Cultivate ACCESS Announces New Summer Program

Cultivate ACCESS is an agricultural mentoring program through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This program encourages students from rural towns to learn more about agricultural jobs in science, technology, engineering, and math (agSTEM). Participating high school students connect with college students and career professionals through online conversations about agSTEM careers. In this 10-week program students learn how to improve their communication, leadership, and teamwork skills.

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Cultivate ACCESS participants include students from all over Nebraska. One participant is a student from McCook, NE interested in working for her family’s business. Another participant lives on the other side of the state in Omaha and aspires to become a zookeeper. These students’ career choices are examples of different careers in agSTEM. One Cultivate ACCESS participant commented on her experiences in the program, “No matter what your background is you can do anything you set your mind to.” If you have an interest in gaining essential employability skills and exploring agSTEM careers this summer, we are currently accepting applications for the 2020 summer session of Cultivate ACCESS starting June 1st and running through August 7th.

Please see our website to learn more and apply.

Programming, Youth

May Youth Project Workshops

Pick a Project Fridays Square_EDIT.pngClay, Fillmore, Nuckolls, and Thayer counties are hosting a “Pick A Project” Zoom workshop series to encourage local youth to practice their fair project prowess and to learn how to make (or at least get started on) projects for County Fair 2020. We encourage youth ages 8-18 to register for one or all four of the workshops. Even though COVID-19 disruptions have limited in-person programming, we’re excited to inspire 4-H members to practice experiential learning and learn to do new projects.

Register by visiting

May 8 – Heritage

Join Nuckolls/Thayer 4-H Educator Kylie Kinley as she explores the Heritage project. We’ll peer into the past and brainstorm what historical stories or family heirlooms would make quality projects for fair. Supplies: Pencil and paper, potential heirlooms, family photos, list of family members for family tree drafting.

May 15 – “Coffeecake 201”

Join Clay County 4-H Associate Holli Alley from her kitchen as she bakes coffee cake for the Cooking 201 project. Youth will learn basic baking techniques to perfect yummy coffee cake for the county fair.

May 22 –  “T-shirt Rags to Riches”

Fillmore County 4-H Assistant Rachel Adams will show youth how to use old t-shirts that would normally be used as rags to make a one-of-a-kind rug. Don’t know how to sew? No problem! We’ll use a braiding technique to craft our rugs. This will not be a project we will get done in an hour, but you can work on it in your spare time. Supplies: Old T-shirts cut into 1 ½ inch strips. Around 10 XL shirts or the equivalent would be a good place to start. Avoid too many seams in your strips. You will also need scissors (fabric scissors would work best).

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Join Fillmore County Extension Educator Brandy VanDeWalle & Todd Boller, county weed superintendent, as they explore common weeds and even start you on an exhibit for county fair. Create a Weed Display, which allows original and creative exhibits that contain educational information about weeds, such as interesting information about a weed species, the effects of weed control, herbicide-resistant weeds, what makes a weed, or uses for weeds. Supplies needed: 1-3 weeds to identify, sheet of paper and pencil to brainstorm a poster idea. (Optional: poster board & supplies to get started on a poster.)


Creating a Routine in Changing Times

By Guest Columnist: Dr. Jill Lingard, Nebraska 4-H Youth Development

With virtual-learning, social distancing, and a long list of cancelled beloved pastimes, life can feel pretty far from what we once knew.  Change is hard.  Yet, amidst a time of uncertainty and change we are searching to find a new normal.  A sense of stability, routine, and familiarity are important for youth.    Parents, care-providers, and youth development professionals can help youth plan their day to reestablish routine. Having a daily routine enables youth to have some control and choice in their life which is important for their well-being.

