Illinois 4-H strives to teach life skills. Sometimes those life skills may seem very simple to us, but are truly life changing. Read these words from a mother who knows just how important 4-H has been to her son.

"We have five sons adopted form China. Jason came home in 2010 at age 6 ½ with an unrepaired single ventricle heart, skeletal (28 pounds), horrific scars on his arms and legs and scared of EVERYTHING, but especially any kind of ANIMAL.

Not many 4-H members can say they've been to the White House—by special invitation. Two members of the Chicago Knights, a 4-H robotics club, can. John Moore of Lincoln Park High School and Lydia Wolfe, Hales Franciscan High School, received the invitation to demonstrate the robot they built for "aerial assist" season.

"The Chicago Knights are a great example of a well-rounded robotics club focused on youth learning critical technical and teamwork skills that will help them succeed in life," said Bob Smith U of I Extension robotic educator.

As the competition season for Illinois 4-H robotics clubs draws to a close, several clubs continue their community programs and trainings for younger members. The Techno Ferret 4-H Club has a great video created by their senior 4-H members about what it means to be a member of their club. 

In Macon County, members of the 4-H RoboStorms Robotics Club were part of the Decatur Business Expo. Members of the team demonstrated exciting technology, such as "Makey Makey."

Twenty-five teams of middle-school students from DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties displayed their technical, creative and teamwork skills during the 4-H Robotics Box Bot Showcase in Elgin on Saturday, March 22. Throughout the afternoon, 4-H members showcased their Lego Mindstorm robots in creativity, table performance, and technical categories. They also completed a teamwork challenge without their Bots.

For the past 25 years, the Buttercups 4-H Club in Clinton County has made it a tradition to bake bread on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. The members have made a wide variety of bread creations including cinnamon rolls, bread in a bag, mini loaves and standard bread.

This year's concoction was French bread. "One goal of the club is to be a place where members can learn to make inexpensive projects, as well as test out various project areas," says Diane Sinclair, the Buttercups leader. (Reprinted with permission, Illinois Farmer Today)

 

The burning question in Logan County was "Are you smarter than a 4-Her." The answers came during a fast-paced trivia contest, sponsored, in part, by Farm Credit Illinois. Acting on a suggestion by the county's Expansion & Review Committee, the trivia contest hoped to provide opportunities for youth across the county to interact and build new relationships. Categories included sports, movies, famous 4-H alumni, impossible questions, cooking terms, name the year, history and Logan County 4-H.

 

Elizabeth Auer was one of the first 4-H Shooting Sports members when the program began in Illinois in 2009. Now, at 23, she's the first former member to return as a shooting sports volunteer leader by completing training in rifle and archery.

4-H is fun, and so can the 4-H Pledge. The Champaign County 4-H Teens as Teachers wanted to spice things up during their summer 4-H youth programs, so they started each meeting with this peppy version of the 4-H pledge.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager

Youth can and do make a difference in their communities, and Sparta (Randolph County) Lincoln eighth grader Conner Stewart is among them. Conner sells or donates farm-fresh eggs to a variety of local people and the Sparta Food Pantry through his enterprise, Conner's Cluckers. He was diagnosed with autism at the age of 18 months. His mother Charlene said that was a frightening moment because Conner was not verbal.

The real world is a lot tougher than most eighth graders know. Extension's "Welcome to the Real World" brings home that lesson. WTTRW is an experiential learning simulation which shows youth real facts about how the careers they choose and the decisions they make effect the money they have to spend or save each month.

Members of the Grandview Pioneers 4-H Club chose aerospace as their theme for the year, and each month, these young people, who hail from Kansas, Shiloh, Paris and Ashmore in Edgar County, have completed aerospace-related activities. Recently the group made kites, and despite a light mist, flew them.

4-H members are four times more likely than their peers to give back to their communities according to the 10-year longitudinal study conducted by Tufts University. Fulton County 4-H members have the stockings to prove it!

Each February, members sew Christmas stockings and write notes in Christmas cards to be sent to the troops overseas as part of the Operation Santa program based in Bloomington. Operation Santa works year round to gather homemade stockings, collect items to go in the stockings, and raise money for postage.

The Marion County 4-H livestock judging team had phenomenal success during the 2013 judging season, and that success is hard to contain. Last weekend, more than 200 youth participated in the county's annual livestock judging contest in Salem, with youth traveling from Indiana, Oklahoma and Oregon just to compete and learn from the successful team members.

The competition is only a small part of the real accomplishments which happen through Illinois 4-H robotics. A group of Will County 4-H participants discovered that when 24 teams showcased their skills in the regional 4-H Robotics Box Bot Showcase in Joliet, hosted by University of Illinois Extension at the Weitendorf Agriculture Education Center.

