By JULIA KELLY
SAINT AUGUSTINE – To celebrate Florida Arbor Day, St. Johns County 4-H Tech Wizards club members planted four trees at the W.E. Harris Community Center in Hastings on a cold Thursday afternoon in January. The planting was the result of a grant from the Florida Forest Service with support from Hastings Rotary. Greg Dunn, Senior Forester with the Florida Forest Service brought two water oaks and two American sycamores for the event.
The previous week Dunn demonstrated the correct way to transplant a tree from a pot to the ground so that the 4-H’ers would be ready to plant the following week. Mr. Dunn and his team pre-dug the holes so that the youth could dig into the fun stuff right away. After learning about the two types of trees to be planted, the 4-H youth got to work pruning the roots. Mr. Dunn reviewed the depth to plant the tree and they followed his directions covering the roots with soil, watering them and adding mulch around the bottom of the tree. Mr. Dunn planted the first tree and teams of four planted the next three. Smokey Bear made an appearance helping fill the holes with soil. Four additional trees will be planted at the community center in the coming weeks.
As part of the Florida Forest Service grant, St. Johns County 4-H was able to donate three tree identification guides published by the University of Florida to the St. Johns Public Library. It is hoped that this will generate interest in the trees around our community. Promoting environmental science is a key feature of 4-H.
4-H programming offers educational opportunities in science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) to youth ages 5-18. The educational experiences in environmental science promote life skills to curious youth. Environmental topics include marine ecology, forest ecology, outdoor adventures, insects and archery. The project-focused clubs use hands-on learning in these environmental science subject areas. 4-H clubs are led by trained volunteers committed to creating opportunities for youth to develop life skills while learning about the environment. Youth have the chance to develop life skills including communication, teamwork, personal safety, critical thinking and goal setting. The evidence-based curriculum used in the clubs has been developed by land grant universities from around the country.
Enrollment for the 4-H Youth Development Program takes place each September and is for youth ages 5-18, as of September 1st. Club enrollment opens in September with clubs completing their activities in May. Anyone interested in learning more about the St. Johns County 4-H program may do so by going to http://stjohns.ifas.ufl.edu/4-H.shtml . Caring adults interested in working with youth should contact the St. Johns County 4-H Office (904 209-0430) to learn of the many volunteer opportunities within the 4-H