It’s all about communicatin’
DES MOINES – While many of their contemporaries had a relative day off at the Iowa State Fair from showing livestock on Aug. 14, some area 4-H’ers were working hard.
In the Bruce L. Rastetter 4-H Exhibits Building, individuals and teams sang, shared crafts and presented information on modern culture. Each of the young communicators qualified to bring their programs to the state fair after “auditioning” at their respective county fairs this summer.
Maria Towne, 15, of Gowrie, was one of the first on the Share-The-Fun stage, performing two piano pieces, “Amazing Grace,” in which she accompanied herself with vocals, and an instrumental encore called “The Firefly.”
Moments later, Kalli Olson, 17, of Eagle Grove, educated her audience to the dangers, as well as illegality, of texting while operating a vehicle.
While Towne and Olson were on their respective stages, sisters Danielle Border, 17, and Brooklin Border, 11, of Fort Dodge, were showing fair visitors in the working exhibits arena how to use recycled tissue paper to create artificial flowers.
Later in the afternoon, Abby Peterson, 17, of Harcourt, related how social networking is a growing part of culture, but that there are dangers and there are ways to stay safe online. She also addressed behaviors online that others find tiresome, and helped her listeners understand there is a “netiquette to be followed.”
This was Towne’s fourth year at state in Share-The-Fun, she said, always on piano. She keeps entering the event, because, she said, the preparation is fun. “I like to show people what I can do,” Towne said.
She added that the judge complimented her on the ability to play and sing at the same time. “I enjoy singing ‘Amazing Grace,'” Towne said. “And I like ‘The Firefly’ because it’s a really different kind of music.”
The judge liked it too, she said.
Another judge liked Olson’s discussion against texting and driving. The message was blunt, pointed, succinct, without being preachy. Olson chose the topic because, she said, her sister texts while driving, and she sees young people trying to text while operating mopeds.
“I even saw a guy on a motorcycle texting,” Olson said, “with both hands on his cell phone.
“It scares me when I see it happen.”
Olson asked two volunteers to use their phones to create text messages, while she played a road scene on a screen. When the volunteers were done, she pointed out that they missed a dog, at least one of three stop signs and children to the roadside.
Olson said the judge was also impressed that Olson shares her pointed opinion on text driving, without concern how her friends think about it.
“I can barely text myself,” she said, “and I will not text and drive.”
Olson said she has found doing such presentations has helped her overcome her fear of public speaking. “It gets easier each time.
“Each year you grow and it’s fun.”
The Border siblings said their idea for a working exhibit grew from looking for a different kind of Mother’s Day present last May. They made paper flowers from colored sheets of tissue.
“They last far longer than real flowers,” Danielle Border said. “The flowers we made are still on display, in the kitchen.”
Their working exhibit, said the 2011 Webster County Fair queen, was an apparent success, with being one of a couple exhibits that constantly had people crowding around them, wanting to make the flowers.
“I liked seeing the little kids’ reactions,” said Brooklin Border, and was surprised that many adults, including some men, made a paper flower as she talked them through the process.
Danielle Border said she liked the adults’ feedback that it was a unique and useful activity.
She added that her eight years in 4-H “has given me and ability to work with people.
“I want to be a music and Spanish teacher and events like this help me to see those who can learn visually or verbally.”
Peterson said she picked this topic one day while she was on Facebook.
This is her third State Fair qualification, having presented on “The ABCs of healthy living and on sleep,” she said.
Her own enlightened moment in her research was learning that social networking sites attach “cookies” to computers to track users’ preferences to products and activities. “I didn’t know they did that.”
The judge told Peterson that he liked the program, but that her presentation was factual overload.
Following her senior year in high school, Peterson said she plans to attend Iowa State University and study speech pathology.
Peterson said 4-H has developed her communication and interviewing skills.
“I’m more comfortable with public speaking,” she said.
Contact Larry Kershner at (515) 573-2141 or email@example.com