Traditions That Last

It was the perfect day for an Easter Egg Hunt. The sky was blue, the air clear and crisp; not too hot, not too cold, and not a chance of rain in sight. The wind laid low as the morning sun danced through the trees, down the long lush driveway to the Sherwood House. Hundreds of anxious Baltimore County children had ants in their pants as their cars were being parked, baskets gathered, and they eagerly awaited their turn for an old fashioned hunt!
        Good thing they had something to do while they waited. With the various start times for each age group, there was ample opportunity to explore the grounds and tour Sherwood house.After meeting the Easter Bunny with her basket full of candy, attendees could see chicks in one room, do crafts outside, or come face to face with the real animals that have somehow come to be associated with this Christian holiday. The rabbits
         Once again the Baltimore County 4-H Rabbit Club was in attendance at Cromwell Valley Park’s Easter Egg Hunt. A  tradition that goes back long before even the oldest egg hunter attending was born. The Rabbit Club members (and their faithful parents) have been showing up with their best bunnies to share the joy of rabbits with the grand public for nearly 20 years. And enjoy those bunnies the people did! Children of all shapes and sizes walked along two long tables to encounter rabbits of all shapes and sizes. They pet them, patted them, one-finger tapped them, and some just stared, unconvinced by their parents that touching was a good idea. But that’s why we’re here! To expose, educate, and encourage animal interactions that might not have happened otherwise.
       There were many questions, and the children visited with many breeds. There was big Delilah, the English Lop, little Hope, the tiny Hotot, shaggy Cotton, the snow-loving Mini Lop, and tiny Bella, who was still just a baby. The kids wanted to know what rabbits ate, what they didn’t eat, are they nice, do they bite, and how hard are they to take care of? The parents often seemed to remember rabbits were a pet option they had forgotten about, in the battle of getting a dog or not getting a dog. Why not get a rabbit for your tiny humans? Loving pets don’t have to bark!
       A blink of an eye the day was over. What seemed to have been hours and hours of planning flew by in the 2-hour timeslot. Soon the last hunt was over, the last kid pet the rabbits, and it was time to go home. But the impact of having shared what you had with others, one of your most prized possessions, would not be erased. The pride of ownership, the confidence in educating, and the comradery of showing up together has instilled more in these 4-H members then they have given away. We are making men and women of purpose for tomorrow, by giving and sharing today. That is one tradition that must go on indefinitely!
By Beth Schmidt, 4-H Parent
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4-H Champion Chow Food Challenge

Each year Baltimore County 4-H holds an event that is unique. The Champion Chow Food Challenge gives the 4-H’er the opportunity to present their food preparation, menu planning, table setting and other diet and nutrition skills at one single event. Youth may enter as an individual or as a team (consisting of 2 members). Individuals and teams plan and submit a menu for one balanced meal (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). The event is an excellent opportunity to enter something that cannot be entered at the County Fair, such as a main dish, soup or salad.

Our youth prepared their menus and food item for the April 2nd event. Most were dressed to match their themed table setting while others were dressed in their best attire. It was a beautiful spring day so while some of our youth were waiting to talk to the judges, they could play outside or enjoy crafts inside. Grace McMullen, a member of the Greater Loch Raven 4-H Club, reflected that Champion Chow gave her the opportunity to see what everyone else makes so you could do the same thing at home. This year, Grace made microphone cupcakes because she decided on a music theme.

There is some youth who like to cook while others like the combination of crafts and food at one single event. One such 4-H’er is Sam Jones from Liberty 4-H Club. Sam made Cinnamon Ice Cream for his summer theme. Terry Fields, of the Greater Loch Raven 4-H Club, on the other hand, enjoys cooking. He made Brownie S’mores for his theme of camping. He hopes to become a chef one day. Ben McMullen, thinks cooking is cool and thinks it is a very significant talent. He made a delicious chili. This was Ben’s first time browning meat. He picked a Star Wars theme because that is his favorite movie.

Other youths seek their inspirations from sources beyond Baltimore. One such 4-H’er was Kailyn of Chestnut Ridge 4-H Club. Kailyn is going to New Orleans soon and decided to research King cakes. The King cake is a cake that is made during Mardi Gras. It is decorated with the colors Purple for Justice, Green for Faith and Gold for Power. Baked inside the cake is a baby. Whoever gets the piece with the baby in it will have good luck all year. That person will bake the cake for the next year including the baby, and so the tradition continues. 