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Consider the following as you develop daily or weekly plans:

  • Engage youth in planning a routine together. Adults and youth may have differing ideas about ways to spend time, start by having a conversation about what expectations you have.  In the beginning of your planning determine what activities that are non-negotiable. Be clear about the expectations that need to be met. If possible, offer some choice for when these “must happen” activities can occur.
  • Find a healthy balance between flexibility and consistency when establishing routine.  Creating plans that are too ambitious or rigid will be difficult for youth and for caring adults in their lives to monitor.
  • Maintain self-care routines. Regularity with hygiene practices, diet, sleep, and exercise will set adults and youth up for success.
  • Stay focused on what youth value. During times of change, it might be tempting for youth to abandon goals that were important to them.  Take this opportunity to talk about why persistence toward goals is important.
  • Create a balanced routine that includes time for unstructured activity and FUN! We all need a healthy amount of free-time, so don’t overschedule the day.  Be aware of the amount of screen time a plan includes.  For free time, consider non-screen activities like playing outside, reading a book for enjoyment, drawing, family game night, cooking, or other hands-on activities.
  • Focus on what youth can control. During periods of change there so many things that can’t be controlled.  Help youth focus on what they CAN do as opposed to what they can’t. This can be an opportunity for youth to explore an interest they haven’t had time for in the past and invest in learning something new.
  • Stay connected. Successful routines should include intentional ways to keep young people connected to the important people in their lives.  Staying connected to those we care about helps manage anxiety and challenges that times of change can create.
  • Practice gratitude. Change can present feelings of loss and it is important to acknowledge and address those feelings.  At the same time, change can be an opportunity to talk about gratitude.  Challenge youth to explore what they are thankful for and look for ways to express that gratitude.

Experiencing change and finding a new normal can be hard. While creating new plans won’t solve all of the challenges associated with change, planning can be a positive way to help young people respond to the uncertainty of the situation by establishing a flexible routine.

More information and resources about youth social-emotional development in difficult times can be found at or by contacting your local county Nebraska Extension office.


Coping in Changing Times

This article was written by Dr. Saundra Frerichs, Nebraska Extension 4-H Youth Development.

How can someone like me cope with something so unexpected? As I searched for this answer, I read recommendations for different groups of people: individuals living alone, families, children with special needs, empty nesters, and seniors.   I found suggestions that can help all of us cope.

It seems with the increase in online education, everyone brings their pets to show others!  I appreciate my daughter’s teachers for connecting with them and trying to keep things routine in our new “norm”. 

Create a routine.

Consistency and structure may be calming during times of stress.  This is true whether we are creating a work and learning schedule for the whole family, or creating routines for ourselves when we are home alone.  Use routine to create reasonable expectations for yourself and others.

  • Build off familiar routines from school or work. Create cues for the start and end of each day.    For example, take a quick walk around the block or in the backyard before starting work.
  • Healthy routines include adequate sleep, healthy meals, exercise, and time for social interactions.
  • Plan to work or learn in bursts. Children need learning bursts of 15 to 45 minutes.  Adults can focus longer, but still need regular breaks. Stretch for 5 minutes every 20 minutes if sitting or get up and walk around for 10 minutes.

Check-in with yourself and others.

It is important to take time to check in with yourself and with friends and family.  When connecting with others follow these tips.

  • Acknowledge feelings. For young children use a feeling chart to help them express themselves.   Also, remember to acknowledge your own feelings.  Avoid passing judgement on yourself and other.  There is no right or wrong way to feel.
  • Treat yourself with as much gentleness as you treat others.
  • Resist the need to solve other’s problems. Ask, “How can we work together to make this experience more bearable?” Then be quiet and listen.
  • Encourage yourself and others to be mindful of the present. Avoid worrying about “what ifs.”

Try something new.

With so many events we can’t control, it is important to focus on what we can control.  Trying new activities can give a sense of accomplishment.  You may discover new coping strategies that you can use for the rest of your life.

  • Don’t try to do everything, but do try new things. For example, start a new arts or crafts project, make a new recipe, or read a book for enjoyment.
  • Try yoga or a new exercise video with a spirit of adventure and fun.
  • Try new ways to connect with friends and family like connecting through video calls, virtual play dates, or writing letters.

Use your network.

