INCREASING APPRECIATION FOR NATURAL RESOURCES IN 4-H YOUTH
R. Slocumb, UF/IFAS Extension, Lake County, Tavares, FL
Situation: Youth involved in interactions with the natural world have an increased emergence of a secure and positive identity, critical thinking, problem solving, self-esteem, and health (Kellert, 2009). These benefits are in line and support the life skills that 4-H nurtures growth (Kress, 1996). Lake County is home to nearly 1,000 lakes. Being that the residents are surrounded by these lakes, and the fact that Florida itself is surrounded by water, there is a need to educate the youth of Lake County about water quality. This agent’s programming focuses on water quality, pollution, and native and invasive species to Florida. Participants of this program will gain knowledge of natural resources, gain an appreciation for the outdoors, and share their knowledge with others. This will be measured through post-surveys, observation, and personal testimony. Methods: Sixteen (16) different programs and outreach opportunities were attended or hosted by the agent. Events included: attending natural resources focused festivals, all day programs, a forestry judging team and a residential camp. The use of teaching animals was implemented in nearly every program. Teaching animals were used to raise awareness of indicator species, and to reduce fear of wildlife. Results: 799 contacts have been reached. Surveyed youth attending residential camp reported the following: 93% of youth participants (n=28) expressed a gain in appreciation of nature, 93% of youth participants (n=29) stated that they now had an increase in care about plants and animals, 79% of youth participants (n=29) state they will now reuse or recycle things before throwing them away. Conclusion: Natural resources programming has been successful in Lake County 4-H, with positive outcomes present, this program will definitely continue. Through these preliminary program offerings, there has been an increased interest in environmental education. We have also established county collaborations to continue to add experiential environmental programming.
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