After in-person programming was suspended in April 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a questionnaire was sent to 4-H families. The majority of the 31 families who responded said they did not want online programs. Instead, they wanted to do activities together with their children.
In-person, summer programming included activities for the whole family. Without this programming, we needed something that was safe, educational, and fun for all ages. In the past, youth reacted favorably to environmental science-focused summer programming. They were most engaged when the programs were outdoors and included flora and fauna identification.
To stay relevant during the cessation of in-person programming, we created an eight-episode, environmental science video series called, “Where in the County are Ms. Julia & Ms. Kellie?” The objectives for the program were for: youth and families visit local, natural areas and youth appreciate Florida plants and wildlife.
We filmed at outdoor recreation areas such as county and state parks, forests, beaches, marshes, a lake, state bike trail, and the St. Johns River in St. Johns County. We performed activities including kayaking and cycling to add exercise for the health benefits. We even had a backyard “campout” to demonstrate that you didn’t have to leave home to experience the fun of camping. Whenever we pointed out an animal or plant, the video transitioned to a slide with fun facts. Links to the videos (YouTube) and post-video Qualtrics assessments of facts and attitudes were in the weekly 4-H electronic newsletter. Click here for the St. Johns County webpage with video links and assessments.
We employed two strategies to encourage viewers to pay close attention. One strategy was hiding stuffed bears throughout the videos. The follow up assessments asked the viewer how many bears they saw in the video. The other was not revealing the location when the videos debuted. We revealed the answer three days after debut on the county Facebook page in time for families to visit it on the
After the series was over, the titles of the videos included the location name on the website. We got a lot of assessments by offering a backpack to anyone who completed all eight. We also held a drawing for a camping equipment package. A stakeholder sponsored the backpacks and camping equipment package.
The videos are still on YouTube and have over 500 views. As a result of watching the videos, assessments (n=90) reflected that 96% wanted to visit the video locations and 98% understood the value of Florida plants and wildlife. Additionally, 87% identified characteristics of an average of more than 4 animals per episode and 74% identified characteristics of more than one plant per episode. Of the video series, one parent wrote:
“Five of my children participated in the Summer Outdoor Series 4h program. This program allowed them to virtually experience so many wonderful local areas; areas we may not have otherwise been able experience due to COVID-19 this year. It was so rewarding to see them (ages 10 yrs to 2 yrs) run to the computer and crowd around to see a new episode, then run outside to find their own “treasure”…a new insect, critter, rock, shell, flower. They all loved and enjoyed seeing and learning about all the different insects, animals, and plant life. It was so nice to see them all enjoying the program, especially with the large age differences. The program was enriching enough for my older children, yet kept the younger ones attention (which is no easy task!). The kids are excited to visit some of these areas and keep asking when the next series will start. Thank you for taking the time to put together such a wonderful enriching program. My kids love 4-H and we plan on being members for a long time.”
When shown how much fun people can have in outdoor environments, St. Johns County 4-H youth participants want to explore local areas and care more about nature.