PROJECT DESCRIPTION AND RESULTS
The two main target issues for the Green Team were to educate others on the benefits of soil and water quality improvements through field trips, experiential activities, community service, and teaching models.
Water quality is the focus of our NW Missouri Regional Water Festivals at which staff from Extension and Missouri Department of Conservation present experiential lessons on conserving and protecting our natural water resources. I am one of the core teaching members of this project which has a history of over ten years. I am a landowner and conscious of the issues and want to personally be a positive role model for our youth.
The 4-H Experiential Learning Model of Do, Reflect and Apply is the framework for the Teen Challenge for Sustainable Solutions Project.
During summer 2013, a team of twelve 4-H teens, three 4-H leaders and I will engage in a multi-night Global Village Program at Heifer International Ranch, Perryville, Arkansas to experience the causes, challenges and sustainable solutions to global hunger, poverty and protecting the environment. Participants will be living the lesson of poverty first hand in addition to observing and learning about sustainable agriculture from the ranch, learning by doing.
During their sustainable ranch experience, the participants will reflect upon their experiences journaling and sharing in daily guided discussions which will guide their personal projects.
The application level of learning of this project will be teaching the teens to be ambassadors for sustainable agriculture solutions in the fight against world hunger. The teens will present a renewable energy lesson to elementary classroom(s) creating a model biogas digester. The participants will be challenged to create related additional service learning projects following 4-H Key Award project guidelines to qualify for multiple level recognitions. Participants will prepare a presentation for community and 4-H audiences sharing the project’s mission.
The primary goals were to create youth voices and platforms for the message of sustainable agriculture to the community and especially other youths.
The 4-H teen participants for this project, ages 13-17, were selected from applications from the three counties I serve. The application required commitment agreements to the three levels of this project and an essay question: “Why is it important to care for the earth in the fight against world hunger?” The applications were reviewed by key community supporters for this project representing the Missouri Soil and Water Districts, county commissioners, 4-H alumni and elementary teachers.
The Heifer Ranch requires a minimum of fifteen participants for the Global Village session. Our fifteen participants in summer 2013 session included me, three 4-H adult leaders, and twelve 4-H teens equally representing each of my three counties. During our experience, the individuals developed teamwork, leadership and a keener awareness of the challenges for sustainable solutions for world hunger issues. The $2,000 from the SARE grant was applied to the Heifer Ranch fees for the twelve teens and their Green Team t-shirts (which they designed) with remaining adult fees, transportation, presentation materials, and t-shirts paid from funds collected by the participants from 4-H County Council scholarships and/or community fund raising efforts.
The team members developed their teaching plans with their local elementary school principal and a cooperating teacher to finalize classroom presentation(s) during early fall following the Heifer educational resources on preserving the earth’s soil. Using the Heifer International lesson plans ensures a credible resource addressing national science and geography standards. Pre and post tests measured the impact of the lessons. The adult Heifer participant and I oversaw the completion of the plans, accompanied team members to class presentations, and to the Regional Water Festivals and provided support as needed.
Each teen was encouraged to create a personal service learning project as a result of the Heifer Ranch experience addressing challenges of creating sustainable agriculture solutions for global food issues. Several members began to volunteer at local food pantries as a result of this project.
Each participant was asked to prepare a media presentation for 4-H county spring contests and community groups promoting the global food issues and sustainable agriculture solutions which 75% of the group completed. The presentation was eligible for youth competitions and recognition programs.
Measurement tools of pre and post surveys and an essay question “Why is it important to care for the earth in the fight against world hunger?” assessed participants’ changes in knowledge and actions as a result of this project.
Tom Ruggieri and Rebecca Graff, owners and operators of the CSA Fair Share Farm, Kearney, MO were gracious hosts to an educational field trip for the group and inspired the team to use their by-line “Feed the Soil, Feed the People” as their motto and mantra.
Volunteers and managers at the Heifer Ranch guided the youth through invaluable team building at the beginning of the project in addition to an unforgettable opportunity to experience the overnight Global Village Challenge.
Parents contributed time and focus for the youths’ efforts in connecting with food pantries, providing compost for container gardens, and chaperoning the group to Arkansas and the Heifer Ranch.
Ken Jameson and Dan Kercher, both pastors with agriculture backgrounds, were community volunteers who provided a church van for transportation and chaperoning responsibilities for the trip to Heifer Ranch in north central Arkansas.
Clinton County Soil and Water District provided staff for Water Festivals and support for the Green Team efforts.
