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K-State Research and Extension
123 Umberger Hall
Manhattan, KS 66506-3401

September 29, 2020

Lessons Learned: Kansas 4-H Looks Back at Pandemic Challenges

Submitted by Pat Melgares

A Kansas 4-H official said that a survey taken during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has given the state’s largest youth organization a pretty clear idea of how it can continue to serve members and their families in good times and bad.

Amy Sollock, a 4-H youth development specialist in southwest Kansas, said the survey indicated that stay-at-home orders actually helped to boost involvement in some areas.

“Our families travel long distances, especially in some of our rural counties,” she said. “So when there were scheduling challenges before, they may have had to miss a meeting. During the pandemic, it was a little easier for them to hop online from their own home.

“That was a benefit of holding some of our activities virtually. Some clubs had increased attendance and participation because of that.”

But Sollock added that the internet also became limiting when services were spotty or non-existent – both in rural and urban areas.

“We found out that it doesn’t matter where you live across the state,” she said. “Internet and a strong Wi-Fi signal continue to be a challenge that we are continuing to try to overcome.”

Knowing the challenges and opportunities, Sollock said Kansas 4-H agents developed creative ways to keep their local programs going.

“We had some really innovative agents and volunteers across the state who rose to the challenge with such things as mailing out materials, developing ‘Camp in a Box’ or ‘meeting in a box…” she said. “Some clubs met in parking lots and everybody stayed in the bed of a pickup or the back of their car. They found ways to maintain the connectedness that 4-H clubs provide for our kids.”

In mid-summer, many 4-H activities moved back to some level of in-person contact, but Sollock said the organization is not forgetting its lessons learned.

“We will be prepared if we have to transition back to (stay-at-home) activities,” she said. “We hope we don’t have to do that because we know that meeting in person is optimum. But if we find ourselves in the situation where we have to meet as a club or project group virtually, we know that we can do that and do it well.”

The new 4-H year begins October 1, and signup is available through the local extension office. Sollock said registration is open anytime; there is no deadline for youth to join their local 4-H club.

“I’m a parent myself, and I know that a lot of parents out there have dealt with a lot of uncertainty in this changing atmosphere,” she said. “With many things up in the air, I just want to reassure parents that Kansas 4-H is committed to young leaders. We will continue to deliver safe and positive learning experiences no matter what it looks like, whether we can continue to do it in person or go back to doing it virtually.

“We are going to be here for the young people of Kansas and their families.”

Learn more about Kansas 4-H programs online.

Kansas 4-H Launches Communications Project

Kansas 4-H, the state’s largest youth organization group with more than 70,000 members, has announced plans to offer a communications project.

In addition to helping youth hone their public speaking skills, the project will help youth understand non-verbal cues, written communication skills, empathy and how to navigate difficult conversations.

“Those are all good communication skills that kids will use on the job, in college or later in life,” said Amy Sollock, a 4-H youth development specialist in southwest Kansas. “We want to make sure they are equipped with those skills.”

For more information or to sign up, youth can contact their local Extension agent or visit Kansas 4-H online.