Posted in Crops, Livestock, Youth

Remember Ag Safety

Last week I attended the Progressive Agriculture Safety Day coordinator training. This training provides excellent resources for the annual Progressive Agriculture Safety Day we have each May in Geneva. By participating in this program, national donors provides us the opportunity to provide youth t-shirts, access to vital curriculum materials and other support. At the training, two staggering statistics reinforced my reason for continually offering this program to area youth. In North America, every 3 days, a child dies due to an ag-related accident. Also, in North America, every day 33 youth are injured in an agricultural setting.img_6564

The vision of Progressive Agriculture Foundation is that “no child would become ill, injured or die from farm, ranch or rural activities.” As the mother of two school-aged children, I try to stress the importance of safety in and around crop and livestock areas, but it just takes one moment for an accident to happen so please remember to take it slow and easy this harvest season. The stress of farming and ranching is large and taking care of yourself is important not only for your health but to those around you.

Our local ag safety day planning committee will be meeting after the first of the year to plan our program. If you or your business would like to contribute financially to our local youth or be involved in our program, please contact me at (402) 759-3712 or and I’d be glad to talk about ways to effectively teach our youth about ag safety.

Posted in Youth

Tips for a Healthier Halloween

For many, autumn events like Halloween are a time to wear costumes, go trick-or-treating, go to parties with friends, and eat sweet treats. Celebrations such as Halloween are a chance to not only have fun, but also provide healthy snack options and be physically active with friends and family. Make your Halloween season healthier this year by getting plenty of physical activity to balance food intake and help children choose wisely and eat their treats in moderation. My colleague, Megan Burda found some great tips on making Halloween healthier. Below are tips to make your Halloween healthier for trick-or-treaters and guests.

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Hand out healthier treats.

  • Give out healthier treats for trick-or-treaters and party guests this year. The calories in all those bite-size treats can add up quickly. There are lots of options when it comes to healthier food treats.
  • Examples include cereal bars, packages of dried fruit, baked pretzels, trail mix, animal crackers, mini boxes of raisins, graham crackers, sugar-free gum or hard candy, snack-sized pudding containers, individual applesauce containers or squeeze pouches, sugar-free hot chocolate or apple cider packets, individual juice boxes (100% juice), or fig cookies.

Try out non-food treats.

  • If you want to steer away from handing out food this year, children will also enjoy non-food treats, such as things you would put in birthday goodie bags. Some non-food items are suitable for all ages, but small items should be limited to kids over age three.
  • Examples include small toys, pocket-sized games, plastic costume jewelry, glow sticks, tiny decks of cards, pencils, pencil toppers, fancy erasers, stickers (including reflective safety stickers), bookmarks, bottles of bubbles, whistles, coloring books, or small packages of crayons.

Promote physical activity.

  • Use party games and trick-or-treat time as a way to fit in 60 minutes of physical activity for kids. You can encourage and pump up the enthusiasm for being more active by providing small and inexpensive toys that promote activity.
  • Items could include a bouncy ball, jump rope, side walk chalk for a game of hopscotch or foursquare, or a beanbag for hacky sack.

Moderation is key.

  • Halloween is a great time to discuss and demonstrate the importance of moderation. Keep track of children’s candy so they don’t go overboard in one sitting. Let them pick out a few treats on Halloween night and then let them have a few pieces each day after that.
  • Show kids treats can fit into a healthy eating plan in small amounts. Combine a treat, such as fun-size candy, with a healthy snack like a piece of fruit. Be sure they eat the fruit first so they don’t fill up on the candy.

Survive sweet treats at work.

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  • Snack- or fun-size candies are small and easy to eat, but eating several throughout the day can add up to extra calories. Keep the wrappers where you can see them so they don’t accidentally pile up.
  • If you can’t just eat a few treats at work, start bringing healthier alternatives with you. Stock your snack bag or desk drawer with fruit cups, dried fruit, lightly sweetened whole grain cereal, graham crackers, low-fat pudding cups, popcorn, or granola bars.
  • Remember that friends or co-workers may also be struggling to stay motivated to make healthy changes. Lean on each other and be there when others need encouragement. This year, make an effort to bring healthier treat options to work.

Find recipes and learn more at

Posted in Programming, Youth

National 4-H Week

NE-4H-820x321_FB-Header.jpgThe anticipation is building for National 4-H Week which will start October 6-12, 2019, during which millions of youth, parents, volunteers and alumni across the country will be celebrating everything The anticipation is building for National 4-H Week, during which millions of youth, parents, volunteers and alumni across the country will be celebrating everything 4-H. Nebraska 4-H will observe National 4-H Week this year by showcasing the incredible experiences that 4-H offers young people, and will highlight the remarkable 4-H youth in our community who work each day to make a positive impact on those around them.

The theme of this year’s National 4-H Week is Inspire Kids to Do, which highlights how 4-H encourages kids to take part in hands-on learning experiences in areas such as health, science, agriculture and civic engagement. The positive environment provided by 4-H mentors ensures that kids in every county and parish in the country  ̶  from urban neighborhoods to suburban schoolyards to rural farming communities  ̶  are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles and are empowered with the skills to lead in life and career.

In both Fillmore and Clay Counties more than 200 4-H youth and 50 volunteers from the community are involved in 4‑H.  One of the most anticipated events of National 4-H Week every year is 4-H National Youth Science Day, which sees hundreds of thousands of youth across the nation taking part in the world’s largest youth-led STEM challenge. The exciting theme for this year’s challenge is Game Changers, which will run throughout October. Developed by Google and West Virginia University Extension Service, Game Changers will teach kids coding skills through fun exercises including gaming, puzzles and physical activity.

 About 4-H:

4-H, the nation’s largest youth development and empowerment organization, cultivates confident kids who tackle the issues that matter most in their communities right now. In the United States, 4-H programs empower six million young people through the 110 land-grant universities and Cooperative Extension in more than 3,000 local offices serving every county and parish in the country. Outside the United States, independent, country-led 4-H organizations empower one million young people in more than 50 countries. National 4-H Council is the private sector, non-profit partner of the Cooperative Extension System and 4-H National Headquarters located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Learn more about 4-H at, find us on Facebook at and on Twitter at

Posted in Youth

Project Helps Young Flood Survivors Heal Through Reading

Since March 13, several communities in Nebraska have received historic rainfall along with damaging winds. Residents continue to work together as they recover from severe weather events. Flooding5.28.13.jpg

If you or someone you know was directly involved in this disaster, you probably have experienced a wide range of emotions. Like adults, young children may have difficulty expressing their feelings, which may lead to difficulties with coping and understanding their feelings. Young children may exhibit intense emotions and engage in challenging behaviors while others may have separation anxiety, bed-wetting or be very quiet.

In supporting young children with these different reactions and feelings, it is important for adults to remain calm and approach behaviors in a thoughtful way. Parents and childcare providers are in the best position to help young children cope. It is in our calm that children learn how to respond during difficult situations. A particularly engaging way to help young children understand their feelings and reactions is with storybook reading. Using children’s literature in an interactive way can help children heal by better understanding their experiences (Betzalel and Shechtman, 2010) and can improve their coping skills (Burns-Nader & Hernandez-Reif, 2016; Nicholson & Pearson, 2003; Pola & Nelson, 2014). Additionally, it provides the parent or caregiver with tools to increase their own understanding of how young children may experience traumatic events such as natural disasters.

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In response to the March 13 disasters, Nebraska Extension’s The Learning Child team created the Read for Resilience program. The team identified nine children’s books to support their coping and understanding feelings after experiencing a disaster, loss and/or grief. Then team members developed reading guides to accompany the books to provide parents and caregivers with age-appropriate probing questions to explore children’s thoughts and feelings. The guides also include suggested activities to further extend children’s ability to process their feelings and experiences.

Parents and caregivers of youth can receive up to five free books through this program (approximately a $100 value). To request a free book or to download a storybook guide, please visit, complete a short survey and select the book(s) which meets your child’s need. Holly Hatton-Bowers and Amy Napoli, assistant professors of child, youth and family studies and early childhood Extension specialists, are the lead organizers of this program. Team members include Lynn DeVries, Jaci Foged, Carrie Gottschalk, Lisa Poppe, Lee Sherry, Jackie Steffen, LaDonna Werth, Tasha Wulf, Karen Wedding and Kathleen Lodl.

One person who requested books wrote, “Thank you, thank you for your support for our children! We have a 6-year-old daughter and a 2-year-old daughter. We have noticed through conversation and drawing with our 6-year-old that she has been affected by the flooding. The books will assist us greatly in helping our daughters understand the impact the flood has had on our family and reassurance that they are safe. I still have a picture that our 6-year-old drew of a child surrounded by water and she told me that she prayed for ‘all the flooding’ in school that day.”

To ensure that this program continues, The Learning Child team is accepting monetary donations which can be given through the 4-H Foundation. These donations will be used to purchase books so parents and caregivers receive them at no charge.

“We’re hoping Read for Resilience will empower caregivers of young children to support them as they cope and understand their feelings around loss or grief,” Hatton-Bowers said. “This is another way that Nebraska Extension will be there to help families and communities for the long haul.”

Source: Reading For Resilience Program, Jaci Foged, Nebraska Extension in Lancaster County.

Posted in Programming, Youth

4-H School Enrichment & More

With county fair being over and in the midst of state fair time, I often am asked, “What are you doing now that fair is over?” The answer to that question is, “A lot!” This week, I’m focusing on the delivery methods of 4-H which involves much more than fair!  In fact, in Clay and Fillmore counties, our small staff reaches 1 in 2 age-eligible youth and families in our respective counties. In Nebraska, 4-H reaches 1 in 3 age-eligible youth and families in all 93 counties with the support of over 12,000 volunteers. Nebraska 4-H strives to enable all youth to develop strong personal mindsets and the social skills necessary for successful futures.

The Nebraska 4-H Youth Development Program strives to empower youth to reach their full potential working and learning in partnership with caring adults. 4-H reaches youth through club, camp, afterschool, school enrichment, and special interest programs. The traditional 4-H club and camp experience are likely the familiar methods people are most familiar. Working with 4-H club leaders, parents and club members throughout the county fair is a very visible time. Youth can go to our state 4-H camp, area camps or participate in day camps or workshops which many people, again are familiar.

Our office coordinated a “Beef Day” with an area school to compliment the school beef booster program.

Did you know that extension staff work year-round to deliver programs to youth during the school year? School enrichment programs are learning experiences offered to students during school hours by local 4-H staff. These programs are designed to enhance the subject matter being studied in the classroom, provide hands-on education, introduce a new topic to students, or spark a new interest! The 4-H school enrichment program is a great way to connect and collaborate between your local Extension office and achieve school classroom educational goals. Locally, current programs focus on Career Development, STEM, and Agricultural Literacy.

Locally, some of the school enrichment programs include: Farm to the Cart, My Clothing & Weather, Beef Cattle from A to Z,  Soils is Not a Dirty Word, Plant Parts we Eat, How Did That Get in my Lunchbox, Pumpkin Life Cycle, Positively Popcorn, Hot House Detective, Bacteriology, Embryology, & GPS/Geocaching. We also have beef related topics that can be used in collaboration with local school Beef Boosters to provide the educational component to students. Most of these programs are at no cost or have a minimal fee. If you are interested; be sure to check out our website at

Embryology is one of the favorite programs that classroom teachers request every year.

There are some extension offices that provide after-school workshops or educational sessions for youth. Finally, there are special interest types of programs that extension staff provide. Locally, examples of these include the upcoming AgVenture Day which is a collaborative effort among the South Central Cattle Women and Extension. At this program, area 4th graders learn about agricultural products and how their food is produced. In the spring, Progressive Agriculture Safety Day reaches over 120 youth with presentations to keep participants safe.

To identify the impact that the 4-H Program is making in the lives of youth ages 5-18, various research studies have been conducted across Nebraska and the nation. For example, a nationwide longitudinal study by Tufts University (2013) found that compared to their peers, youth involved in 4-H programs are nearly 4 times more likely to make contributions to their communities (grades 7-12). Also, 4-H’ers are about 2 times more likely to be civically active (grades 8-12). The same study found that 4-H young people are nearly 2 times more likely to participate in science, engineering and computer technology programs during out-of-school time (grades 10-12). Finally, 4-Her’s are nearly 2 times more likely to make healthier choices (grade 7).

Youth plant our raised beds in front of the office in addition to a community garden with produce donated to the food pantry or senior center.

Next time you consider asking an extension staff “What are you doing now that fair is over?”, consider instead asking, “What programs or projects have you been working on?”  I’m sure you will hear about some of the school enrichment programs, in addition to the countless efforts related to foods, early childhood development, crops, livestock, horticulture, community development and other youth development programs. For more information about Nebraska Extension’s educational programs, research and initiatives, go to

Posted in Youth

Back to School Tips

With the school year starting, this means the busyness of afterschool activities and homework assignments will be here soon. As families are pulled in different directions for school, work and practices, time as a family comes at a premium. Making efforts to build the focus of your children could decrease time spent on homework to free up more time for family activities. Creating a permanent, designated study space is one way to build your youth’s focus.

My oldest started 6th grade today and my youngest started kindergarten. My husband, Kurt continues to teach agriculture education.

Here are a few items to keep in mind when creating the study space:

Make It Work For You – Every child is different and has different needs. Some prefer a quiet corner in their room while others may prefer to be close to a parent for help at the kitchen table. Just make sure that the traffic and noise of other family members do not become a distraction.

Manage the Senses – Lighting and noise issues are very common distractions. Tired eyes have more difficulty transferring knowledge into memory. To keep sharp, make sure to provide adequate overhead lighting to limit squinting. Also, check that electronic devices like laptops and tablets are set at a comfortable level.

Make It Comfortable – Temperature and seating can make a difference in a youth’s ability to concentrate. Make sure that the study space keeps the child relaxed, but alert. It is also important that he or she has adequate space to spread out books, papers and materials to make the space efficient. While a bed may make a great space for spreading out, it may prove too relaxing. Consider a cushioned chair with generous table space. Also, it is important that the chair fit the youth. Dangling legs and hunched shoulders can create distractions as well.

Keep It Organized – Another way to increase the efficiency of the space is to keep all supplies and materials readily available and easy to find. Any time spent looking for the lost blue marker is time spent away from the task and an opportunity for further distraction. Organized space provides a launching pad for organized study. Keep clutter at a minimum using cubbies, canisters and boxes. A calendar, planner or to-do list can also keep homework assignments and activities prioritized and on track for on-time completion.

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Limit Distractions – While the computer and television can be excellent sources of educational content, they also provide limitless distraction. If the child believes they can focus better with a little background noise, try some recorded music and save the favorite show as a reward when they can spare his or her attention.

Make It Your Own – If the child is expected to spend considerable time in the study space, let him or her decorate the space with posters, pictures or artwork. These items could provide creative inspiration for the child’s next essay or art project.

This article comes from a series of resources developed by Nebraska Extension, 4-H Youth Development Professionals. Learn more about 4-H at, follow us on Facebook at or on Twitter at For more information, contact the author – Jennifer Schoen (, Extension Educator.