Washington 4-H shares free, online resources for youth stuck at home

The global appearance of COVID-19 has forced Washington families, including thousands of 4-H youth, to socially isolate themselves, swapping group activity for online experiences.

4-H faculty, staff, volunteer leaders, and youth in Washington State 4-H, offered through Washington State University Extension, have rapidly adjusted to this shift, sharing online projects, apps, and resources that build their potential.

“When we heard that schools were being closed, we realized that we needed to provide research-based resources, because that’s what we do in Extension,” said State Program Leader for 4-H Youth Development Nancy Deringer.

“4-H is all about hands-on, experiential learning with caring adults, but it can be done virtually,” Deringer added. “We believe in the power of young people, and we want to make sure that every child has an opportunity to succeed.”

The Ideas for Learning at Home list is an amalgamation of free, research-based, hands-on activities kids K-12 can do at home with a parent or caring adult.

Activities are in no way mandatory, Deringer said, but simply a resource for parents and caregivers interested in educational materials to utilize if they need them. Projects include building a paper airplane launcher, constructing a marble rollercoaster, and learning to code.

Many of the resources and activities come from 4-H directly, such as Discover 4-H STEM Camps, 4-H Knitting, and 4-H & Military Partnerships. Other research-based activities are sourced from organizations like the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum, Nat Geo for Kids, and NASA STEM.

Michelle Green, an Extension Coordinator for STEM 4-H in King County, created the original list of online links to resources. It’s already being shared across the country.

“We want to make sure this is open to everyone, not just our 4-H kids,” she said.

Youth taking the lead

4-H faculty and staff are resourceful, and are still working full time.

“They’re really creative, and they’re going to be developing plans as we go along to keep 4-H programming running, but it will just be in a virtual format,” Deringer said.

For example, a 4-H Knitting Club on San Juan Island are continuing their club meetings through Zoom, with members knitting together while chatting and interacting through the online meeting app. More training on how to use Facebook Live and Zoom is planned for 4-H leaders.

“4-H is about developing young leaders,” said Deringer. “We focus on projects that interest youth, so that they stay engaged.”

For example, 4-H club members in King County developed a scavenger hunt via video conference, in which teens hunted items in their own homes. King County teens now plan to put together training videos that can be shared online, Green said.

During the COVID-19 crisis, youth leadership may be more important than ever.

“When it comes to technology, they’re going to be able to help others,” Deringer said.

See the full list of Ideas for Learning at Home.