Noel Primary in-school 4-H wraps up successful first year

  • Published: Thursday, May 7, 2020

NOEL, Mo. - Noel Primary School’s Tiger Paws in-school 4-H club had a very successful first year with teacher Dene’e Jones as club leader.

Jones incorporated 4-H into the school week with second graders schoolwide, about 70 students. She developed a curriculum that incorporated community needs with learning standards to create comprehensive, hands-on learning opportunities for her students, says Jennifer Lutes, county engagement specialist for University of Missouri Extension in McDonald County.

Noel Primary is the second school in the McDonald County R-1 School District to start a 4-H club in which students attend club meetings during school hours. Lutes and MU Extension 4-H youth development specialist Mike Coffey first met with the school district two years ago to present the idea of each elementary school becoming a 4-H club. Angie Brewer, assistant superintendent for the county school district, welcomed the idea. She especially liked that students would learn ways to engage, grow and serve their communities.

The county’s first in-school 4-H program launched in 2018 at Anderson Elementary. Noel Primary School joined for the 2019-20 school year.

At Noel Primary, one of the first things they learned was parliamentary procedure, which is used by decision-making bodies ranging from small-town city councils to the U.S. House and Senate. MU Extension faculty and staff taught students how to make decisions as a group, not speak until recognized and respect different opinions.

A project on pets taught students that having a pet means taking care of the animal for its entire life. Jones saw the need for these lessons due to the high number of abandoned animals in the community. She partnered with Faithful Friends, a local nonprofit animal shelter, which brought some of the animals from the shelter. Students, in return, collected eight large boxes of pet supplies and donated them to Faithful Friends as a community service project.

Conservation was another project students enjoyed. Representatives from the Missouri Department of Conservation came to speak about the abundant wildlife in the area. They brought animal pelts and plaster-cast footprints. MU Extension youth program associate Dana Vangunda brought orphaned baby raccoons for the children to see and talked about the importance of treating pets and wild animals differently, stressing that wild animals need to remain wild.

Jones received a PetSmart grant for her 4-H group to learn about leadership through animal care. The group bought a pair of guinea pigs along with the necessary habitats and raised their first litter of babies. They then sold the young guinea pigs to buy bedding and food for their animals. The plan is to have a litter of “piggies” every year so the students can learn about caring for animals and the cost of raising them.

Noel Primary 4-H students also learned to program and code in a section on robotics. They built roller coasters for the “STEM-a-Palooza” competition and won first place overall in the county for grades K-2. They were invited to compete in a regional competition, but school was canceled prior to the competition.

Young 4-H members learned to thread a needle and sew on a button. They also made plastic canvas bookmarks. They sewed felt bookmarks for the school board members and presented them at a board meeting along with a slideshow about what they were doing in their 4-H club.

Students also learned about the parts of plants in their gardening project. They learned the difference between a fruit and a vegetable, and they had planned their school garden. They planted seeds to start plants indoors. Before the suspension of in-person classes, there had been plans to build raised beds with the help of Hill ’n’ Hollow Master Gardeners. This would have been a community garden for school families to tend and harvest for food. They also had hoped the school cafeteria could incorporate some of the vegetables into its salad bar.

Jones will share her program’s success with the other principals in the district. Extension specialists and district administrators will also be on hand to discuss how other schools can bring 4-H into the school day.

Jones said she is looking forward to next year. She is excited about plans to finish their gardens and a new pottery project. “Of course, we still have our mom and dad guinea pigs, Alvin and Maxine, with plans for more baby piggies to come,” she said.

Photos available for this release:
Youth program associate Dana Vangunda shows second graders an orphaned raccoon as part of in-class 4-H programming at Noel Primary School in McDonald County.
Second graders at Noel Primary School in McDonald County learned about parliamentary procedure during in class 4-H programming during the 2019-20 school year.

Writer: Jennifer Lutes

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Jennifer Lutes

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