The University of Georgia, The Ohio State University and Zamorano Pan-American Agricultural University, a private university in Honduras, partnered to facilitate 4-H programming during the COVID-19 pandemic at six Honduran schools, reaching 180 students.
The project culminated on Dec. 4 with a Virtual 4S Fair — 4S is what Hondurans call 4-H — featuring video presentations from participating schools, virtual blue ribbon awards and recognition of each student participant. Like traditional 4-H fairs, the excitement was infectious as students showcased their produce and, in this case, saw themselves in on-screen presentations.
A highlight of the fair was a subtitled video from Georgia 4-H specialist Jason Estep and several Georgia 4-H state officers congratulating the students on their accomplishments, sharing their own 4-H experiences and encouraging 4S’ers to keep up the good work.
“They have much to be proud of, that’s for sure,” said Estep, who provided critical leadership throughout the collaboration. “Hopefully, the success of this endeavor will lead us to explore other ways to help Honduran educators continue 4S programming with their youth, even as the pandemic continues.”
The pilot project began in the summer as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic forcing students around the world into remote learning situations, including in rural Honduras. Zamorano had already been working with six area Honduran schools to offer 4S to their students. To help teachers continue to engage students in hands-on learning and 4S programming, each school was asked to identify 30 students in primary, middle or high school to take part in a special Honduras 4S From Home project.
These students were then sent an educational kit containing all materials needed to complete the 13-week program. The items in each kit included vegetable seeds, pencils, pencil sharpeners, rulers, compost and self-guided educational booklets.
The objective of the project was to provide students an opportunity to learn about plant nutrition, soil preparation, fertilizers and compost, participate in hands-on experiences, and develop critical thinking and analytical skills through data collection and presentation.
The program began in the second week of August and concluded in early November. For the duration of the project, students posted weekly photos of their progress and communicated periodically with their teachers with questions and for support.
“I love how so many of these students turned the project into an exciting family activity,” said Ashley Shunk, World Food Prize Youth Institute coordinator and teacher at Alison Bixby Stone School, one of the participating institutions. “I am still receiving amazing photos from the students of the dishes that they are making at home. Gardening is a skill that students can use for the rest of their lives to eat healthy and have fun.”
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all communications with students, teachers and professionals were conducted virtually.
“It has been a rewarding experience to work with colleagues from across the nation and internationally to help Honduras educators deliver 4-H/4S programming to students even under the trying conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Estep. “The partnership and this pilot project have worked so well because we all acknowledged the importance of involving the students, educators and communities we hoped to serve at the outset. The Honduras 4S From Home kits were the product of much input from our local constituents, and those same constituents are personally invested in its success. We are particularly grateful for support from Jean and Rob Fowler, who were instrumental in initiating this collaboration.”
Jean Fowler was a UGA Cooperative Extension agent in Jasper County until she retired in 2011, but she and her husband, Rob, continue to promote 4-H and the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Georgia 4-H empowers youth to become true leaders by developing necessary life skills, positive relationships and community awareness. As the largest youth leadership organization in the state, 4-H reaches more than 242,000 Georgia youth annually through UGA Extension offices and 4-H facilities. For more information, visit georgia4h.org.