It’s August, and the long, hot days of summer are slowly beginning to wane. At the retail stores, beach balls and pool noodles are losing shelf space to notebooks and backpacks. Children are unusually solemn and anxious. It can only mean one thing.
It’s back-to-school season.
As the public outreach arm of the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, UF/IFAS Extension is a long-term partner with Florida’s schools. If you’ve seen 4-H clovers in the hallways or cafeteria, that’s us—Florida 4-H is the youth development program of UF/IFAS Extension. 4-H provides school-enrichment programs that support K-12 education, such as 4-H Embryology and the Tropicana Public Speaking Program. Many schools also host 4-H clubs, where students ages 5-18 engage in hands-on learning projects related to science, citizenship and healthy lifestyles. Fun fact: Young people in 4-H report better grades, higher levels of academic competence, are more engaged at school, and are 2 times more likely to plan to go to college to pursue degrees in science, engineering or computer technology.
But going back to school isn’t just for the young, and UF/IFAS Extension is dedicated to the idea of lifelong learning. The Extension service was established over 100 years ago to bridge the gap between land-grant universities and the public. We do this by offering research-based educational programs relating to agriculture, natural resources, food and nutrition, home landscaping and other issues that help people of all ages improve their quality of life.
If you’re looking for ways to advance your career, we can help you gain specialized training and professional development online. UF/IFAS Extension Online Learning is the central source for continuing education, non-credit courses and educational modules developed by experts at the University of Florida. The catalog includes courses on beekeeping, training for pesticide applicator licensing, greenhouse management, farm labor education and Florida First Detector training, with many more courses and modules being added. Many of these courses are approved for certifications or continuing education units with specific agencies or professional boards, so your coursework can be officially recognized. Our online learning resources are available anywhere, 24/7 by going to our website at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/online-learning-opportunities/online-learning/.
UF/IFAS Extension also has professional development opportunities at our offices in each of Florida’s 67 counties. Green Industries Best Management Practices (GI-BMPs) is an educational program for people working in lawn-care and landscape maintenance to learn environmentally safe landscaping practices that help conserve and protect Florida’s ground and surface waters. The Food Safety and Quality Program offers ServSafe® certification training for food industry managers and staff.
Maybe you have a passion for gardening or nature, want to learn more and share your knowledge with others. If so, you might consider training to be a Master Gardener or Master Naturalist. In the Florida Master Gardener Volunteer Program, you’ll receive 50 hours or more of horticultural training, and then gain experience through at least 75 hours of volunteer work answering people’s plant questions, participating in community and school gardening projects, certifying Florida-FriendlyTM yards, and many other activities. The Florida Master Naturalist Program offers 120 hours or more of classroom instruction, field trips and practical experience to teach participants about Florida’s coastal, freshwater and upland ecosystems. Some graduates of the FMNP receive CEUs and in-service credits, while others go on to lead restoration efforts, volunteer, teach, serve as advisors and ecotourism guides, or other paths that promote awareness and understanding of Florida’s environment.
If you have a head for figures and want to help people in need, you can train to become a Florida Master Money Mentor. Volunteers receive 20 hours of intensive training in basic money management, strategies for dealing with financial problems, credit and debt management, savings, mentoring techniques, and connecting to community resources. Following the training, you’ll provide at least 50 hours of one-on-one help for people needing assistance in developing spending plans, organizing financial records, understanding credit and planning for the future.
Throughout the year, UF/IFAS Extension offices in all of Florida’s 67 counties conduct workshops, short courses, and other in-person events where people can learn to grow a garden, can vegetables, start a food business, find new markets for their produce, cook healthy meals, balance their checkbooks, improve their relationships or learn a new skill. Many of these learning opportunities are offered at no cost or low cost, and they’re designed to accommodate the schedules of working adults. Some of these take place in a classroom, some in a field, some at your desk at home, but all of them are taught by expert educators and communicators from the University of Florida, ranked the 8th best U.S. public university in 2019.
At UF/IFAS Extension, we believe that it’s always back-to-school season, and there’s always something new to learn.
To find out more about learning opportunities from UF/IFAS Extension, visit our website at http://sfyl.ifas.ufl.edu/online-learning-opportunities/.