Clearfield County 4-H member Nathan Swope waited for his beef steer’s turn on the scale at the 2019 Clearfield County Fair. The animal was weighed to ensure it was eligible to participate in the annual livestock and poultry sale.

Clearfield County 4-H has been grappling with a new way of offering the programs to youth ages 8-18.

Since Penn State Extension has canceled all non-essential activities and programs or moved them to a virtual format through mid-June to help slow the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus.

Clearfield County 4-H and youth development Educator Hannah Alexander said 4-H clubs are still meeting although in a different way, and members are staying on track with their projects.

“Pennsylvania’s 4-H response to the coronavirus pandemic has been positive, and we are determined to continue to provide relevant education for youth. 4-H is still up and running, just a little differently right now. State 4-H educators and the leadership team have prepared us for training volunteers on effectively and safely hosting virtual meetings with youth. Leaders are encouraged to continue to hold meetings virtually so that the youth can have some normalcy by socializing, participating in educational opportunities, and having an opportunity to share their project work. Many of the 4-H clubs in Clearfield County have already had several virtual meetings.”

While the program continues to operate, there have been some new normals to work through. 4-H members look forward to participating in the annual summer camp however this year in-person camp will not take place.

“All summer residential 4-H camps are cancelled. Although the face-to-face summer camps are cancelled, educators are working with teen camp counselors to come up with a new way to host camp this year, virtually. Obviously, there are and will be some bumps along the way, but we are extremely hopeful that we can host a meaningful and engaging virtual camp experience this summer,” Alexander said.

She said clubs are continuing to prepare to participate in summer events including the Clearfield County Fair.

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“We are continuing to work on developing opportunities and resources for 4-H members across the state. 4-H is offering a series of online and at-home activities called Inspire Kids to Do that have been shared on the Clearfield County 4-H Facebook page, Pennsylvania 4-H Facebook page and on Penn State Extension’s website. In addition to these activities, educators from across the state are creating and developing opportunities for members including but not limited to topics such as, public speaking contest, equine challenges, wildlife ecology, food challenges, and science, technology, engineerin and mathematics activities,” she explained.

Alexander said Clearfield County 4-H members are waiting for a determination about the status of the 2020 Clearfield County Fair so that clubs and members can continue with their project plans..

“The uncertainty of the fair has been a question for many 4-H members and their families. But even through these difficult and uncertain times our members, families, and volunteers have pulled together and continued to work hard on their projects and support 4-H.”

A fair activity that 4-H members look forward to is the 4-H and FFA Junior Livestock and Poultry sale held annually on the final day of the fair. Alexander said Clearfield County 4-H members are continuing to work towards that goal.

“4-H is working diligently on developing opportunities and resources for 4-H members to able to showcase their animal science projects. We know that 4-H members put a lot of hard work and dedication into these projects and we want to ensure that they have an opportunity to showcase their hard work. We will be working closely with the sale sponsor, the Clearfield County Livestock Committee, to have a plan in place. In addition, Penn State Extension is developing webinars and other resources to address how 4-H members can market their animals privately in the event that a livestock sale associated with a county fair is not an option this year,” she explained.

Alexander said she has no doubt the county’s 4-H program will emerge from the restrictions of the pandemic stronger than ever.

“This pandemic has certainly thrown a curve ball at everyone, and 4-H is no exception. 4-H has had to rapidly evolve and change during this time and although it was a fast change, positive opportunities have resulted and there certainly are more to look forward to as 4-H advances. This has brought us opportunities to expand our education and programming efforts through various formats. I strongly believe that our local and state 4-H program will grow due to the pandemic because of the opportunities that PA 4-H is developing,” she added.

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