4-H goes online in Kansas

Jennifer Stultz
Pratt County 4-H club member Gillian Swindler, right, attends a Zoom 4-H club meeting. Her club, the Country Trailblazers have changed club project plans, but members are encouraged to continue to plan for the county fair at the end of July this year, despite COVID-19 complications.

Among recent cancellations due to the novel coronavirus, K-State Research and Extension announced April 9 that all in-person 4-H activities around the state were prohibited. There was already a suspension of activities in place announced in March, but this announcement extended the current suspension, canceling many more activities.

Gillian Swindler, reporter for the Country Trailblazers 4-H Club in Pratt County said that members of her club were now meeting via Zoom just to keep some continuity going and to encourage each other.

“We met online April 5 for a quick meeting and to see one another on the screens,” Swindler said in a club report. “The club had planned to clean up Mae Dennis Park in Pratt to celebrate Earth Day this week, so instead as families we are going to find ways to clean areas as we can and post them on our Facebook page.”

Swindler said that even though all person-to-person activities had been canceled, leaders were still encouraging club members to work on their projects for the county fair, as those end-of-July plans were still in place.

State events and meetings like 4-H camps, Discovery Days, Campference, Insect Spectacular, Geology Field trip, MYPI, shooting sports matches, Shutterbug Photo Event, district horse shows, district dog shows, agricultural field days, food-safety trainings, and county fair judge trainings have all been suspended through July 4, 2020.

“We know this is an incredible disappointment and recognize how much everyone looks forward to these 4-H events,” said Wade Weber of 4-H Youth Development. “We will make every effort to shift as many of these events as possible to internet-based learning and showcase opportunities.”

To maintain some activity within K-State Research and Extension and 4-H, Extension Director Gregg Hadley said he and other extension personnel will start planning alternative activities.

“We know the distress this causes as the effects of the COVID-19 situation extend into the summer,” Hadley said. “But we take our responsibilities seriously and are choosing to prioritize the health and safety of the people we serve, especially when we have the ability to innovate and deliver our programs and services in different, safer ways.”

Beef and small animal weigh-ins at the county level have been canceled, but livestock tagging instructions are online on the Pratt County Extension website for those who need tags. Kiowa County and Stafford County extension services offer the same information on their websites for their 4-H county members.

Information regarding the Pratt County Fair, scheduled for July 22-25, has not been released yet, but the fair won’t be affected by any extended ban on K-State Research and Extension activities, as the decision will be left up to local extension offices.

The Pratt County Research and Extension website has many home education resources for parents and students alike. Local 4-H clubs are encouraged to continue to meet over Zoom or other video chat apps.

Though the Pratt County Extension office is closed due to the stay-at-home order, extension agents and employees are still serving the community over phone, email, and other communication methods.

A new program recently announced by Central Kansas District 4-H is Eight Weeks of Virtual 4-H. Club members from around the state are invited to join in daily themed lessons online ranging from table-setting instruction to photography and Earth Day projects.

*Reporter Kahrie Stegman contributed to this story.