County 4-H Clubs Sharpen Skills in Virtual Platform
Aerial view of the Imperial County University of California Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville. | PHOTO COURTESY OF THE DESERT RESEARCH AND EXTENSION CENTER

County 4-H Clubs Sharpen Skills in Virtual Platform

HOLTVILLE — Often gathering in groups with mentors to improve homework skills, learn a craft or trade or participate in raising an animal, the 4-H Clubs of Imperial Valley always emphasize leadership skills.

But in 4-H most of the contact between members and their mentors is often one-on-one, said Anita Martinez, Imperial County program director of 4-H.

As county program director and county 4-H adviser, Martinez usually operates out of Imperial County’s University of California Desert Research and Extension Center in Holtville.

The program traditionally conducts in-person events where youth members are given growth opportunities and a chance to showcase what they’ve learned. 4-H is usually broken up into individual clubs spread throughout the Valley.

From Fashion to Public Speaking, All Digital Now

In this time of social distancing amid a coronavirus pandemic, the program has had to become creative and is looking toward technology to help keep members active and continue with scheduled events.

“The Imperial County 4-H Program is a year-round project that continues long after the ribbons have been passed out and the fair auction block has closed,” Martinez said. “Our 4-H program is about youth development and giving our members opportunities for growth and to obtain life skills that they will use as they mature into adulthood.”

Martinez started as Imperial County 4-H director on Jan. 2. Yet she has been associated with 4-H since 2007, and prior to her current job, she managed the Dogwood 4-H Club.

Previously she was the Holtville Chamber of Commerce chief executive officer.

With the outbreak of the coronavirus and social distancing mandates, Martinez said she has turned high-tech to sustain the multitude of 4-H programs.

“Now it’s more challenging as we’re trying to do everything virtually, so we got to get the kids and parents on board,” said Martinez. “Currently we do web conferencing and two of the big events are Fashion Review, April 18 and County Presentation Day, April 25. During these events, members learn organizational skills, public-speaking skills, personal presentation and poise.”

Showcase Skills Acquired Previous Academic Year

The events are well-attended, and members prepare and look forward to them for months. This spring, 4-H events are being video-conferenced via Zoom. It is certainly unconventional, but it’s the only way 4-H can still offer these important events to the membership.

Members will sign up online and be assigned a time slot to give their demonstrations, speech, or fashion presentations. Members download an app and then click a provided link that takes them to a virtual meeting.

Each member is paired with an evaluator for their video conference at the appointed time. Judging is divided among beginning, intermediate and senior segments so members compete among their own age group. Point values are awarded but it also weighted by a rubric (scoring guide) that takes in consideration various quality measures.

County 4-H Clubs Sharpen Skills in Virtual Platform
Anita Martinez, program director of Imperial County 4-H at the University of California, Research and Extension Center, Holtville, before social distancing was required by the coronavirus outbreak.

“The judging of the quality is fluid, we don’t want to limit aspects,” Martinez said. “And we’re trying to incorporate as many aspects as we can from the traditional hands-on event but do it virtually now. Obviously, we can’t have a fashion show right now. But members are excited and hopeful that they will have just as many participate in the events virtually. These are the biggest events after the Mid-Winter Fair.”

Fashion Week will showcase some of the work members had entered in the Fair. But it is not just about the quality of stitching. It incorporates more than the construction of outfits and focuses on aesthetics, especially the overall fashion vision of members. For example, a simple pair of short pants ought to be versatile, be able to pair well with a shirt or other accessories Martinez noted.

The members practice and look forward to them for months. Members can sign up via links sent to them from the 4-H office or by their community leaders.

Presentation Day will require members to deliver a speech, an illustrated talk and participate in an interview.

“The intent is to develop life skills they can use as they become adults and polish those attributes as they move into high school, college and a job interview,” said Martinez.

Cooking with the 4-H All-Stars

Other social media events include a real time, “Cooking with Our 4-H Clubs” on Facebook.

Currently the Imperial County All-Star Ambassadors, a group of high-ranking 4-H members are taking to social media and cooking with viewers.

“Cooking with our 4-H Clubs” will be in full swing next week, said Martinez.

To watch online, go to the I.C. 4-H Facebook page. The sessions will be live-streamed through Facebook Live. The lineup includes:

  • Easy Peasy Mac n’ Cheesy with Hannah, 3 p.m. April 14
  • Lemon Bars with Kennedy, 3 p.m. April 15
  • Homemade pizza with Taylor, 3 p.m. April 16
  • Breakfast sandwiches with Gabby, 9 a.m. April 17

“This was a perfect way to incorporate a project and social media trends,” said Martinez. “It gives members the opportunity to organize a meal and prepare it with, and for an audience of all ages. Plus, the best part is, the kids are having fun. We will be offering the hosting opportunity to members in all clubs (15) and we hope they will join in.”

An awards ceremony, Achievement Day, depending on weather social distancing, must be extended beyond spring and is tentatively planned for June 25.

FACTBOX

“Cooking with our 4-H Clubs”

To watch online, go to the I.C. 4-H Facebook page. The sessions will be live-streamed through Facebook Live. The lineup includes:

  • Easy Peasy Mac n’ Cheesy with Hannah, 3 p.m. April 14
  • Lemon Bars with Kennedy, 3 p.m. April 15
  • Homemade pizza with Taylor, 3 p.m. April 16
  • Breakfast sandwiches with Gabby, 9 a.m. April 17

This story is featured in the April 09, 2020 e-Edition.

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