Hopkins County AgriLife extension agent Johanna Hicks implemented new and unique programming during the COVID-19 pandemic to share her love of all things family and consumer science, and the state of Texas recognized her excellence with three awards last week at the Texas Extension Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (TEAFCS) annual conference.
The Innovative Youth Development Program award was established in 2019 to recognize innovation and accomplishment in the design and implementation of a Family & Consumer Sciences program for a non-4-H youth audience. The program reaches a new audience using subject matter that features an inventive delivery method or other creative approach that showcases originality. Hicks and her team of master wellness volunteers created the “Life Project Youth Skills Camp,” which targeted students going into 6th and 7th grades. Knowing that COVID-19 was in full bloom at the time, Hicks and her team brainstormed ideas to deliver a high-quality camp experience while keeping safety protocol at the forefront.
Rather than a face-to-face camp, grab-and-go project kits were developed for campers to pick up and complete at their own pace. Each kit contained all the materials, instructions, and supplementary information needed to complete the project. The topics were: Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math (making a pizza box solar oven and coffee filter butterfly art); ‘Upcycling’ – (constructing a towel bath caddy from egg carton planters); fun with money – (making a ceramic bank to decorate and financial activity sheets); woodworking – (constructing an iPad stand); and leatherwork (making a leather keychain.)
Additionally, each day included a “Daily Life Skill Challenge and Super Summer Salad Recipe.” Students were challenged to learn to sew on a button, hand-write a letter and address an envelope, change their own sheets and launder them, and clean their rooms by sorting into ‘keep’, ‘donate’, or ‘trash.’
All participants indicated learning new skills. Judges’ comments included, “Amazing work!” “Creative implementation of program.”
The Excellence in Teamwork Award was established in 2018 to recognize outstanding Extension FCS programs conducted by a multidisciplinary team. This award was also based on the “Life Project Youth Skills Camp.” The awards committee recognized Hicks’ ability to bring in collaborators from different disciplines to create a highly successful project and make an impact on the youth campers. Surveys were included to assess the effectiveness of the projects and skills learned. Judges’ comments included: “Excellent way to adapt a successful program for the current situation!” “Love the variety of skills and subjects covered in the program” Hicks credits her master wellness volunteers, co-worker – Mario Villarino, and office manager, Barbara Sanders for helping make these programs successful, as well as businesses who contributed items to be used for each session.
The School Wellness Award was established in 2012 to recognize outstanding school-based programs to promote and improve physical, emotional and/or social wellness of students. The use of partnerships and collaborations, evidence of program impact and sustainability are part of the award criteria. The popular “Kids’ Camp: Fun, Food, Fitness” which Hicks and the Community Health/Wellness Alliance had conducted for 10 years took on a different look due to COVID-19.
Partnering with the Sulphur Springs Independent School district, Hicks presented nine sessions in 2020 for the school district’s summer day camp program participants. Each program incorporated a session on nutrition with food models, group participation, games, role playing, incentive items, and certificates. Topics included: MyPlate/Eat a Rainbow of Color; Hydration/sedentary vs. active; Snack Attack; Milk Time/Mr. Bones Knows; Go for the Gold (eating a variety of foods)/Dangers of Smoking; Path to the Plate; Breakfast of Champions; New Food Exploration; and Healthy Heart.
Students indicated learning the importance of breakfast and keeping healthy. Newsletters were sent home with the students after each session. Judges’ comments included: “Great program topics” “Good networking with the school district!”
Hicks is entering her 26th year as a family and consumer science educator and extension agent. “My office doors are always open to visitors,” she said.