by Katie Martin, Extension Agent – 4-H Youth Development, UT Extension Smith County

Tennessee 4-H Offers Academic UN-Conference in June 2020

What has BINGO, prize packages, office hours and tours of lands far, far away?

If you guessed the 2020 Tennessee 4-H Academic UN-Conference, then you are correct!

For the last 30 years, Tennessee 4-H hosted a 4-H Academic Conference in June. This four-day event provided junior high 4-H members all across the state to come to the campus of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville for a week-long, college experience.  4-H’ers lived in the residence halls, ate in the cafeteria, learned about the university, explored potential careers and took college classes (that relate to their 4-H project) with actual UT faculty and Extension specialists … just like a “real” college student.  

This year, it’s going to be a little different.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, 4-H Academic Conference – along with other summer events – has been converted into a virtual event, an UN-Conference — in order to protect the health and safety of all involved.

Dr. Dwight Loveday, Interim State 4-H Program Leader explained, “In spite of the outbreak, we wanted to still give every Tennessee Junior High 4-H member the opportunity to get a taste of college life while learning more about their 4-H project area.”

So, instead of 4-H Academic Conference, this year the event is called 4-H Academic UN-Conference. While some of the traditional experiences are on hold, the UN-conference, scheduled for June 9-11, 2020, will continue to focus on helping 4-H’ers gain important subject matter knowledge and skill as it relates to their 4-H project.  Instead of face-to-face instruction, UT faculty and Extension Specialists will work with 4-H’ers virtually to share in-depth, research-based knowledge and career exploration through a variety of teaching methods such as hands-on demonstrations, interactive activities and virtual tours.

“Virtual technology does not limit our ability to learn and network with others,” said Loveday. “Actually, our 4-H’ers will be experiencing exactly what our UT students experienced last semester with their class work.  While it is not the norm, it was the norm this spring.”

This year’s 4-H Academic UN-conference will feature more than just learning!  4-H’ers will participate in hands-on activities, meet other 4-H’ers across the state and have an opportunity to win prizes for their academic achievements.

Another change for this year is the selection process and cost.  For 2020, any Tennessee 4-H member in the 6th – 8th grades (as of January 1, 2020) is eligible to attend the conference in one of 16 different project areas. Conference fees are also waived for 2020.

4-H members should contact Katie Martin at kclark54@utk.edu to register before June 1, 2020.