Students’ participation in 4-H up 46%

Published 1:13 am Thursday, August 16, 2018

Activities like rocketry, hiking and kayaking, as well as a focus on activities that teach basic computer coding have helped local leaders grow participation in Covington County’s 4-H clubs by 46 percent.

That number far surpassed the goals the Covington County Extension Office established for 2017-2018, which included expanding into the city schools and increasing participation in upper level classes.

“We are so pleased to share that we have accomplished those goals,” Catherine Rider told the Covington County Commission earlier this week. “We are now in Opp and Andalusia City Schools, both monthly and for special events.”

According to a table that Rider shared, the number of seventh to twelfth grade students participating increased from 309 in 2016-2017, to 1,039, a 70 percent increase; the number of youth members increased from 2095 in 2016-2017, to 3,534; and the total number of youth participants increased from 3,568 in 2016-2017, to 6,556, a 46 percent increase.

Rider said that the increase was mostly due to the expansion into the Andalusia City School system, the Opp City School system and by working hard to get the word out.

“We worked really hard at the extension office,” Rider said. “I think one thing that made a difference is that we have a very consistent team here and we are all trying to put the word out.”

Rider said that a lot of the students have been interested because of the things that they do in the club.

“We do a lot of interesting activities that the students love,” Rider said. “Like rocketry, hiking and kayaking. Here at the extension office, we are constantly being trained in new things, and focusing on things that will bring the students in.”

Rider said that another reason for the increase could be that the parents want their kids to have a well-rounded extracurricular activity.

“Some parents want their kids to do more than just sports,” Rider said. “And with 4-H they will have the opportunity to participate in a lot of leadership intensive activities. One student even went to Washington D.C., for a leadership workshop.”

The 4-H club lets students be involved in STEM, arts, natural resources education, and even robotics and basic coding.

“We will be working with ninth grade career tech teachers this year,” Rider said. “To work with Ozobots and basic coding.”

Rider said that the many jobs in the future will rely on computer science so they want to start educating younger students in this field.

“Basic coding is going to be a necessity in education,” Rider said. “So with the Ozobots that we have, we can teach kids as young as fourth grade to program and code.”

Ozobots are pocket-sized robots that help students learn computer coding.

“We are currently receiving training in computer coding so that we can offer more in-depth learning and teach youth how to build apps,” Rider said.

Rider said that their goals for this year in the 4-H club will be to keep their numbers increased and to get more volunteers.

“One thing that we need to have is volunteers,” Rider said. “That way we can have plenty of people that can work our events.”

Parents are also able to sponsor their own 4-H club if they have an interest, Rider said.

“We had a grandparent one year who was really interested in horses,” Rider said. “So she sponsored a group and started a horse 4-H club. There are a lot of opportunities for parents in 4-H.”

Rider said that without the county commission and the community, they would not have been able to increase their numbers like they have.

“With the county’s support we have enriched the lives of thousands of Covington County youth,” Rider said. “We have been able to expand our program to more schools and more children and we plan to further our reach through enrichment programs at county and city high schools.”