This food challenge brings youth from 5-18 together to enjoy the art of setting the table, creating a theme, planning a healthy meal and learning to cook a delicious dish. As part of the competition each youth meets with the judges individually to talk about what they made, how they prepared it and why they selected the items in their theme. It is through this type of competition that each child increases their confidence and communication skills. I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.

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Showing Pets and Growing Kids

The day dawned chilly and bright. We were up with the sun that morning, operating in full gear. Today was the day we had volunteered to man the Baltimore County 4-H Rabbit Club table at the World Pet Expo, and when you’re an excited 6 year old girl, being late is not an option! We packed up our gear: one furry blue mini lop on whom the world revolved in Abby’s eyes, one large coffee for Mama, various treats for all of us, and two bright red camp chairs. We loaded the van, found parking behind the pole barns, set up the table just in time for the crush of pet owners, and took a breath. We were ready, and they were, too!
       Hundreds, upon hundreds, of pet owners and enthusiasts, trickled, marched and were dragged past our table. There were dogs in carriers, dogs on foot, and one petrified cat riding on a man’s shoulders. Despite the signs requesting some distance, many dog owners brought their pets right up to our bunnies for a sniff. The rabbits held their likes champions and didn’t bat an eye as the canines took a closer whiff. But the magic wasn’t in the dogs. Or even the crowds of consumers. It was for the kids. The 4-Her’s to be more specific.
Gone was the shy child who doesn’t like to play at other houses, and prefers all her friends to come to hers. Gone was the girl who was intimidated by strangers, and doesn’t know what to say. In her shoes now stood one very proud, very confident, rabbit owner who was more than happy to do her 6 year old best at educating the public on rabbits.
       Now she spoke freely, smiled widely, and rarely looked to Mama for help on what to say. With her best bunny in front of her, a fellow 4-H friend beside her, and an enchanted crowd around her, this child stood straight and did what she came to do. Share her love of bunnies with the world, and they loved that bunny right back!
       It didn’t matter if any of the hundreds of people who stopped by the Baltimore County 4-H table to pet the bunnies ever went on to become bunny owners themselves didn’t matter. Yes, many of them shared tales of rabbit ownership themselves as children, and a few fondly recalled their 4-H membership days. But watching our 4-H kids grow in their confidence, communication skills, and animal care knowledge right before our eyes, was fantastic. It was why we were here. The club is fun. Sharing your pet is fun. But teaching strangers, as a child, is empowering! And she nailed it.
       We hated to leave, the day flew by, but our precious bunny was stressed, and it was time to give our spots at the table to another family with a love of bunnies, and children desperate to share them. They day had been a raging success. Our chests swelled with pride as we packed up our camp chairs and headed back to the van. We came, we shared, we taught, and we conquered!
By Beth Schmidt, Baltimore County 4-H mom
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The Fine Art of Keeping Records in 4-H

One of the hallmarks of 4-H is the many life lessons the youth acquire through their projects. A unique experience is that of record keeping. All 4-H’ers if they want to compete in the fair have to keep records of spending on their project, what they communicated to others about their project, learning while doing their project, helping someone else through their project, overcoming a challenge and where they showed their project. It is all collected in what is known as a 4-H Record Book.

This Sunday we had a great turnout for our annual record book training which took place at the 4-H office. Led by Jennifer Coroneos, a 4-H program assistant, 4-H alumna and award-winning record book holder. The goal was to help families navigate their way through doing a project summary or a full record book on this past year’s projects. 4-H’ers brought their receipts on feed for animals, paint for paintings, etc. Additionally many brought laptops, photos from events, ribbons they won and calendars they kept throughout the year. Some brought rough drafts of their 4-H story or started it at the workshop.

Everyone left with a lot more completed then when they came and a better understanding of what is needed to make a successful record book. All of the work the 4-H youth did at the training will be submitted by February 1, 2017, to the Baltimore County 4-H office and judged alongside all of the other 4-H’ers in this county. The prizes for this will be announced at the Achievement Night event on March 19, 2017, at Oregon Ridge in the Sequoia Room at 3 pm.

The youth are divided up into three groups, clovers, juniors/intermediates and seniors. Each of these groups have different requirements based on the level they were at in the past calendar year (2016).

Clovers can turn in a Clover Memory Book that includes:

  • Cover
  • Page 1  Introduction page.  Include a picture of yourself.  Below the picture, print the following information — name, birth date, address, and 4-H club.
  • Page 2 Table of Contents. List what you have in your memory book in the order it appears while paging through the book (this may be subject, items, programs, etc.).
    This helps the reader to move through the book as you would through a story.
    There is nothing required in this book except those keepsakes/items you want to keep.

