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National 4-H Week celebrated

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By Calen McKinney

 

He carefully connects the battery and smiles as his robot takes off flying.

A scientist for the day, the student grabs his robot and gets back to work. He says he isn’t quite pleased with his work.

From cooking and sewing to technology and babysitting, Taylor County 4-H programs offer something to try and peak the interest of all the county’s children and young adults.

This month, 4-H staff members are teaching students at Campbellsville and Taylor County schools how to build robots. And Amanda Sublett, Taylor County extension agent for 4-H/youth development, says students are loving it.

This week is National 4-H Week. Sublett and her assistant, Jordan Stapp, are conducting programs at local school systems all month to celebrate.

The program being taught now teaches students how robots can be used to preserve and protect the environment, while offering a glimpse into the future of science, technology, engineering and math.

Students were given the task of building a robot to clean an oil spill on a beach. After building their robot, they engineered a course for the robot to maneuver with plastic cups, pipe cleaners and other items.

Sublett says 4-H programs are geared toward helping children learn leadership, citizenship and life skills.

She said she conducts 4-H meetings with the county’s fourth- and fifth-grade students once a month. Students elect officers and run the meetings and Sublett has a program each month focusing on a specific skill or lesson, such as public speaking and nutrition.

Sublett said special interest 4-H groups also meet after school and discuss topics such as cooking, babysitting, livestock and more.

“There’s something for everybody,” she said. “It’s not just for farm kids. It’s more than livestock.”

Not all children enjoy sports, Sublett said, so 4-H tries to offer many activities so children can find what they like and participate.

4-H activities are open to anyone ages 9 to 18. For those ages 5 to 8, Sublett said, a Cloverbud program introduces them to what 4-H is all about.

Sublett says about 450 fourth- and fifth-graders learn about 4-H each year and more than 1,800 attend 4-H programs altogether.

As children get older, Sublett said, it can be difficult to keep the students attending 4-H events because they sometimes compete with sports, clubs and church events.

The biggest 4-H event, she said, is 4-H 4 All, which is typically hosted at the beginning of the school year. The event showcases all activities 4-H offers, she said, so students can plan to be involved in them.

Sublett said 4-H members receive newsletters about upcoming activities. Staff members also used Facebook to keep members updated. She said she believes 4-H offers hands-on activities that teachers might not have time to offer in the classroom. She says this helps 4-H members learn but also have fun at the same time.

“If you come to sew, you’re gonna get to sew. If you come to cooking, you’re gonna get to cook,” she said. “I think that we fill a need.”

Sublett said research shows that children retain information better if they learn using hands-on techniques, which is what 4-H is all about.

“We develop leadership skills and life skills,” she said. And Sublett says 4-H events aren’t just for children, they can also bring a family together. She said many 4-H members have entered state and national competitions and their families have attended to cheer them on.

In her ninth year working in 4-H and youth development, Sublett says she enjoys what she does.

“I really, really do,” she said. “It’s a calling really.”

Sublett says a lot of work goes into making 4-H events fun and educational. “I grew up as a 4-Her,” she said. “It made a huge impact on my life and a huge difference. I owe a lot to 4-H.”

And Sublett says 4-H is always in need of volunteers, from those with a special skill to teach members or just those who want to help. “We rely heavily on volunteers,” Sublett said. “It helps the program tremendously.”

To volunteer to help with 4-H events, call the Taylor County Extension Office at 465-4511 or email Sublett at amanda.sublett@uky.edu.