Above: Sitka 4-Hers on a "night hike." Photo by Amy Li.

As we approach April, Alaska-Way-of-Life 4-H club concludes its second quarter of programming for youth ages 5-18 in Sitka for the 2020-21 year. We focused on the 4-H value of “Heart” in the months of January, February, and March, with a focus on the life skills of sharing with each other and nurturing relationships. Especially when the weather is cold, it is important that youth have a chance to build connections with each other and mentors in the community outside of just a school setting. By providing youth opportunities to try new activities and talk to various community leaders in a relaxed setting, we hope to give them the chance to discover new interests, make new friends, and learn by example from these role models.

Our programming covered a wide range of topics these past few months, but the highlight of all of it was the help from community mentors. In January we had the Winter Play series, which was weekly meetings to play and explore outdoors in the cold while also learning about winter survival. Some of the sessions included working in teams on skills like building shelters and starting fires. Another week, Marnie Chapman, a professor at University of Alaska Southeast, led a session on finding and cooking edible seaweed. Beyond providing valuable information about intertidal edibles, Marnie exemplifies what a career of staying curious about nature and science can look like. For the fire-building session, Kevan O’Hanlon, former leader of 4-H Alaska-Way-of-Life, came back as a guest instructor and reunited with the youth she worked with 2 years ago. Curriculum and supplies lent to 4-H by AMSEA were critical for putting this series together. 

4-Hers ready for a hike during 4-H Spring Break Camp. Photo by Amy Li.

In February we held a Hiking series, with three night hikes and one sunrise hike -- the highlight being the sunrise hike on the Cross Trail after a fresh snowfall. We met at different locations all over Sitka and during the hikes 4-H’ers had a chance to bond with each other and connect with their surroundings in a completely new way and time of day. We also met for a virtual series called Heart-to-Heart where we learned how to make pop-up cards, collaged together, and wrote penpal letters to 4-H members in Bethel, Alaska and residents at the Sitka Pioneer Home. These activities will hopefully help nurture relationships with elders and other youth outside of the Sitka community, with a goal to broaden the social network of the Sitka 4-H members.

4-Hers building a shelter. Photos by Lione Clare.

In March’s Spring Break camp we spent lots of time hiking, shelter-building, playing games, and crafting. Campers also got to spend a day with Daanaxh.ils’eikh Chuck Miller of Sitka Tribe of Alaska, and he shared stories and personal experiences about seal harvesting in Sitka. In the Cooking series we met weekly on Zoom to make healthy, immune-boosting recipes that are also kid-friendly. We were lucky to have Leah Murphy of the Spinning Moon Apothecary share her expertise on seasonal eating at our first session, and she also shared a special tea blend made just for the participants. We are so grateful to these community leaders who are willing to share their knowledge with 4-Hers and connect with them on a personal level; they are the ‘heart’ of what makes 4-H so special!

4-Hers crafting during 4-H Spring Break Camp. Photo by Amy Li.

We are excited to continue with more programming in April emphasizing our next theme: Hands! The 4-H kids will have chances to practice new skills and work with each other as a team at our activities this month, including a Photography series, the Family Eco Challenge, and more. 

– Kate Grumbles, Living with the Land and Building Community Jesuit Volunteer

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