Above: 4-H Wild Edibles Deer Heart Series. Photo by Lione Clare.

4-H had a busy spring of trying new skills and working together to create positive experiences for ourselves and communities. We used our hands to gather, print, plant, paint, and photograph to name just a few things. This April, we practiced taking photos and learning how to capture our familiar surroundings in new ways with guidance from senior 4-Her Emily Fenno and SCS staff photographer Amy Li. Families also gathered together for the Eco-Challenge in Sitka National Historical Park where they were tested on their fire-starting, plant ID, bear safety awareness, and teamwork skills in a timed race around the park. 

4-H Eco-Challenge at Sitka National Historical Park. Photo by Ryan Morse.

A highlight for me was the Prints & Plants series. Marnie Chapman of UAS helped teach us about marine invertebrates on a dock walk, and then we used the creatures we saw as inspiration for our block printmaking series led by Adrienne Wilber. Many of the 4-Hers had never carved their own blocks for print-making before, and it was really fun to see what they came up with for their prints. The youth took to carving the blocks quickly and were able to make some pretty cool pieces! It is a special feeling to help kids try something for the first time that you can see sparks their interest - especially when you can tell they will continue printing or taking photographs on their own. A goal of 4-H is to spark a variety of interests in youth by letting them try activities with their own two hands and see what they like. 



4-Hers collecting deer hearts during the Alaska Way of Life Wild Edibles series. Photos by Ryan Morse.

In May we gathered different wild edible plants that appear in warmer months — deer heart, spruce tips, and fiddleheads. Youth took what they gathered home to cook and eat. Many of the kids enrolled in 4-H have tried these plants before, but it was exciting to see them collect and then try eating these edible plants in new ways. We perfected our deerheart salad recipes, tried our hands at spruce tip syrup and shortbread, and blanched and fried our fiddleheads. Most recently, 4-H has been offering weekly summer camps, so far on the themes of intertidal investigation, adventures in Sitka including kayaking, hiking, and geocaching and biking. We also gathered and removed 700+ invasive black slugs from Starrigavan recreation area. 

By providing a supportive environment and a sense of camaraderie around trying these new skills together, 4-Hers will hopefully be more confident going forward in trying new things and trusting their own abilities. It is invaluable to have the support of other 4-H peers trying new things at the same time, and it is a more fun experience for youth to learn and grow together with the support of trusted leaders and adults in the community providing guidance along the way. My hope for the next season of 4-H is that we continue pushing ourselves to jump in and get our hands dirty in the process of learning and reaching for what’s next!

– From Kate Grumbles, SCS's Living with the Land and Building Community Jesuit Volunteer.

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