SALEM, Ore. – It debuted online on April 5, three weeks after Oregon Gov. Kate Brown ordered Oregon’s schools closed and four days before Brown announced that schools wouldn’t reopen for the 2019-20 school year.
It was called “4-H Central,” a weekly e-magazine in English and Spanish developed by the Oregon State University Extension faculty and staff in Marion County.
The first issue included activities for elementary-aged youth called “Code Your Name!” and “Show You Care/Write a Letter” and “Wheel of Service: Top 10 at-home projects to do for others.” There was a recipe for making apple sandwiches.
The creation of the magazine was rooted in two things the Marion County 4-H team was hearing after the mid-March school shutdown, said Josh Davalos, 4-H program coordinator in Marion County.
First, households were having a hard time keeping children occupied. Second, families had been bombarded with options for online digital content and were confused by all the choices.
“We wanted to develop something that was digital but at the same time not dependent on going online and needing to have a strong internet connection,” said Davalos, the magazine’s editor. “We wanted to provide simple, low- or no-cost activities at home, geared toward health and wellness.”
Four months later, the 4-H Central team has kept it up, putting out 18 issues and never missing a week. Every issue includes an activity that represents the four “Hs” that figure in the youth development organization’s name: head, heart, hands and health.
The magazine has developed a regional and state focus. The main content creators are the Marion County 4-H team of Melanie McCabe, Kelly Noack and Abby Lewis, and Carly Kristofik, Marion County’s SNAP-Ed coordinator who contributes Food Hero recipes. 4-H volunteer Heidy Castillo designs the magazine and translates the text into Spanish.
By mid-July, posts on Facebook linking to the magazine had reached nearly 362,000 users.
The magazine has received attention from the National 4-H Council, which linked to the publication on a blog called “4-H at Home: Helpers, Heroes & History.”
“One of the biggest elements that we think about is how we can get kids to do something physical, and how can we incorporate diet and other elements of wellness into that,” Davalos said.
The magazine continues to publish at a time when it’s unclear what Oregon’s 2020-21 school year will look like. Brown recently released COVID-19 testing-related metrics that must be met before schools re-open for in-person instruction, and that news was followed quickly by announcements from some of the state’s largest districts that they will be online-only until at least the first six weeks of the school year.