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4-H program continuing to teach skills during pandemic

The Freeborn County 4-H program is being creative with its programming in recent months because of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Amy Wadding, University of Minnesota Extension educator with 4-H youth development for Freeborn County, said much of the programming has shifted online but has continued to allow students to learn new skills.

Waseca, Freeborn and Steele counties partnered for a supper club allowing participants to log in each week and cook with a leader. The participants were given recipes a week in advance to get their groceries and ingredients ahead of time, learning different types of cooking, including microwave cooking and how to make different cuts of vegetables, for example. It also incorporated guest speakers.

Wadding said the supper club was such a positive experience with 74 participants logging in each week that they are taking it a step further and starting a grilling club to learn the ins and outs of grilling. She said there are some tours lined up at meat markets to teach about things such as different cuts of meats. They also hope to have the fire department for one session talking about grill safety and topics such as grease fires. They will also teach about topics such as dry rubs and marinades for meats, as well as some nontraditional grilling foods.

The age range of participants includes kindergarteners through 11th graders, but Wadding noted participants who are under 5th grade are asked to have a parent with them.

She said Freeborn County also partnered with Steele County for the Ready, Set, Bike program to encourage the youth to be active. The program keeps track of miles that the participants ride from the beginning of June through August.

A member of the Myrtle 4-H Club takes part in the supper club offered through 4-H. – Provided

“The intent was to ride around the state of Minnesota,” she said.

They are also exploring other things to do to maintain a healthy lifestyle, including walking, running, dancing and skipping, to name a few. The program evolved to where people could also keep track of their activity minutes instead of miles.

Each week they also meet online and invite guest speakers, including a bike shop owner, a dietitian and the Albert Lea Police Department. Albert Lea Convention and Visitors Bureau Executive Director Holly Karsjens spoke about the chalking the walk program and spreading nice messages to people on the sidewalk, and April Jeppson with the Albert Lea Family Y spoke about how positivity does good things for your body.

“Some awesome things have been happening,” Wadding said, noting they have also passed on information on resources for social and emotional learning and ways to cope during the pandemic.

“4-H is continuing to think outside the box, to help our young people take control of the situation they’re given,” she said.

Students can find out more about the 4-H program by calling 377-5660 or by visiting the University of Minnesota Extension website and searching for Freeborn County.

Wadding said traditionally, youth sign up or renew their memberships in the fall, and they pick a club they wish to be in. There are 12 clubs in Freeborn County, and traditionally each month the clubs meet on a non-COVID year, practicing leadership skills and working on community service projects.

“With the flexibility of families being home together, a lot of them have been focused on doing 4-H events together,” she said.

Students also take part in self-directed projects throughout the year that can be shown at the county fair.

“The more opportunities you take advantage of, the more you’re going to get out of it,” she said.