place, she explained.
Lydia Scharlau of Medina and her family made these masks.
“There will be a similar Zoom in early June for participants in the Horse Communications program in Region 1, which includes Orleans County,” Gabalski said. “Additionally, Region 1 in Western New York will be going online with its annual horse 4-H Hippology Contest, another first for a region-wide 4-H event.”
Hippology is the study of horses and includes horse anatomy, care, nutrition, and equipment. 4-H Hippology Contests challenge the knowledge of horse program youth and include sections on topics like horse breeds, anatomy, equipment and judging, Gabalski said.
“Erie County CCE is making Power Points with photos and questions available on their website later this month, and youth will be able to complete answer sheets which can be returned for review,” she said. “Orleans County is anticipating that seven members of our horse program will participate – four in the junior division and three in the novice division. There is also a senior division.”
Orleans County 4-H Clubs and program development committees have been gathering via Zoom to meet during this time of social distancing.
“We have a brand new 4-H Feline Club, which is meeting regularly online and planning community service projects which can be accomplished while social distancing,” Gabalski said. “Additionally several other clubs are meeting via Zoom. Our 4-H Senior Council is meeting weekly via Zoom, which has been an opportunity for youth to experiment and learn the technology in a safe environment as well as discuss their projects and the status of 4-H events.”
‘This has been a frustrating time in many ways for our youth, but they are showing remarkable resilience.’ – Kristina Gabalski, 4-H program coordinator
Gabalski explained that in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Orleans County 4-H is remaining active and providing resources to the Orleans County community.
“We are posting educational content on our Facebook page on a daily basis, something which includes digital literacy videos featuring members of our 4-H Tech Changemakers team,” she said. “We want the community to see the Orleans 4-H Facebook page and Orleans County Cornell Cooperative Extension as a resource during this time.”
4-Hers discuss a quadratic equation over Zoom.
4-H members are continuing to work on their projects. Some are sharing their animal science projects in their school Zoom classes, and others are learning new skills like making floral and herbal jellies during this time at home. Many have taken part in our effort to send hand-made cards to 4-H leaders and volunteers as well as senior citizens through the Orleans County Office for the Aging.
Orleans County 4-H has responded to the NYS 4-H Mask Task project by making face masks to be distributed to our local farmers and agricultural workers. Others are taking part in a state-wide 4-H Pen Pal program.
Additionally, members of the Orleans 4-H dog program have been sharing videos on their private Facebook page. The videos feature work that they are doing with their animals via weekly challenges which have included topics such as games 4-Hers play with their dogs and dog grooming practices.
“This has been a frustrating time in many ways for our youth, but they are showing remarkable resilience.” Gabalski said. “As events are postponed or cancelled, it has been rewarding to see our 4-H youth, families, leaders and volunteers respond in such creative and generous ways. We are working with the Orleans County CCE Master Gardener program to promote Victory Gardens this year and hope that as the weather finally warms up, 4-Hers will consider planting a Victory Garden and document its progress. Journaling about their COVID-19 experiences is also being promoted as a valuable coping tool as well as a way to document this historical event which they are experiencing personally.”
Gabalski added that there are a growing number of programs, events and opportunities online provided by 4-H at the state level.
“This year’s forestry program is going online, for example,” she said.
The NYS Virtual Forestry Series will run at 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays, May 9 to June 6, and will include topics such as tree identification, map and compass, invasive species and forest ecology.
If anyone has questions regarding the 4-H program and current opportunities and events, please call the Orleans County CCE office at 798-4265. Staff are working remotely from home, but have access to phone messages via email.
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