Monday Update: Educational opportunities for youth

May 24, 2021

Twenty-three counties are expanding educational opportunities for youth as they work for Iowa’s recovery. Youth I-team chairs Ben Pullen and Sara Nelson say the team is encouraging counties to implement research-based educational programs that spark youth interest, support academics, and promote youth agency and resiliency. They have identified educational programs that build positive youth-adult partnerships, create a sense of belonging for youth, and offer leadership and civic engagement experiences to foster youth identify and purpose. Upcoming opportunities include the following.

  • On May 26 the team will host professional development on incorporating literacy and math into programming. This is aimed at helping county staff be successful in afterschool programs.
  • Read Across the Fair is an optional educational opportunity in development. Materials soon will be available to all county offices to review on MyExtension. The materials will include access to a printable Storywalk focused on dairy farms. A trivia game featuring ag concepts also will be shared.
  • The team is designing a virtual and in-person professional development opportunity focused on developing literacy, math, and social-emotional learning for youth in grades K-12.

As part of their action plan, Iowa County is developing a new Outdoor Adventure 4-H Club for sixth through eighth grade youth. Given increased online learning during the pandemic combined with recreational use of technology, the club was created to draw teens away from technology and provide an escape into nature, says 4-H youth program specialist Amey Kollar. Outdoor Adventure 4-H Club is a safe place for teens to make friends, “unplug,” and try new, outdoor recreation experiences such as hiking, kayaking, fishing, archery, outdoor climbing, and more. Iowa County 4-H is collaborating with Iowa County Conservation, whose naturalist leads hands-on education in wildlife, ecology, and natural resources. Youth also are introduced to careers in agriculture and natural resources. Amey leads the youth in teambuilding and mindfulness activities, helping them learn to better trust, solve problems with their peers, and grow in confidence.

Through these hands-on experiences, youth can connect their online learning to the world around them and gain critical support for learning key STEM concepts. Youth also will identify needs in their environment to further plan and carry out a civic engagement project for their community. All these learning opportunities support a sense of belonging for young people and help them thrive through adversity.

Ben and Sara say the youth I-team has focused on the needs of the 23 identified counties. However, youth programs are implemented in all 99 counties, so the team is working to provide resources that will be available to all.

Review your county action plans

County Recovery Initiative action plans are living documents and I would like to have a brief update of where you stand today, six months into the process. Please review your county action plan, revise it if needed, and email your most recent version to my administrative assistant, Mica Redenius,, by June 30. Mica will upload the plans to CyBox, where they will be available as a resource for all of us as we work together to build a strong Iowa.

I know you are busy as you gear up for county fairs, summer camps, and field days. I am not asking for a re-write of your plans, but rather a review and revision if needed. Thank you again for your work on the Recovery Initiatives. You are helping Iowans come back stronger after the pandemic.

Health, safety, and respect

Last week’s announcement from the Board of Regents and message from President Wintersteen demonstrate that health and safety guidelines during the pandemic continue to evolve. The deadline for returning to campus has been moved up to July 1 and, generally, face coverings and physical distancing no longer are required on campus. However, wearing a face covering still is encouraged for those who are not vaccinated.

Over the coming months there may be people who choose to wear face coverings and maintain physical distance on campus, in our county offices, and at our extension events throughout the state. Be mindful that whether or not someone wears a face covering should not be used as an indication of their vaccination status. Someone who is vaccinated may choose to wear a face covering for other health or personal reasons. Continue to respect and support others’ right to wear a face covering and do not ask others about their vaccination status.

More notes

  • The Open for Iowa website has been updated to reflect recent actions by Governor Reynolds, the Board of Regents, and the university. It also includes a County Services insurance update. The direct link to Open for Iowa remains the same, but you now will find it listed in the Communications drop down menu on the Office of the Vice President website.
  • Clients with horticulture-related questions should not be directed to AnswerLine. Our Agriculture and Natural Resources program area hopes to have a consumer horticulture specialist hired soon and will let you know when the position is filled.
  • Iowa Farm Bureau "The Spokesman Speaks" podcast, episode 73, provides more information about our partnership with the Farm Foundation for the Iowa Farm Family Wellness Alliance. This partnership brings free, ongoing counseling from experts to Iowa's farm families to support their mental and physical health so that they can feel better, to farm better.
  • The Two-Way Scorecard Communication Tool quarter 3 statewide report is available on the County Services website. You also can review the questions for the next survey, scheduled for September, which will cover spring and summer 2021.
  • We are planning for in-person, area-wide meetings in September. Watch for a save-the-date announcement for your meeting.

John D. Lawrence
Vice President for Extension and Outreach