All the youth in the clubs are 4-H members, thanks, in part, to the Illinois 4-H Foundation. This National 4-H Council grant-funded program impacted more than 100 Will County kids this year.

For 25 years, University of Illinois Extension's "Simply the Best" program in Washington County has mixed the right ingredients to inspire positive change in the lives of 250 junior high youth there a year.

The following message came from a middle school teacher in Northern Illinois where Illinois 4-H has teamed with National 4-H Council to provide grant-funded 4-H robotics special interest clubs. She has seen the change in one young boy's life because of our valuable program.

"One of my boys has a difficult home life. His parents are getting a divorce, and it was really affecting his school work and attitude. He joined the club because his best friend also joined, but he was hesitant that it was for "losers."

It speaks well of a state program when one of it's former longtime employees is honored for the magic they did for generations of 4-H members. Illinois can be proud.

The DeWitt County "Where Does My Lunch Come From?" 4-H SPIN Club gave 4-H members a chance to check out local agricultural sites to see where their food comes from and how it is raised or grown.

Each day, the youth prepared a lunch which related to those agricultural businesses they toured.

"In addition to knowing where their food came from, we wanted youth to see ALL the possibilities in creating a business through a passion they might have," said Sherry Fulton, U of I Extension 4-H youth development educator.

Robots will take over the ARC this Saturday during the sixth annual Illinois State 4-H BoxBot Robotics Competition. Approximately 300 students within 45 teams from across the state will exhibit their robots and compete against each other.

In addition to the student competitors, University students from the colleges of Engineering and ACES will man booths and present their own projects in the STEM field, according to Smith. The Champaign-Urbana Community Fab Lab, which focuses on innovation, fabrication and design, will also be there with a 3-D printer.

 

"I hear that train a-comin," and it's being led by a group of former 4-H members who found each other on the University of Illinois campus years after spending a summer together as 4-H counselors.

David and Daniel Fulton, twin sons of U of I Extension staff Sherry and John Fulton, first met Grady and Kelly Ryan, another set of twin 4-H members from Dewitt County, at 4-H Memorial Camp in Monticello.

As we fill our bellies this Thanksgiving holiday, some 4-H youth will have a greater appreciation for the food set before them.

The 4-H Hunger Ambassadors in Milan held a Hunger Banquet, but not everyone filled their plates. In fact, many didn't even get a seat at the table.

It's easy to tell friends and family about 4-H. Now, imagine you're a teenager and you're telling your story at the Illinois State Capitol.

This spring, 49 4-H members did just that. The youth were specifically trained, either through the Speaking for Illinois 4-H educational program or as members of the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team.

It's what every good carpenter knows; "measure twice, cut once." Now, 4-H members in DeWitt County know the benefit of careful planning after attending a woodworking workshop which taught basic carpentry skills, such as using a scroll saw, chop saw, band saw, belt sander, planer, drill and air nail gun.

Working cooperatively with Lowe's Home Improvement stores and the Clinton FFA, each member completed, from scratch, a squirrel feeder. The 4-H motto for the day was "measure twice, cut once." They also learned the benefit of taking their time when sanding and staining.

 

When a tornado hit Washington, Ill., 4-H families across the state were quick to respond, due, in large part, to the work of the Extension staff in Woodford County. Through the efforts of 4-H clubs, families and friends, $10,000 in gift cards have been donated to help the families who lost homes.

"It has been humbling to witness the outpouring of support coming from across the state during these past three months," said Cathy Blunier, Extension youth educator. "Please know that the families send heartfelt appreciation for all that has been done to assist them during this time."

University of Illinois Extension and the American Heart Association (AHA) teamed up to motivate children at the Joliet Park District Hartman Center to live healthier lives. Megan Walsh, U of I Extension youth educator, organized the interactive educational event, which was led by David Lee, an associate board member of the AHA and contributor to the Disque Foundation. Lee's aim was to inspire children to increase physical activity, improve eating habits, and get enough rest.

Zoe Vicich wants people to think twice before tossing their pop tabs. Vicich, 14, of Sandwich, hopes to donate one million pop tabs to the Ronald McDonald House Charities so families will have a comfortable place to go while they are caring for a child in the hospital. It's a goal she'll need a little help to hit.

"If more people get involved, I can get there," Vicich said. "But if I collect 10 pounds a year, I'll have to do it until I'm 80."

Kids love to figure things out. Nearly 140 kids stretched their minds and investigative skills at the University of Illinois Extension 4-H Clover Clinic held at Illinois Central College in East Peoria. They gained new skills from more than 30 interactive workshops, such as ballroom dancing, origami, DNA extraction, farm animals, and robotics.

The goal was to inspire kids to explore their interests and be engaged in their communities. One of the workshops showed how to make ice cream using liquid nitrogen.

