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2020 VIRTUAL 4-H DAY CAMP: “BEAUTIFUL INVADERS AND NATIVE BEAUTIES”

Laura Cash, UF/IFAS Extension Volusia County 4-H, DeLand, FL; Dr. Marnie Ward, UF/IFAS Extension Citrus County 4-H, Lecanto, FL; and Lara Colley, UF/IFAS Florida Invasive Plant Education Initiative Coordinator, Gainesville, FL.

Situation: Due to the 2020 pandemic, Florida 4-H offered summer programs through virtual delivery systems, hence the creation of “Beautiful Invaders and Native Beauties.” Most Floridians do not understand how invasive species impact our native ecosystems. By educating the youth enrolled in the day camp, we hoped that they, in turn, would educate their parents and neighbors. Objectives: The objectives were: (1) to educate youth about invasive and native plants in Florida’s ecosystems; (2) to create experiential lessons that would be available on the Google site and through daily Zoom sessions; (3) and to include a community service component. Educational Methods:  The camp was designed to be a week-long camp, and was held July 13 – 17, 2020. Each day had an optional Zoom meeting that included a variety of educational materials, crafts, community service, activities and projects, career investigation, journaling, and a review. Youth were able to complete the five asynchronous sections, available on the Google site: https://sites.google.com/ufl.edu/environmentaleducation/home?authuser=1, at their convenience. A special aspect of the program were the interviews with environmental scientists and professionals. Results: Fifty-three youth registered for this camp. Five to ten youth attended each day’s Zoom session and both formal and informal evaluation demonstrated knowledge gain, attitude change, and behavior change. Daily reporting from the youth showed that they were outside investigating, identifying plants using their apps, and eradicating invasive plants in their yards. “The coolest thing I learned during this 4-H program is what invasive plants and animals are and how they affect our environment.”
Conclusion: The authors and creators of “Beautiful Invaders and Native Beauties” have made the program available to other youth and agents in the state through the link and have begun using analytics. In addition, the group is working on a curriculum through Florida 4-H about invasive and native species.