Reaching Youth in Online Delivery

By Brian McNeill, Extension Educator, Center of Youth Development and 4-H

August 2020

The recent COVID 19 pandemic provided opportunities for Extension and the Center of Youth Development and 4-H to think differently on program delivery. With no in person workshops, travel restrictions and working from home, staff refocused, retrained and prepared for online learning delivery opportunities. 4-H staff accepted the challenge to deliver educational programming in a new way using technology specifically, “Zoom.”

Online learningThe 4-H Agronomy & Horticulture team prepared a series of weekly zoom webinars starting in March. Some of the topics included: Topsoil Tuesday, Weed Id Wednesday, Forage Friday and Gardening Tips Tuesday, just to name a few. These weekly, half an hour to forty five minute workshops were delivered live via zoom. After the live zoom delivery, a recording is made, edited and posted on the 4-H Agronomy & Horticulture website for additional viewing. Since the launch of these weekly session staff are seeing an average of 87 viewers each week. 4-H members, staff and volunteers from 82 of the 87 counties have participated from across the state of Minnesota and a handful of other states. 

Virtual campAnother program opportunity that went virtual was 4-H Camp. This camp usually is held in person at the University of Minnesota Morris Campus. Twenty six camp counselors and a hundred and thirty five youth registered for this free opportunity. The camp format provided for large group gathering in the morning including flag raising, skits and songs and evening with virtual campfires. 4-H Campers were given the choice of registering for one to six different educational tracks during the day. The tracks provided the 4-H camper with educational content and challenged them to do what they had learned.  Staff did not want the 4-H campers to sit in front of the computer all day. Part of the learning was to go and do what was presented during the track time. Topics included: Photography, Cooking, Engineering, Plants, Science and Crafts. 

Evaluation and participant feedback continue to provide data for program improvement. Here are two quotes from participants:

This has really helped our family during these new times with covid. Our whole family has started to watch together and take notes on what we all learned. Not sure if there are other areas in 4H we could watch. This is our first year doing 4H so we really aren't sure yet how it all works.  Thank you so much for your help!” – 4-H Parent, 4-H Agronomy & Horticulture zoom workshop participant.

My daughter was sad that she couldn’t come to camp, but doing it virtually was a great accommodation. Thank you very much for hosting another great year of camp!!” 4-H parent of a 4-H Camper.

These are just two of many 4-H opportunities developed to reach youth and families at home during this pandemic. There were many opportunities and obstacles delivering through technology. Opportunities included staff reaching more youth across the state of Minnesota, families were able to watch together, staff still connecting to youth and engaging youth in specific content.  Obstacles included participant’s unstable connections, keeping youth focused on discussions and participants logging in with different emails. 

The future is still a bit uncertain. But one fact remains. Extension and the Center of Youth Development staff is able to adjust programming direction, learn new techniques and provide youth and their families quality learning experiences regardless where they live.

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