More than 200 youth experienced a bit of college life during the 2014 Illinois 4-H Illini Summer Academies, sponsored by University of Illinois Extension in cooperation with several departments on campus. High school youth stayed in dorms, experienced campus recreation and food, and spent 15 hours with U of I faculty and grad students in 11 departments during the 4-day conference.

Eric's pony was being a typical pony on show day; stubborn.

For two years, Eric struggled to find common ground with his pony. The pony didn't do anything Eric asked of him on show day, said Extension Program Coordinator Amanda Fox. Eric's attempt to show the pony left him exhausted and frustrated, so much that he decided not to compete in the rest of the day's events.

How do you get kids interested in horticulture? In Montgomery County, you show them plants that eat things.

4-H members learned how and why carnivorous plants eat insects. Andrew Holsinger, U of I Extension horticulture educator, provided the hands-on instruction. When the county's classroom teachers heard about the program, the phones began ringing in the Montgomery County office.

Now, more than 600 youth in 25 classrooms in the county know more about the life of carnivorous plants, and might just think it's cool to one day be a botanist.

 

What do you do with a shoe that you aren't wearing anymore? If you're a 4-H member in Kendall County, chances are you've turned it into a garden planter. With instruction from 17-year-old 4-H Member Cydney Olah, youth took shoes from an area resale store and created a garden planter. 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager

Sometimes, the best teachers are those who once learned the same lessons in the same setting. 4-H alumna Rachel Skelton, who currently serves on the Illinois State 4-H Youth Leadership Team, returned to Logan County to teach teambuilding skills to the 4-H Leadership class.

"She really made this fun," said Hannah, a 4-H participant.

Charlee Walker didn't tell anyone her plan, so imagine the surprise when the 17-year-old 4-H member from Edgar County walked into her senior prom wearing a dress she made . . . out of magazine pages. It took this creative young lady more than two months to design, weave, fold, staple and hot glue her one-of-a-kind party dress. She used photography magazines as her "fabric" because the pages were colorful. Working without a pattern, the teenager said she just "kinda winged it." She also made a bow tie and boutonniere out of paper for her lucky date.

Illinois 4-H has surpassed more than 100,000 packaged meals for the hungry in 11 months through the 4-H Feeding and Growing Our Communities program.

The latest push came July 15 when more than 200 volunteers helped the Quad Cities 4-H Teen Hunger Ambassadors prepare more than 40,000 meals. The meals will be distributed locally by the River Bend Foodbank.

A group of intrepid middle school investigators, with the help of young scientists from area universities, solved the last of three crimes during their six-week stint as "Library Investigators."

The 12 youth representing six Waukegan schools worked alongside scientists from the University of Wisconsin, Northwestern University, and University of Illinois.

Brent Miller is teaching students to give back to their community; his life is their living example of that lesson.

Brent, his wife Holly, and their three children live in Ullin. For the past 11 years, Brent has served as a 4-H leader for the Ridge Runners 4-H Club. Since he is also the ag teacher at Century, he has combined the FFA and 4-H together by making a 4-H SPIN (SPecial INterest) club called the Century Ag Shack Traditions 4-H Club.

The 4-H Food Smart Families program teaches youth and their families to prepare nutritious meals and be physically active. At the same time, it gives teens practical experience at teaching, something many teens see as a potential career. That's a win-win situation according to U of I Extension Youth Development Educator Jamie Boas.

This summer, nearly two dozen soon-to-be-seniors from Danville High School attended 15 hours of training to learn how to be teen teachers who mentor the second and third graders who attend the Danville Family YMCA's summer camp.

Dozens of local youth have discovered a way to combine summer fun with learning. They will participate in an interactive activity that challenges youth to use critical thinking and science skills to address an agriculture problem.

Led by Illinois 4-H members, the Fish Farm Challenge activity is part of the 4-H Ag Innovators Experience, presented by Monsanto, which aims to make agri-science relevant and fun for youth.

Thirty years ago, a young man job-shadowed a Grundy County judge as part of University of Illinois Extension's Local Government Day. That young man is now the 41-year-old deputy sheriff for the county. He told his story during this year's Local Government Day and encouraged youth to make the most of their time visiting local officials. To date, the program has impacted the lives of 22,000 youth in its 35-year history.

Ten Illinois 4-H teens were honored as Illinois 4-H Key Award winners for their leadership, community service and mentoring activities throughout their 4-H career. The award is sponsored by the H. Richard and Sarah F. McFarland Endowed 4-H Youth Leadership Development Support Fund from the Illinois 4-H Foundation.

One never knows how 4-H experiences can shape one's future. Josh Cole Brodnax participated in 4-H nutrition sessions while a youngster living in public housing in East Moline, thinking that would be his only experience with 4-H. Little did he know that 4-H would find him again as a teen and hone his leadership skills into being an advocate for healthy living and good nutrition to underserved younger youth living as he had.

