Virtually, 4-H continues to develop life skills

Madelynn Hicks

4-H is known for the unique, hands-on learning experiences offered by completing projects. Many people wondered what youth would learn from 4-H during a time of social distancing and virtual events, but when met with adversity, 4-H members continued to learn and develop valuable life skills.

Across the state, 4-H project work and judging looked different. Some counties opted to have members submit information videos and others held socially distanced judging events. Janette Thompson, who serves as a project judge in Gallia and Meigs County, was inspired by the youth whose projects she judged this year via video submission. “These kids did not know, this spring how their projects would be judged. They did their best and persevered. It was inspiring,” she said.

For Janette, the most inspiring youth was Madelynn Hicks of the Gallia County Buccaneers 4-H Club, who experiences selective mutism, an anxiety disorder that makes it difficult for children to speak in some situations.  Last year she could only answer questions by shaking or nodding her head and pointing to pictures or other things in her project book. “This year I had to watch her video twice to catch every word she spoke!” said Janette. The challenge was not being able to praise Madelynn and other members in-person for their perseverance and hard work. Madelynn Hicks horseback riding.

Madelynn’s love for horses also led her to enroll in the Horseless Horse project this year and take riding lessons. In her project video, she said, “I like horses because they help me talk at school and to everyone!” 4-H helped Madelynn learn more about horses and develop the passion she is excited to share with others. 

Combining her love of horses with the opportunity to record a project judging video gave Madelynn a boost of confidence to share about her project work. Stacy Hicks, Madelynn’s mother, said, “It just warms my heart and I hope one day Madelynn can help to some other child that may struggle with selective mutism or need a confidence booster.”

Through various opportunities and experiences, 4-H helps its members learn critical life skills. While 2020 has been different in many ways, some things do not change. Ohio 4-H continues to remain relevant through programming that offers unique opportunities for experiential learning.

You can see Madelynn's Horseless Horse video here.