    1. Pictures, Post Cards, Drawings
    2. Cards, Invitations, Personal Letters
    3. Favors, Club Programs, Souvenirs
    4. Awards, Certificates, Honors
    5. Poems, Stories, Jokes, etc., (written by you to tell about your project, or other 4-H activities)
    6. other items you would like us to see that you have done

    The ONLY requirement is that the book closes smoothly without any significant lumps or bulges. This eliminates many 3-dimensional items.

A complete record book for Juniors and Intermediates includes the following:

Your Record Book Check List

  • Record Book Score Card (Office will supply)
  • Judging Project Record Sheet (Office will supply)
  • Title Page (you create)
  • Table of Contents (you create)
  • Judging Summary Form (on website)
  • Summary Record (on website)
  • 4-H Story (you create)
  • Project Pictures (maximum of 6 pages)
  • Project Record(s) (on website)

Each senior portfolio should include a:

  • Senior Portfolio Score Card (Office will add)
  • Judging Project Record Sheet (Office will add)
  • Judging Summary Form (on website)
  • Title Page (you create)
  • Resume (you create)
  • Essay (you create)
    This year’s theme is “What three adjectives best describe 4-H and describe how they relate to your 4-H experience.”
  • Project Pictures (maximum of 6 pages)
  • Project Record(s) (on website)

For more information on completing a record book go to


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4-H Steer Tagging Day

On a cold, 10° morning with snow coming down on the Maryland State Fairgrounds 4-H’ers, their parents, leaders and their steer wait for their steer’s turn to be weighed and tagged. While many youths are sleeping in on this bitterly cold morning, our 4-H’ers are up well before daybreak. Besides the regular feeding of their animals in the morning today, they will need to put the halters on their steer and get them on the trailers. Shares Shelby Sheats a Parkton 4-H Club member. This work is no easy task for many. The steer simply does not want to get on and go for a ride. Most of the steer range from 450 to close to 850 lbs. This job takes strength and perseverance in helping the animal to cooperate.

The purpose of ear tagging according to Rachel Preston, another Parkton 4-H Club member, is for identification. The tag helps the owner keep track of all health records and proper weight of gain. When the steers are brought in, they are weighed and then again at show time in July. It is necessary for the 4-H’er to properly feed their animal so that it grows at the proper amount over the next six months.

The 4-H market steer project allows 4-H members to feed, fit and show a beef animal. Depending on the starting age and weight, most steers will be full -fed for five months or longer. The steer should reach the desired USDA Choice carcass grade at a weight of 100 to 1000 pounds at about 15 to 18 months of age. The weight and age at which steers reach the choice grade will vary due to breed, frame size and management of the steer.

After the steer has completed its growth cycle, the 4-H’er can exhibit and market their steer at one of the several market steer shows held each summer. The market steer project helps the 4-H youth obtain a sense of responsibility. The project encourages decision-making, a trait that is beneficial throughout life. Participation in this project allows the 4-H’er to conduct financial transactions on a larger scale than the average youth. The project also will help them develop healthy skills in competition. Finally, the market steer project is designed to instill a love for cattle in 4-H youth and an appreciation for their significant role in agriculture and society.

On this frigid morning in January, Danielle Ryndak, from the 4-H Dairy Goat and Liberty Clubs, is bringing her very first steer to be tagged and weighed. She is excited to take on this new and challenging project. And while today’s adventures are coming to an end, it is only the beginning for our 4-H’ers. From now and until show time on July 13-15, there will be feeding both before school and after. Cleaning of the barns, working with their animals so that they are ready to be handled in the ring. Checking them for health problems and addressing them as they arise and making sure they have time to exercise and graze.

If you would like to see how well these and many other 4-H’ers have worked with their animals this year, please join us July 13-15 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds in Timonium.


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The National 4-H Council visits Baltimore County

by: Bidemi Oladiran (AmeriCorps VISTA)


Members from National 4-H Council visited the Baltimore County 4-H office on April 20th. Nia Imani Fields and Dwayne Murphy took members of council on a site tour of two esteemed 4-H programs and partnerships. The first was a visit to Old Court Middle School where 4-H has implemented a Bay Stewards program since 2014 led by Krisztian Varsa, Dwayne Murphy, Anna Glenn and Nia Imani Fields.

4-H also partners with these Watershed Restoration and Urban Horticulture educators to facilitate an in-school enrichment program centered on the Junior Master Gardener curricula.  Ms. Bass, one of Old Court’s esteemed teachers, is engaged with both the Saturday Bay Stewards program and in-school AVID class. Members of the tour were excited to get engaged in the experiential lesson about hydrogels; which also happened to be a previous National 4-H Science Experiment lesson. Students learned that using hydrogels in plant soil would help plants retain more water. This tactic could allow people to conserve water, which could be useful is regions that experience drought.

