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Virtual limitations brings new innovation in 4-H 

With the COVID-19 pandemic leading to restrictions against visitors in school systems, the Franklin County 4-H program has had to work to find new ways to get students involved. 

Franklin County 4-H Foundation Regional Extension Agent Vanessa Roberts said this has not been a typical year for 4-H, but the challenge has motivated 4-H agents to think outside the box. 

“I think it is going to help us a lot because it has shown us new ways to do things – ways we probably wouldn’t have ever done it before,” Roberts said. 

Roberts said 4-H is operating largely by Zoom meetings. Many 4-H agents have also posted videos to YouTube for students to access at any time. 

“That is probably one good thing to come out of this,” Roberts said. 

Roberts said the number of students participating in 4-H has been lower this semester, partially because agents are not able to reach out in person and partially because money is tight in a lot of families because of the pandemic. 

“Numbers are lower now, but I think what we are doing will eventually boost numbers,” Roberts said. “I think it is being exposed to a lot more kids than before because kids are able to show their friends what it is like.” 

Roberts said having the majority of 4-H programs virtually this year has also spurred agents to release a lot more information for students. Agents have created packets to send to teachers to do 4-H activities, as opposed to visiting the classrooms themselves. 

The only in-person 4-H events right now are shooting sports and Pig Squeal, but Roberts said 4-H is still planning to host in-person camps this summer. 

“We are having to learn a lot and adapt to the situation, just like everyone else,” Roberts said. 

Roberts said while 4-H has tried to make the most out of this year, it has still been difficult, not being able to interact with the students. 

“We aren’t able to see the kids much because of everything going on, and this is really hard,” Roberts said. “It isn’t just that it is difficult to do activities, but that it is difficult because you miss being able to see the kids.” 

Roberts said she hopes it will not be long before 4-H agents are able to be back around the kids interacting with them and watching them smile. 

For more information about how to become involved with 4-H, contact Roberts at 256-332-8800.