Building public knowledge about sustainable agriculture was a goal through publications. A brochure sharing the mission of the Green Team and SARE was developed in summer, 2014, and distributed to local churches, Rotary, and the Chamber. Several donations were received as a result of this presentation information and the brochure. News releases about the Green Team’s Heifer Ranch experience and their mission was published in county newspapers August, 2014. A news release about the Water Festival, including the Green Team’s presentation with a photo of the Green Team was published in county newspapers. All news releases about activities of the Green Team included the message of sustainable agriculture. Additionally, approximately 200 thank you cards were given to donors at the vehicle window washing at the major fuel station. The cards contained information about the Green Team and SARE.
The team followed up with monthly meetings through December, 2013, creating and practicing the sustainable agriculture lesson plans to be shared with groups during the winter months, and developing plans for spring, 2014. As of March 30, 2014, there have been two major presentations to 270 fifth grade students with a third presentation April 17 to 170 students at the NW MO Water Festivals, a full day of educational workshops targeting fifth grade Missouri educational standards. The nine 25-minute experiential water and soil stewardship lessons are taught by staff from University of Missouri Extension, Missouri Department of Conservation, county soil and water districts, and in 2014 the 4-H Green Team. The Green Team lesson focused on the diminishing resource of soil available for food production. The teens used an interactive game which illustrated the need for all citizens to share our limited resources, a PowerPoint discussion of sustainable agriculture, and the Earth Apple demonstration illustrating the small amount of the earth available for food production. The fifth grade students wrote key points in their festival workbook and responding to the question: How can we save the soil to feed the people? The groups were able to share some of their answers which reinforced that they had ‘got’ the lesson. In addition to the audiences of the Water Festival, several Green Team members have presented similar lessons to their home school large groups, reaching another 60 youth and families.
In visiting the CSA and Heifer Ranch, I was excited to learn how easy it can be to modify gardening and agricultural production practices to enrich and preserve our resources. I think the take away message is that we have responsibilities to ‘give back’ which has been demonstrated by the youth’s engagement in wanting to teach others about these principles. They were anxious to create a community garden and explored the option of finding garden plots and several community members willing to help. However, after thoughtful discussions it was determined that a longer lasting impact would be teaching and mentoring others in how they can help themselves in their own living space.
I spoke to several civic groups: Rotary, Chamber of Commerce, local churches and Extension Councils sharing the mission and progress of this group. The attached brochure was distributed to these groups and available in the community to educate and offer contributions of money or volunteer help.
The Green Team also worked a fund raiser to continue their efforts at a truck stop on I-35 washing windows and visiting with customers over Labor Day weekend 2013. A thank you card with the mission of the group was given to customers, which numbered around 200.
The main project of 2014 was to create 65 container gardens with tomato plants distributed to the Lathrop, Plattsburg, Gower and Cameron food pantries in June. Growing instructions and the mission of the Green Team was given with each 5 gallon bucket/tomato plant. As a follow up from the Green Team organization, members became volunteers at those food pantries and were comfortable in distributing the plants to pantry clients.
The Green Team presented the attached Power Point to Clinton County 2013 Recognition Event to an audience of 100+ 4-H youth and parents.
The Green Team presented their lesson in spring 2014 as described above and used the second attached Power Point at Water Festivals in Clinton County and Mercer County to more than 300 fifth grade students.
As originally proposed, the ripple effect is working. The second Green Team Class is being formed and both groups will participate in another grant, HEAL from the Heartland Foundation, mentoring senior citizens and food pantry clients to grow their own backyard healthy foods. The Clinton County Extension Council sponsored the grant and is creating a demonstration garden at the property for teaching purposes with a hoop house, raised and accessible garden beds. We plan to teach food preservation next summer. The youth will also volunteer to teach a class at the local middle school about healthy food choices, which coordinates with the Missouri DESE Grade Level Expectations.
I appreciate the opportunity to trigger a project inspiring youth to become advocates in protecting our valuable and declining agricultural resources. It is important to tap into the youth who may already be sensitive to these issues and help nurture their passion. I found that once we began, the youth developed their voices and language to promote these fundamentals. They also gained strength from each other and how they can make a difference. Presenting to peers was a challenge but in the reflections it was apparent that their audiences were appreciative and I find that youth respect the message other youth share.
I strongly recommend the Heifer Ranch as a potential partner with SARE as both missions are correlated.
You made the process very friendly and I appreciate this opportunity.