Brown County is home to many creative people with skills and experience to share, and now they can offer a “spark” to the next generation.

Spark Clubs are a fairly new concept in the world of 4-H, intended to attract youth who may not otherwise become involved with 4-H, said Brown County Purdue Extension Educator Lisa Wilson.

They also may offer a less time-consuming way for people to pass on their skills and knowledge than through the full-year 4-H program, she said.

Spark Clubs require a minimum of six hours of instruction that can take place on a single day or over a series of months, Wilson said.

A one-time fee of $20 for participants also grants access to all other Spark Clubs and 4-H activities.

“By being in a Spark Club, you are a full-fledged 4-H member,” Wilson said. “So, if you decide you want to be in a regular club after that, you can. If you decide you want to show something at the fair, you can. If you decide you want to go to 4-H camp, or go to any of the other state 4-H trips, you can.”

Spark Clubs offered this year in Brown County vary from a single session on baking to ongoing wellness classes.

Wilson hosted her own Spark Club, Build Your Future, a six-hour workshop over fall break for youth about choosing a career, budgeting their earnings and other topics.

That class was inspired by a needs assessment the Purdue Extension staff did last year, Wilson said. Concern was raised that local youth arrived at college and discovered that their chosen field of study wasn’t what they really wanted.

“We’re hoping, through this program, we can open their eyes to a lot of different career options that maybe they don’t know are available,” Wilson said.

Erica Weddle, a local personal trainer, is running a Health and Wellness Spark Club. It aims to get children from third through 12th grade out on the trails for about an hour per session over several months.

Weddle said she plans to intermingle lessons on trail etiquette with other health and wellness topics and even yoga exercises tailored to the age and fitness level of participants.

Whether they expand to two sessions a month or continue after they have reached the minimum six hours will depend on what people want, she said.

“If 4-H might seem overwhelming to some families, because it is a year-round program, this gives you a place to just go learn about that one thing,” Wilson said.

On Saturday, Nov. 5, two Spark Cubs will meet, one about beekeeping and another about baking and kitchen safety.

While both are single-session clubs, Jennifer Hallgarth’s beekeeping Spark Club is also a lead-in to a larger program. Participants could end up with their own beehive several months from now.

If a child and their parents or guardians simply want to learn about how beehives work and the importance of bees as pollinators, there is plenty for them to gather from attending, Hallgarth said. She’ll also share tips on what people can do at home to help bees and maintain that important link in the ecosystem.

A sixth-generation Brown County farmer, Hallgarth said she is excited to get a chance to help “spark” some interest in beekeeping among young people.

Once the work session is complete, up to 12 youths and their families could participate in a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant program that provides them with almost everything they need to start a hive, Hallgarth said.

With the variety of programs currently offered as Spark Clubs, there is always room for more, Wilson said.

Wilson said she would love to have more adults step forward to volunteer to run a Spark Club workshop.

Spark your interest

New 4-H Spark Clubs provide a minimum of six hours of hands-on learning for youth in third through 12th grades. Some clubs may be designed for more specific age ranges.

Anyone interested in participating in or forming a 4-H Spark Club can contact the Brown County Purdue Extension at 812-988-5495 or lisawilson1@purdue.edu.

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.