The tour of Old Court continued as we were led by two youth members of the Bay Stewards program who served as our guide. Being a part of the program and same grade wasn’t all they had in common; they also had very similar names— Camren and Camiryn.

The students took us on a tour of their native garden that they helped plant and told us about the importance of using plants native to Maryland. Both students answered various questions from 4-H Council about their experiences in the program. They expressed their joy for having had the opportunity to better understand their environment and how litter and pollution isn’t just a problem for someone else to solve but a problem for everyone. The students also conveyed their dismay from the previous year, when they first planted their trees only to have it uprooted. However, they displayed their dedication to the program and community while having a second chance to plant replacement trees this year!

After the tour, Council had a chance to sit down with Ms. White, one of the teachers who also works with the Saturday Bay Stewards program, and Ms. Shipman who is the assistant principal of Old Court Middle school. Both relayed their positive experience and the students’ excitement for the lessons that 4-H provides and how 4-H has always been able to meet whatever needs the school has.

The second site visited was Sweet Potato Kids. The group was led on a tour by the founder and director, Mrs. Michelle Hall-Davis. Mrs. Hall-Davis was a former Extension Advisory Committee (EAC) member and was also the Maryland 4-H partner of the year in 2013. In 2014 she also won the Baltimore County 4-H after school program of the year award. Her partnership with 4-H has been on-going for over 10 years and the Council was pleased to be able to see a long term partnership in the works. Mrs. Hall-Davis was able to inform the Council of how her upbringing in being able to raise plants with her father as this influenced her love of agriculture and gardening. She explained how she “loves to play in dirt” and how planting and working in the soil with her hands gives her a sense of peace. She also explained that many students interested in STEM focus on the technology aspect, but often forgets things like healthy living, and agriculture and how that too is a part of STEM. This is something Sweet Potato Kids offers to their youth. The Sweet Potato Kids 4-H club goes beyond just doing experiments, it helps to foster tomorrow’s leaders by teaching them hard and soft skills like better communication and closer comradery among their peers.

SPK group picture

All in all, the site tours concluded with the members of the 4-H council receiving a better understanding of what 4-H faculty and University of Maryland Extension staff are doing here at Baltimore County and worldwide.

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Bay Stewards


The Old Court Middle School Bay Stewards Program began in 2014 from a partial grant provided by BG&E. The program fosters a partnership between UME and Old Court middle school with a goal to teach students how their environment is impacted by our actions and how to be environmental stewards. The Saturday program encourages youth to learn more about their environment and how they can make a positive impact. During the past two years that the program has been implemented, students have built a native plant garden on school grounds, as well as planted several trees.

Recently on February 20, 2016 students painted rain barrels and learned how it can positively impact the environment by helping to conserve water during the summer months. Students learned that rain barrels can be used to store water during rainfalls. The collected water can be used to water plants during the summer months thus allowing people to conserve more water. The themes for the rain barrels focused on nature and under sea creatures. During the Saturday programs they learned that impervious surfaces like concrete pavement causes water quality degradation while pervious surfaces like soil helps to reduce pollution and replenish ground water. The students were able complete their rain barrel decorations with a variety of under sea creatures (mostly fictional) and plants found in nature.

In addition, students recently went to Gwynn Oak Park on April 9th where they picked up over 300 pounds of trash! Led by Krisztian Varsa and Dwayne Murphy from Baltimore County Extension, the students braved rain and snow on a cold Saturday morning to collect car tires, glass bottles, and Styrofoam from the banks of the Gwynns Falls. The students’ effort will keep over 300 pounds of trash from entering the Baltimore Harbor and Chesapeake Bay. Aiding the students were Old Court Middle School teachers Pamela Bass and Rosalie White.


By: Bidemi Oladiran (AmeriCorps VISTA) & Krisztian Varsa (Watershed Restoration Specialist)

Pictures contributed by Daniel Pendick

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Old Court Middle School STEM Fair


Old Court Middle School welcomed AmeriCorps VISTAs Bidemi Oladiran and Ashley Gibson, on behalf of University of Maryland Extension 4-H, to its STEM Expo this April, bringing hands-on, smoking and drug prevention activities to grades 6-8.

