Cloverbuds Go Virtual while “On the Move!”

Mary and Lizzie, Licking County Cloverbuds

Roller skates with big wheels for a smoother ride.

A petting zoo on wheels, complete with animals.

A rescue-bot for nurses to help people.

What do these have in common? Each is a model vehicle designed by an Ohio 4-H Cloverbud for “On the Move!” — the theme of the 2020 Ohio 4-H Cloverbot Challenge.

Virtual activities and gatherings have quickly become part of our everyday lives. And that is true for the youngest Ohio 4-H members, as well. Cloverbuds (4-H youth ages 5-8 who participate in non-competitive activities), recently enjoyed a virtual version of the popular “Cloverbot Challenge” program. Issac with his "On the Move" creation

The activity, in its ninth year, typically involves youth meeting face-to-face in teams to problem-solve using STEM (science, engineering, technology and math) skills. Over several months, teams research a topic based on the year’s theme, build a working model of their solution, and gather at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center in the spring to share their project.

Upon learning that COVID guidelines would prevent an in-person event this year, the program’s co-creators Beth Boomershine and Sally McClaskey quickly adapted the Challenge to an online format - with great success!

Instead of working in teams, Cloverbuds independently created their own project at home, focusing on transportation and the ways in which people and how things get where they are going. Each Cloverbud built a model out of interlocking bricks (e.g., Mega Bloks, LEGOs), took a photo and submitted it to an online gallery for others to view.

Parents were impressed with the way these youngest 4-H’ers adapted to the news that the activity would be online, without meeting in Columbus for the culminating experience. “My boys were a little bit disappointed, but kids are so resilient,” said Kerry Riggs, a Franklin County 4-H club adviser and mother of two Cloverbuds. Robbie with his "On the Move" creation.“They have become used to this because all their schoolwork is online and they have learned how to do things like scanning and uploading photos.”

Boomershine, the 4-H educator in Franklin County, noted that while she will be happy to return to an in-person event next year, there is an unexpected benefit to a virtual Cloverbot Challenge. Ohio 4-H supporters who do not normally have the opportunity to see the Cloverbud’s construction efforts can visit the online photo gallery. “The Cloverbot Challenge is funded by a grant from the Ohio 4-H Foundation, so we are pleased with this opportunity to share the gallery with our generous donors,” she said. 

Boomershine observed an additional benefit — youth enjoy seeing photos of themselves with their creations online for an extended period. “They can also look more closely at the details of other entries, so they are still learning from each other despite not being face-to-face.” Collage from Cloverbot Challenge submissions.

An exciting feature of the photo gallery is that if viewers hover over a photo, they will find a description of each entry, written by the Cloverbud. McClaskey, program manager at the state 4-H office, believes the team met the goal they set when they decided to go virtual. “We just wanted them to stay connected to the project and have fun with it.” 

Cloverbuds who submitted an entry received a certificate of participation. Details about the 2021 Ohio 4-H Cloverbot Challenge will be announced early next year, but you can visit this year’s challenge gallery at https://ohio4h.org/image-galleries/cloverbot-challenge-gallery.