Above: Sitka Alaska Way of Life 4-Hers at Birding Club. Photo by Cora Dow.

This summer marks the fourth and final quarter of my 4-H Way of Life programming this year with the theme of our last H: head. For “head” we focused on the life skills of learning to learn and problem solving. It was great to be outside and in person consistently with the 4-Hers and we have had a jam-packed summer this year with a few camps and activities still yet to come.  

Alaska Way of Life 4-Hers at Kayaking Safety Club. Photo by Cora Dow.

We kicked off the summer with Adventure Camp where youth tried biking, hiking, kayaking, and geocaching all over Sitka. For some participants it was their first time doing these activities. It was such a fun opportunity to not only get to introduce these new skills to youth, but also observe how willing they were to try them out. It is not an easy task to be a beginner in front of your peers, which is why it was so special to see these kids support each other and “learn to learn” as a team. Since we had a mix of different experience levels with the different activities, the kids who were experts one day were often beginners the next, and the roles of experts/learners were reversed. We also focused on our problem-solving skills as we wandered around the Cross Trail following cryptic geocaching clues with varying success rates. 

During another week of summer, we collaborated with partners to hold an Intertidal Exploration camp. Each day we learned something new about the intertidal zone we are surrounded by: at the Science Center we explored the touch pools and then learned about sea-star wasting syndrome with Marnie Chapman at UAS; we learned about birds in the intertidal zone at Sitka National Historic Park; we practiced our observation skills at Sandy Beach; and made dried seaweed art together at HPR Recreation Area. Kids worked in partners to search for intertidal creatures on a scavenger hunt and take counts of healthy and sick sea stars in the area. Beyond just learning to identify the species, youth were asked to use their critical thinking and problem solving skills to analyze the sea stars and discuss why this disease might be occurring. 

Alaska Way of Life 4-Hers learning about birds. Photo by Cora Dow.

In Fabric and Textile camp youth learned about the process of how wool is turned into yarn. Experts in the community, including Kitty LaBounty at UAS and Leslie Dupuis at Raven’s Hook, helped lead activities such as carding wool,  spinning it using wheels and drop spindles, dying wool with natural colors, and crocheting. The wide range of subject areas and activities we cover at 4-H presents a unique opportunity for curious youth to build confidence and spark their curiosity.

It has been a valuable experience to reflect on each season of programming and how it connects to the larger 4-H values. It has helped me in planning and understanding how to build the lessons, and I hope created a stronger sense of cohesiveness in the program. It has been a great year, from Health this fall with wild edibles and salmon filleting, to Heart where we connected with community mentors, Hands where we block printed and collected slugs, to Head this summer! Thanks for following along with this year of 4-H reflections.

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

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