Region’s teens get quite a hoot out of 4-H centennial conference

08/21/2013 6:34 PM

08/21/2013 6:43 PM

A century ago, the Smith Lever Act of 1913 not only created the Cooperative Extension under the USDA and the University of California system, it created 4-H. Although 4-H is widely known for its involvement in the livestock sphere, youths have many opportunities with national and worldwide leaders in healthy living, leadership, political science and technology.

The centennial of California 4-H was celebrated at the 2013 State Leadership Conference. Stanislaus County 4-H sent 14 youth delegates, three adult delegates and one state ambassador.

The conference technically began more than 14 months ago when the nine state ambassadors met, divided into committees and started organizing the 2013 event. It was held at UC Davis on July 25-28, and more than 550 attendees ushered 4-H into the next 100 years.

The conference kicked off with the 100th Birthday Bash for 4-H with mechanical bulls, Western games, and food courtesy of Cal Poly Collegiate 4-H and a donation of tri-tip from Harris Ranch. Delegates and guests enjoyed dancing, with country group Terra Bella performing.

The conference also had its first-ever Day of Service Learning. Service learning means not only completing a full-fledged community service project, but learning about why it is important and teaching that to others.

There were three project groups: owl houses, animal shelter and tree restoration. The owl house group had 200 delegates build owl boxes; starting with five pieces of wood, glue, hammers and nails, 50 owl boxes were built.

Delegates enjoyed using wood burners to burn their 4-H Club name and county on the boxes. They also went through rotations to learn about the importance of owls in a rural habitat. Delegates dissected owl pellets and learned about their nutritional habits and digestive system. Another station educated them about the owls’ biology and anatomy that gives them predatory advantages.

One station was about the relationship between owls and cows. When delegates were asked if they knew about the relationship, many said, “I have no idea,” while others knew right away. Once handed an informational flier, they learned that owls take care of rodent control for dairy farmers by preventing tunneling under concrete and eventual breakdown, while keeping rodents from contaminating feed.

Delegates received items from the California Milk Advisory Board and were told about how the Real California Seal supports local dairy farmers throughout the state.

The animal shelter group learned about proper treatment of animals in a project to help supply Clovis Animal Shelter visitors with the proper materials to care for newly acquired animals. The groups put together adoption packs and made tie blankets and dog toys.

The last service learning group traveled to a Davis greenbelt, where they mulched trees and restored the park area. They partnered with Tree Davis to learn more about the benefits of trees while helping the Davis area.

The delegates attended educational sessions that built leadership, teamwork and communication.

Sessions included the Haagen Dazs Honey Bee Haven tour, healthy living bike rides, Zumba, talks by equine professors and UC Davis campus tours.

Speakers Scott Backavitch, Chris Boleman and A.J. Adams encouraged youths to become leaders in their communities to address and solve problems.

The conference’s first-ever awards show, complete with red-carpet entrances of the hosts and state ambassadors, recognized 4-H members who have made outstanding achievements. Among other firsts at the conference was a performance by a state band and dance troupe made up of 4-H members.

The 2012-13 state ambassadors and their advisers completed their 14-month term at the conference after a year of representing California 4-H at state and national levels, as well as planning the State Leadership Conference.

Dominique Germann is a freshman at Modesto Junior College and a member of The Bee’s Teens in the Newsroom program.

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