Krista Amundson

Krista Amundson

For more than 100 years, 4-H has been seen as a good program for youth of all walks of life.

Lately, 4-H members and leaders have also been trying to improve the minds and bodies of 4-H’ers and the general public.

A walk through the 4-H Building at the recent Minnesota State Fair offered a glimpse of this wellness approach. In among the photography, sewing and wood-working projects, 4-H’ers and other fair-goers could see the Science, Engineering and Technology Initiative at work.

“At this robotics area, you can sit down and use math and science to make the robots work,” Krista Amundson said, overlooking a table where robots make their way around a paper track. Near that table is a line of computers where fair-goers could work on a robot project.

Amundson is the technology program director at Minnesota 4-H, a job that found her at the fair for all 12 days of the annual get-together. That’s not including setting up the 4-H Building starting Aug. 7 and not leaving until Sept. 4.

Next to the robots, a “band” of youth were trying their best to look and sound like the real thing using Wii Rock Band. Wii is the Nintendo video gaming system that allows the user to become more of a participant than with the usual joystick and thumb-driven game pads. With Rock Band, the drummer drums and the guitar players strum, and singers try to sing.

Likewise, with the Wii Fit game, the user gets involved in the action. The body actions they make are reflected on the character on the screen, normally your TV. In this case, the fair-goers’ actions were shown on a large screen for all others in the 4-H Building to see.

Fair-goers could try their hand, or head, on the Wii Fit at ski jumping, slalom skiing, soccer head-butting or hula-hooping.

There were also flight simulators set up for fair-goers to take the controls of a small aircraft leaving from a Twin Cities airport.

What does all of this have to do with 4-H and the building of today’s youth?

“All of this is stressing to 4-H’ers and others the importance of a healthy mind and a healthy body,” Amundson said. “The Wii programs get you going, working your body, rather than just sitting there when you’re playing a video game.”

The presence of such activities in the State Fair 4-H Building is also a good way of reaching out to those who may still think of 4-H as an agriculture-only organization. “We’re exposing 4-H to a lot of urban youth who maybe would never think about having a 4-H experience,” Amundson said.

To help make that connection, fair-goers interested in finding out more about 4-H could access that information at their fingertips with the use of computers to link them directly to their respective county.

“In the past if someone was interested, we’d have them fill out a card and then we would send them information down the road,” she said. “This way they can get their information right away.”

Amundson has experienced the benefits of 4-H involvement. The 12-year member of the Sharon Progressives club in LeSueur County is pleased to be giving back to the organization that has given her so much.

Amundson, a University of Minnesota senior, said 4-H greatly helped her in her relationships and leadership skills, as well as the skills she learned in her project areas.

“When I came to the U, it was amazing all the people I already knew by meeting them in 4-H,” she said. “When I came into 4-H I was really shy, but 4-H really helped me by making me get up in front of people for demonstrations and judging.

“There are so many levels of getting involved. It’s a lifelong thing. ... I like 4-H because you can make it your own.”

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