Before traveling to Old Court Middle school, the VISTAs attended training at the University of Maryland Extension 4-H center in College Park, in which they focused on engaging curriculum to educate youth on the consequences of smoking, tobacco, and illegal drug use. The 4-H “Health Rocks” curriculum encourages an active role for students in each lesson, instead of lecturing, and encourages observation and self-reflection.

The 4-H station at the STEM Expo featured two popular simulation activities. The first emphasized the extra stress and burden of smoking or drug addictions. After each student wrote their common causes of stress on their own balloons, they had the task of keeping each balloon off the ground and in the air. “Smoking/Drugs” balloons were added to the mix, and the students found themselves frantically diving after balloons, to keep up with all the stress in the air. They quickly decided that balancing their daily stress factors was enough – no need to add on the stress of addiction!

A breathing simulation, using different-sized straws, taught students what it feels like to have a diminished capacity to breathe. Through long, slow, difficult breaths, students struggled to breathe sufficiently through tiny, black coffee stirrers. Few could complete the entire 60 seconds, and all agreed that they would prefer healthy lungs.

Other stations included fire safety, surgical tools, a laparoscopic surgery simulation, toy car demonstration of Newton’s Laws of Motion, and a reptilian petting zoo, featuring a baby python, frogs, salamanders, geckos, as well as Madagascar hissing cockroaches.

By: Ashley Gibson (AmeriCorps VISTA with Veterans in Partnership)

Edited by: Bidemi Oladiran

For more details about STEM programs visit the BmoreSTEM ecosystem  website, Facebook and Twitter pages by another AmeriCorps VISTA Fellisha (Fe) Roman .

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4-H Hunt valley robotics club

By: Bidemi Oladiran (AmeriCorps VISTA)

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 On February 22nd, 2016 the 4-H Hunt valley robotics club convened. The members who were present reintroduced themselves and then the President Amith proceeded to lead the club in the 4-H pledge. The members played an exciting game of 4 corners as a way to break the ice and put everyone at ease. Afterwards, Didier the reporter for the club recapped the clubs success during the FTC: FIRST Tech Challenge competition and places where improvements are needed.

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Later on, the students split up into younger and older age groups. The younger age group consisted of elementary age students who needed to improve on making their robots follow the line. To do this, they were advised to add a touch sensor to make the robot reverse, touch the wall and then find the line. The older students who were middle school age, were led by the officers Amith and Didier who were being mentored on how to attach channels to robots while also learning how to build a motor. As the meeting concluded the younger members which included the clubs Treasurer Cooper, were still having trouble adjusting their robots to perform the assigned task. They were able to get the robot to reverse but the wheels just kept spinning in reverse and didn’t go forward. The older members were also making progress in learning and building a motor for their robot. Their club leader Ms. Osias informed the parents that it’s best to give the children challenges and allow them to figure things out on their own before stepping in and offering assistance. All in all, the students all enjoyed their assigned task and if it wasn’t for the fact that time was up they would have continued well into the night.

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Harford Hills Elementary students last STEM activity

By: Bidemi Oladiran (AmeriCorps VISTA)

The Harford Hills elementary after-school STEM program concluded on March 15th, 2016. The programs final lesson continued with topics on science and engineering taught by Ms. Nia Fields and I. The fourth and final lesson encouraged students to reduce their carbon footprint by doing an experiment. The first experiment involved using 0.04% Bromothymol blue (BTB) which is a chemical solution that detects if something is acidic or basic. In the first experiment students blew bubbles in a cup of water containing one drop of BTB which was originally light blue from the solution. The more the students blew bubbles, the more carbon dioxide (CO2) was produced which resulted in a yellow color change.  The second experiment consisted of filling a plastic bag with water after ensuring all the air was pressed out and adding ½ a tablet of antacid to the bag, along with 2 drops of BTB. The solution turned a darker yellow. The more CO2 there was the more acidic the solution became and the solution turned into darker yellow. The students were fascinated by this but their fascinating wouldn’t end there.


The third experiment involved using various types of milk from low fat milk like skim, 1%, and 2% to high fat milk like whole milk and cream. The students used a cotton swab dipped in dish soap to show how chemical bonds are weakened. The various milk were poured in a small aluminum pan, a drop of each color yellow, green, red and blue were placed in different places on the milk. Afterwards, the students gently placed the tip of cotton swab covered in soap onto the surface of the milk creating a swirl of rainbow colors in the milk. In actuality, what happened was that the dish soap was bipolar and the polar/hydrophilic/water-loving end dissolved in water while the non-polar/hydroph
obic/water-fearing end attached to the fat portion of the milk, bending the fat molecules causing them to “roll, twist and contort in all directions” thus resulting in the various rainbow colors seen.





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