  • Remember to use your social network. Friends, family, neighbors and co-workers can help you cope.  Make plans to celebrate birthdays, holidays, and other special events in new ways.
  • Use your network to find opportunities for learning, traveling, or playing online.
  • Use your network for support. Would your child be more motivated to do his homework on a video chat with a friend? Would a virtual story time with grandparents at 5:00 help you get supper ready?

During this time of unexpected and unprecedented events, remember it is okay not be the perfect parent or family member, employee, or person.  Simply, don’t expect perfection from yourself or others.  Healthy coping skills will help you and your family navigate this experience.    More information and resources on coping can be found at or by contacting your local Nebraska Extension office.

Resources to Support Coping in Changing Times

Child Mind Institute provides daily tips and a collection of resources for parents on coping during COVID-19, including resources for supporting children with special needs.

The Center for Disease Control has resources for Daily Live and Coping in response to COVID-19 that cover both physical and mental health concerns.

Child Trends has brought together a great set of resources on promoting resiliency in response to the COVID19 pandemic.




 Comfort in a Changing World

By Guest Columnist: Dr. Michelle Krehbiel, Nebraska Extension 4-H Youth Development

“I don’t like this!” This statement is one that children or youth might use during a heated game, when being asked to correct unwanted behavior or when plans change.  For those children and youth who were looking forward to milestones like field days, end of school year celebrations, prom, or graduation, they have reason to believe that life can be sad, frustrating, and difficult.

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The question is how do we, as nurturing adults, help young people cope with these emotions and equip them with the skills they need to be caring, connected, and capable adults?  Any loss for a child or youth, such as a failing an exam, death of a pet, changes in family structure, or events from a disaster, can lead to a wide variety of feelings such as disappointment, sadness, loneliness, or anger.  These feelings are common reactions to such experiences.

As caring adults, we can do the following to help young people cope.

  • Acknowledge feelings and allow youth to talk about their feelings and concerns. Let youth know that it is okay to be sad, scared or confused. Identifying and naming a feeling can be very helpful in trying to understand and make meaning of a situation.
  • Be a calm and reassuring presence. Remind youth that over time things will get better.
  • Help youth form positive coping skills by setting a healthy example of how to manage feelings like grief, anxiety, fear, or sadness. Teach young people that exercising, meditation, writing in a journal, engaging in a favorite hobby like art, cooking, gardening or sewing are healthy ways to work through disappointment, loss, and grief.
  • Expressing gratitude for things that make life enjoyable is another way teach positive coping skills.
  • Create an environment where youth can interact with their peers. Using video conferencing, having telephone conversations, or writing letters are ways of connecting with peers. These connections can be helpful ways to provide emotional support for youth, especially for adolescents.
  • Simply, listen. If ever youth need adults to listen, it is now. Being able to talk about an experience can support making meaning of a situation which is an important part of grieving. Remember you don’t have to have all the answers. Silence is okay. Youth just need to know you care.

Sometime life can be difficult, unfair, and painful. While adults cannot prevent or change all of these experiences, they can play a significant role in helping young people cultivate and practice skills that give them the ability to develop resiliency or the ability to overcome hardship. The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University recommends that adults build supportive adult-child relationships as a way to strengthen a young person’s resiliency.  Taking the time to listen and communicate with young people, being a positive example of healthy coping skills, and simply just being a calming reassuring presence are action steps that adults can implement now.  As adults, let’s take the time to prepare young people to become caring, connected and capable adults.

For more information and resources about youth social emotional development in difficult times can be found at or by contacting your local county Nebraska Extension office.

Comfort in a Changing World Resources

The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard has some great resources.  This link is specific to resiliency but I would encourage you take some time to explore other parts of the website. which is a website supported by the United State federal government.  Its’ content was produced but multiple government agencies and has some excellent youth development resources.  This link is specific to resiliency.

Child Trends has some great work on resiliency. Here is a link to one of their resources.

Additionally, they have a great publication on youth and the COVID19 pandemic.

