Iowa 4-H Supports Youth with On the Go Learning Resources

July 20, 2020, 9:23 am | Bonnie Dalager, Cayla Taylor

AMES, Iowa - By spring 2020, it was evident that summer 4-H programming would be delivered in alternative formats this year. Iowa 4-H youth field specialist Ben Pullen reflected, “We knew that this year was going to bring unique challenges, but it would also bring new possibilities.”

On the Go Agronomy lesson.In response to increased health and safety concerns, a team of Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H youth development professionals from across the state quickly organized to develop new alternative programming formats. Excited about this opportunity to innovate, a team focused on developing On the Go resources worked to create a series of hands-on educational activities that could be done independently without access to technology, or the need to shop for special materials and supplies.

The team developed a writing template grounded in positive youth development practices, as well as a consistent design and editable layout. The resources were designed to be used with a brown paper bag containing the supplies needed to complete the learning activity. In eight weeks, 4-H professionals around the state collaborated to publish 24 On the Go lessons. More than 1,600 copies have been downloaded by ISU Extension and Outreach county offices and partner organizations.

Providing learning opportunities and convenience for families is a top priority for Iowa 4-H youth professionals. Breana Houtz, Lee County 4-H youth coordinator, estimates a total distribution of over 550 learning activities to youth and families this summer, in partnership with three libraries. “I’ve had several parents contact our office to thank us for distributing these activities. They were appreciative of having another educational activity for their kids to do this summer,” Houtz said.

ISU Extension and Outreach Jefferson County predicts they will distribute more than 1,000 On the Go lessons before the end of the summer. They’ve partnered with local organizations like the library, summer lunch program and a local bank to distribute the on the go lessons. Grace Davidson, county youth coordinator, and Hallie Sandeen, summer assistant, agree it has been a great way to reach new families in their community. More than 60% of the youth reached through this program were not previously involved in 4-H youth development programming.

The team also wanted to collaborate to build local capacity. “The team focused on streamlining the development process,” said Bonnie Dalager, educational resource development specialist. “They were able to create a system with these resources that made it possible for our youth staff to maximize reach through collaboration.”

In Washington County, 4-H staff have distributed nearly 800 bags through community partnerships. Diane Rinner, youth outreach educator, agreed the collaborative nature of the project was beneficial. “I was appreciative of the variety of activities that were developed. We were able to efficiently plan and provide new STEM educational opportunities during an unprecedented time,” she commented.

The team assigned to On the Go lessons included Mike Anderson, Alycne Boban, Megan Carlson, Bonnie Dalager, Lexy Davies, Hannah Dibble, Cody Emery, Jenny Ernst, Debbie Erpelding, Nicole Hanson, Olivia Logue, Cayla Taylor, Amy Powell, Casey Wenstrand and Julie Wolfe. Authors included Lexy Davies, Autumn Denato, Carli Erickson, Amy Forrette, Nicole Hanson, Maya Hayslett, Sara Nelson, Kaitlyn Pagel, Katie Peterson, Amy Powell, Ben Pullen, Peggy Schilling, Brenda Welch and the Center for Food Security and Public Health.

To view and download the free On the Go lessons, visit the ISU Extension Store at

To learn more about how the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program is dedicated to empowering young people to reach their full potential through youth-adult partnerships and research-based experiences, please visit the Iowa 4-H website, or contact your Iowa State University Extension and Outreach county office.

[PHOTO] Example of an On the Go Agronomy lesson.


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