4-H members take center stage
By LINDSEY ORY
Farm News staff writer
MASON CITY – The Muse-Norris Conference Center at North Iowa Area Community College was packed Saturday with 4-H members from Cerro Gordo County as they competed in an event many Americans fear – public speaking.
The program was the main event of the first 4-H Springfest created in part by Gary Hall, director of the county’s Extension office.
“One of my goals [as new education director] was to get a speech contest rolling,” Hall said. “I think speaking is very important, and we try to push those skills along with leadership.”
Last year a similar program attracted only three members. This year nearly 20 4-H’ers showed up with speeches in hand ready to teach others, to entertain or to speak off of the cuff. Even Clover Kids – children five to eight years old – stepped-up to the challenge.
Second-grade student Erin Smith was the first member to speak. Her demonstration taught others to bake a butterfly cake.
“This is so precious,” Roger Ramthun, speech judge, said. “This is what it’s all about; these little kids.”
Ramthun has judged various 4-H competitions through the years, mainly public speaking events. An English teacher by profession, Ramthun took his time to constructively criticize each participant.
“It’s always so wonderful when you can get them to break the ice and start talking in front of others,” Ramthun said of the kids, “because we use these communication skills everyday in some way, like at our job, writing, (and) on the computer. We communicate all the time.”
As Smith broke the ice, smiles broke out on the faces of the audience as the young girl confidently finished her first presentation. Ramthun was full of suggestions for Smith and congratulated her for a job well done.
Smith may have been the youngest contestant, but she wasn’t the only first-timer to brave the crowd. The newly formed 4-H theme club, Junior Master Gardeners, entered members in many categories, and they also performed a song as a club, “Feel the Sunshine.”
“We try to find things the kids are interested in,” said club leader Sheree Sturges.
Sturges has been involved with 4-H for 30 years at many levels, including as a member, and believes the traditional values of 4-H are important. For this reason, Cerro Gordo has created new clubs and programs to get kids, from both farm and town involved.
“It [4-H] develops kids,” Sturges said. “Their personality develops in this atmosphere, and they gain leadership skills.”
Amy Rosenbaum, a 17-year-old student from Central Springs, is one example of a member stretching her communication skills. She travels to Washington, D.C. for a week this summer after writing a winning essay on citizenship thanks to the 4-H club.
Rosenbaum will join thousands of other youth ages 14 through 19 from across the country who earned the opportunity.
Cerro Gordo County 4-H is also incorporating new activities, like shooting sports. Members go to a range with adult volunteers who have taken a three-day training course in gun safety.
“This is something anyone can do. It teaches hunter safety to the younger crowd which parents really like,” said Alison Roe, county youth coordinator. “Members can shoot shotguns, rifles and archery. In the winter we’ll offer wildlife identification to keep it going through the year.”
While shooting sports is popular, the group is still small. To save on traveling costs, the shooters can compete through postal matches.
“The kids can shoot here,” Roe said, “and then we send in their scores. It makes it easier for the kids to participate.”
Sixth-grade student Tim Smith used his knowledge of the new 4-H activity to create an educational presentation titled, “Parts of a Shotgun.”
Smith learned to properly handle a 20-gauge shotgun through the shooting sports program.
“You need to clean the gun after you shoot it every time,” Smith said. “If the barrel gets clogged with dirt and you try to shoot the gun, it could explode.”
When asked if he has hunted any animals yet, Smith said he was still learning to shoot at targets, 25 at a time to be exact.
“I’ve only been in it for fun,” Smith said.
While all the kids enjoyed themselves, they were preparing for the main event: taking the stage at the Iowa State Fair.
Contact Lindsey Ory by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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