Lastly, this is a nice general resources on common mental health issues from Australia.  I have always found Australia to have outstanding youth resources.  (publication on anxiety and depression)






Parent & Child Care Provider Resources

The Learning Child team with Nebraska Extension provides affordable, research-based, educational programs, and resources. Information in each program is based on research from faculty right here at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The goal is to empower all adults who care for young children by providing high-quality professional development that sets the stage for lifelong learning, discovery, and success. The Learning Child (TLC) is here to help take what is learned from professional development and research and put it into practice.031F7806-4ADB-49E3-8C0B-6452F29C7D0E_1_105_c.jpeg

Communities caring for children and youth want answers regarding what to do before, during, and after an emergency event, disaster, or crisis. It is important to remember that all children and youth react differently to major changes in their lives. The Learning Child team has various resources that may be of help to adults and the families, children, and youth in the community.

Nebraska Extension’s Learning Child and 4-H Youth Development teams have developed a one page handout listing all of the resources.  This handout is electronically accessible and printable.  It is available in English and Spanish. To access the handouts please visit the BOX link and share it with those you feel may benefit.

Here are a few more resources that may be of help:

Helping Children Cope – Suggestions and Strategies

The most important way to support children and youth is to talk, comfort, and reassure them they are loved and supported regarding their experiences. Using children’s literature in an interactive way, caregivers can help children heal. The Learning Child team has identified books to support children’s coping and understanding of their feelings after experiencing a major stressor, disaster, loss, and/or grief. Free storybook reading guides accompany the books. The guides provide adults with suggested activities and probing questions to help children personally connect with the experiences of the characters in the books.

Parents and educators are in the best position to help children and youth cope. Nebraska Extension’s Learning Child in collaboration with 4-H Youth Development have developed a simple one-page handout that is electronically accessible and printable with online videos, classes, and activities for young children (birth to age eight) and school-age children. This website has resources to support children’s coping and understanding of their feelings. It is common for children and youth to experience grief, frustration, anger, and a lost sense of security after experiencing a major change, loss, or grief.

Online Professional Development – Childcare Providers

The Learning Child team provides automatically approved in-service hours with research-based information from the University of Nebraska – Lincoln, Nebraska Extension. Online offeringsprovide information and strategies on how to support the early growth and development of young children.

A Beautiful Day – Virtual early childhood space

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A Beautiful Day is a virtual early childhood space designed to connect with children and families in Nebraska and across the world. UNL faculty and collaborators created this space as a way to share ideas, to foster learning and play, and to support caregivers experiencing physical distancing. The team is creating and adding more videos on a regular basis. This space is a safe video based platform with no ads, to share ideas, foster learning and play, and to support all adults caring for children who are experiencing physical distancing.

Inspiration for A Beautiful Day came from Fred Rogers who said, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” This project involves the following collaborators: Child, Youth and Families Studies, Ruth Staples Child Development Laboratory, College of Education and Human Sciences, Nebraska Extension, and the Buffett Early Childhood Institute.

Stay Connected as a Family – Celebrate your strengths!

Strong families have the ability to manage stress and crisis in their lives in positive, creative ways. There are strengths families use to create positive environments, however, to take care of your family and others, you must first take care of yourself. The Nebraska Extension team has compiled resources for family support and mental health for adults and families.

Readers may contact Lynn DeVries, Learning Child Educator at or members of the Learning Child interest group at if they have any questions about these resources.


4-H Reaches Youth With Two New Live Video Programs

Recently, Nebraska Extension staff led hundreds of youth in a kitchen science experiment focused on chemical reactions — the kind with vinegar and baking soda that is a staple at elementary school science fairs. For the inaugural program on March 17th, youth from more than 200 locations across Nebraska and four other states engaged in science out of their own homes.CBD83E1B-9F88-4378-82FB-F8A0DD5620AA_1_105_c

This was the first in a series of live videos that Nebraska 4-H plans to stream each Tuesday and Thursday at 2 p.m. Central Time for as long as schools remain closed to slow the spread of COVID-19. The series, called Living Room Learning, aims to provide fun, engaging, educational activities that families can complete together with supplies they probably already have on hand, said Kathleen Lodl, associate dean of Nebraska Extension.

