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Douglas County

K-State Research and Extension Douglas County 
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Lawrence KS 66046

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Teaching Virtually

In March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic hit our country, the entire K-State Research and Extension system paused in person programming.  Extension agents and staff across the state were faced with the challenge of teaching virtually.  The 4-H youth development program in Douglas County quickly pivoted from face to face teaching to reaching youth through virtual platforms.  4-H Clubs, 4-H Council, 4-H Ambassadors and the Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF) group shifted their meeting setting from in person to online.  Educational programs also moved to a virtual format. 

The silver lining for the Douglas County 4-H program was the opportunity to collaborate with Extension educators to offer more in depth learning experiences for our youth audience.  As virtual school was coming to an end, agents from nine different Extension units from across northeast Kansas worked together to launch a six series STEM program called 4-H Innovation Labs.  Topics ranged from coding and computer science for the middle school and high school aged participants to environmental science, robotics and technology for the elementary aged students. 

The 4-H Innovation Labs were taught on Zoom over six weeks throughout the summer months.  Between the three separate sessions 146 youth experienced the hands-on STEM series.  Extension professionals from the Central Kansas District, Dickinson, Douglas, Geary, Johnson, Leavenworth, McPherson and Pottawatomie counties worked together to plan, market and facilitate each week’s lesson.  Collaborating with nine Extension agents allowed each person on the facilitator team to teach in areas where they had expertise. 

Each student received a material packet in the mail prior to the start of the series.  Thanks to the Douglas County 4-H Foundation, Douglas County 4-H’ers participated free of cost.  Each week the learners were guided through a STEM lesson.  Lessons included hands-on STEM challenges about: plant science, native bees, rocketry, owl pellets, robotics, circuitry and coding.  96% of the participants reported they learned at least three new science concepts as a result of their participation in the 4-H Innovation Labs.   A parent shared, “I appreciated the opportunity for my child to learn from Extension agents outside of our home county.  This was the best thing my kids had the opportunity to participate in since we had no face to face meetings.”

Looking ahead the Douglas County 4-H Youth Development Program will be teaching with a blend of in person and virtual opportunities.  A group of agents from the same cohort is already drafting plans to host a collaborative virtual training for 4-H club officers this fall.  The 2020 4-H STEM challenge will also be offered online in late September.  As our community works to mitigate COVID-19, it is important to continue to be creative and innovative on how we stay connected with our 4-H families.  For more information about upcoming virtual offerings visit: https://www.douglas.k-state.edu/4-h/