The next time you use the phrase "walking on eggshells," you'll think of a group of 4-H afterschool youth in Decatur who actually walked on eggs as part of their 4-H embryology project study.

Through a pilot initiative engaging 50 youth in Rockford, Madison and Elgin, 4-H youth in Illinois are building science and engineering skills for the future. Using open-source software and simple microcontroller boards called Arduinos, these youth are writing computer programs, learning how to solder, building simple circuits, and designing sensor-based systems to address everyday problems.

Any better, and he'd been perfect. Darren Hawkins of Grundy County missed only one clay target throughout a full day of shotgun trap competition at the Illinois 4-H Shooting Sports State Shoot held Saturday, May 31 at the Brittany Shooting Park in Bunker Hill. Hawkins hit 74 of his 75 targets to take first place in the shotgun division. The competition was the first state contest held since the shooting sports program began in Illinois in 2009. Dan Dawson, state Extension educator, said the meet followed the strict guidelines established by the National 4-H Shooting Sports program.

You never know where the inspiration for a career will come. For 16-year-old Susannah Hall, it came from the 4-H knitting project she taught herself by reading a how-to book at the library. Susannah is a 5-year member of the Ft. Sumpter 4-H Club. She recently taught other 4-H members and parents in Edgar County the basics of knitting, and each participant successfully completed a drink cup cover.

Four teens represented Illinois at the National Science and Engineering Festival in Washington, D.C. this spring. These 4-H science ambassadors, who hail from DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties, manned a water science booth at the popular national event. All of the youth are members of a special interest

Some 4-H stories touch your heart in ways you don't ever forget. Meet 4-H member Tiffany Williams from Clark County who, as part of the five-member 4-H QOV Spinners 4-H Club, has donated time, talent and material to make beautiful "Quilts of Valor" for veterans of the area. Deb Lindley, the leader of the QOV Club, is a former 4-H member who "learned how to quilt from the best, Eleanor Markwell," said Extension 4-H Program Coordinator Cartha Gustafson. At 88 years young, Markwell is still a 4-H leader in Clark County, completing 58 years of dedicated volunteer service.

Janet Pezzelle, a volunteer leader of the Forsyth Fantastics 4-H Club for 15 years, said she wanted to expose her club members to something new. Her "something new" was bright, shiny and full of bling, glass mosaics. Members brought in items from home as the base for their mosaic project, and with a little instruction from Glass House owner Marilyn Trebacz, the 4-H members went about designing their own original art pieces which will be exhibited at the Macon County Fair 4-H Show at the Decatur Arts Council in July.

The pilot program for the 4-H Teens as Teachers grant has wrapped up, and the results prove the concept of using teens to teach peers is solid for both the participants and the teen mentors. The following testimonials speak to the impact for 4-H Teen Teachers.

Sometimes, it's hard enough just following a step-by-step recipe. Now, imagine you've been given a basket of ingredients and told to "make something." That's what teens in this year's Illinois 4-H Food Challenge pilot program faced. Several counties are holding mini competitions where youth demonstrate their mastery of food preparation.

Youth in Macon County now know more about how their food is produced, thanks to Illinois 4-H's Tech Wizards program. 4-H Tech Wizards is a national mentoring program funded by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention.

Kendall County 4-H Federation members gave back to their community by supporting local food bank organizations, including the Northern Illinois Food Bank (NIFB) in Geneva. The group helped pack 651 "backpacks" which will provide for 11,718 meals for hungry residents in the region.

University of Illinois Extension Statewide Camping Educator Curt Sinclair knew in his heart that serving as a 4-H camp counselor changed lives. Now he has the proof to back up his beliefs. In a recent survey conducted by U of I Extension for 4-H Memorial Camp, the comments from the teen counselors showed the impact of the experience on their lives. A few comments follow:

Leaving a child at camp for the first time can be scary for parents. In nearly 20 years at 4-H Memorial Camp in Monticello, Curt Sinclair, University of Illinois Extension statewide camping educator, said he never tires from getting these types of emails from parents: "I wanted to reach out to you because yesterday, I dropped my kids off at camp. I was very worried and scared, probably more than the kids. After I met the staff, all my worries were over. There is no way I could ever provide this experience for my kids alone. My father served in the Air Force.

Kane County 4-H members gained first-hand knowledge of the important roles local government officials play during the 22nd annual 4-H Government Day. The 4-H youth shadowed more than 30 county officials, experiencing the inside of a County Board meeting, courtroom proceedings, and other government departments and offices.

State's Attorney Joseph McMahon, who has participated for four years, said he looks forward to meeting with the 4-H members each time.

It's one thing to show livestock; it's another to understand the science behind raising livestock which will produce well and provide wholesome product for consumers. That's the vision which led DeWitt County 4-H volunteers Larry Martin and Doug North to host a livestock clinic which attracted youth from nine counties.