For families across Nebraska and throughout the United States, where they are now is at home, and in many cases, parents are trying to balance their own work obligations with their children’s learning. Nebraska 4-H has a strong history of interacting with youth in ways that build life skills such as communication and leadership, while also educating them in content areas including STEM, healthy living and entrepreneurship. In addition, 4-H extension educators across the state already have relationships with 4-H clubs, schools and parents.

Youth who took part in the livestream were able to see the other participants and use a chat box to discuss the project and share other information, such as where they were from. The young learners seemed to love seeing other participants in their homes across the state and beyond. Living Room Learning is geared toward third- through fifth-graders, though younger and older kids can participate, too.4h_mark1

Nebraska 4-H has also launched the Boredom Buster Challenge, a live video series geared toward middle schoolers and focused on entrepreneurship. Like Living Room Learning, the Boredom Buster Challenge encourages participants to take advantage of the opportunities for interaction offered through the livestream as they learn about the fundamentals of entrepreneurship and challenge themselves to think of alternative uses for common household items, among other activities. The Boredom Buster Challenge will take place at 2 p.m. Central Time on Mondays and Wednesdays.

Forthcoming Living Room Learning livestreams will focus on healthy living, STEM and citizenship, among other topics. One activity will guide youth in making marbled paper, which they’ll turn into a card to send to someone in their community. As 4-H leaders plan activities, they ensure that the four “H’s”  — head, heart, hands and health — are represented, and that each lesson fosters creative thinking and independence.

For a schedule of upcoming Living Room Learning activities and past livestreams, visit For a schedule and past videos of the Boredom Buster Challenge, visit

Source: Cara Pesek, IANR Media


Programming, Youth

Tractor safety course to teens across Nebraska

Members of the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, College of Public Health will provide a tractor safety course in May and June of 2020 at 11 sites across Nebraska in partnership with Nebraska Extension. The course provides extensive training on tractor and all-terrain vehicle safety with a variety of hands-on activities. Instilling an attitude of ‘making safety a priority’ and respect for agricultural equipment are primary goals of the course.TractorCourse

Teens 14 or 15 years of age who work on farms, or others who are interested in learning about safe farming practices, are encouraged to register for the Nebraska Extension Tractor Safety & Hazardous Occupations Course. Anyone under age 14 is not eligible to take the class.

Federal law prohibits children under 16 years of age from using certain equipment on a farm unless their parents or legal guardians own the farm. However, certification received through the course grants an exemption to the law allowing 14- and 15-year-olds to drive a tractor and to do field work with certain mechanized equipment.

Susan Harris-Broomfield, University of Nebraska Extension Educator reports that a common cause of agricultural-related injuries and deaths in Nebraska is overturned tractors and ATVs. She emphasized that this course is designed to train students how to avoid these incidents as well as many other hazards on the farm and ranch.

Cost of the course is $60 and includes educational materials, instruction, supplies, and lunch. The first day of class will cover the required elements of the National Safe Tractor and Machinery Operation Program, hands-on participation, concluding with a written test which students must pass to attend the second day of training.

The second day of training will include a driving test and equipment operation and ATV safety lessons. Students must demonstrate competence in hitching and unhitching equipment and driving a tractor and trailer through a standardized course. Instructors will also offer education about safe behaviors and laws for ATVs, utility-task vehicles (UTVs), and other off-road vehicles (ORVs).

Instructors for the course are members of the Central States Center for Agricultural Safety and Health: Aaron Yoder, Ph.D., Ellen Duysen, MPH; UNMC graduate student Alyssa Damke; and Nebraska Extension educators Troy Ingram, Randy Saner, Chandra Giles, and John Thomas.

Classes begin at 8 a.m. or 9 a.m., depending on location, and end times vary depending on the number of participants.  If classes do not fill to the minimum of 10 participants, an option will be offered to do Day 1 training online and Day 2 in person.

Dates, training site locations, and site coordinator phone numbers are below:

  • May 21 & 22 – Weeping Water, Fairgrounds, (402) 267-2205
  • May 26 & 27 – Ord, Fairgrounds (308) 728-5071;
  • May 28 & 29 – Wayne, Fairgrounds (402) 375-3310
  • June 1 & 2 – O’Neill, Plains Equipment, (402) 336-2760
  • June 3 (first day is online) – Gordon, Fairgrounds, (308) 327-2312
  • June 4 & 5 – Ainsworth, Evangelical Free, (402) 387-2213
  • June 9 & 10 – Geneva, Fairgrounds, (402) 759-3712
  • June 11 & 12 – North Platte, West Central Research, Extension and Education Center, (308) 532-2683
  • June 16 & 17 – Kearney, Buffalo County Extension Office (308) 236-1235
  • June 18 & 19 – Hastings, Adams County Extension Office (402) 461-7209
  • June 29 & 30 – Gering, Legacy Museum (308) 632-1480.

For more information or to register, contact the appropriate Extension office above. The registration form is located at

Crops, Irrigation, Livestock, Youth

Disaster Anniversaries

Birthdays, anniversaries and holidays are days to celebrate annually with joy and happiness. If you are like me, I’m sure there are also dates that might bring feelings of anxiety, stress and sadness. For example, I’ll never forget where I was when September 11, 2001 happened. I’ll never forget days that various people in my life were impacted by serious illnesses or passed away. Many Nebraskans will never forget March 15, 2019 when the ‘bomb cyclone’ hit causing massive and historic flooding in the state. This date forever changed the lives of many and will take years for many to recover. As March 15, approaches, our Nebraska Extension team put out resources which I decided to share in my column this week.

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The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has the following tips for how to cope with these trigger events.

  • Be aware that special days may be difficult. It’s common for some stress and other emotional reactions to happen around the anniversary of an event. Simply recognizing that your feelings are normal will help. Dealing with some of your losses and the new realities you’re facing after a disaster can be challenging. Try not to be too hard on yourself.
  • Be gentle with yourself. Show yourself the same kindness and patience you’d give to others during this time. Allow yourself to feel angry or sad and recognize that these emotions are natural.
  • Participate in activities that you enjoy. This may be different depending on the individual. Some people like to reflect in solitude while others may prefer spending time with family and friends for support. Some of these activities may include: singing, prayer, meditation, attending a spiritual service, going to the movies, or just getting together with loved ones to share a meal.
  • Talk about your losses if you need to. If you want to talk about your losses since the disaster, you can. If you want to talk about the future, you can do that, too. Be sure to share your thoughts and feelings with someone you trust. That can be a friend or family member or a health care professional.
  • Draw on your faith/spirituality. For many, faith and other spiritual beliefs are a source of strength and comfort every day, and most especially during difficult times. Reach out to your faith adviser, spiritual community, or anyone that you feel comfortable talking with about your beliefs to support and console you.
  • Accept kindness and help from others. Support from family and friends is essential to healing. It’s often difficult for people to accept help because they don’t want to be a burden to others, or don’t want to appear weak. Allow the people in your life to show their care and concern.
  • Help others. For some people, volunteering is a healthy way to heal and they get a great deal of satisfaction from helping others. Some activities can be as simple as donating food, clothing, and other items.

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While it is hard to cope with these trigger dates, know that you are not alone and you are cared about, especially by Nebraska Extension. Nebraska Extension, along with numerous other partners has recently created the “Nebraska Needs You” campaign and is working to support others in times of difficulty. We have the Rural Family Stress & Wellness Team, that I am a part of which participates in activities supporting the wellness of rural Nebraska communities by working with community partners and the University of Nebraska. Resources can be found at

(Source: The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration)