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Busy, in a good way
Dec. 30, 2013

Bergen Busy Bees 4-H Club is buzzing with activity

By Starrla Cray
Staff Writer

LESTER PRAIRIE, MN – From homemade bouncy balls to M&M-melting experiments, anything can happen at a Bergen Busy Bees 4-H Club meeting.

“Our goal for this year is to do a science project at every meeting – we want to make our own rockets,” said 10-year member Rachel Stender.

The sky’s the limit for individual projects, as well.

“You can do projects about anything,” said first-year member Aaron Valen, a fourth-grader at Lester Prairie Elementary School. So far, he’s completed projects about canning, his dog Rosie, and photography.

Aaron was inspired to join 4-H because of his father, Eric Valen, who also had been a member when he was growing up.

“You get to meet new friends and have some fun,” Aaron said, adding that his favorite 4-H activity is bowling.

4-H is open to youth in kindergarten through one year post high school.

Creative competitions
Rachel, who is now a junior at Lester Prairie High School, enjoys the competitive aspect of 4-H. She has earned several grand champion awards, and has advanced to state every year since she became eligible in sixth grade.

“I have over 80 blue ribbons at home,” she added.

Rachel enters about 15 projects at the McLeod County Fair each year.

“I like to do a vast variety of them, in all different categories,” she said. “My favorites are food and nutrition, and photography.”

For Rachel, everything has the potential to be a learning opportunity in 4-H – even an injury.

“She went through a glass window in May of 2012, and did a project on her recovery,” said Rachel’s mom, Lisa, who serves as co-leader of the Bergen Busy Bees.

The day of the injury, Rachel had been playing a game at her house, when both of her hands accidentally broke through a window on a door.

She ended up with a lacerated tendon, and had to get about 25 stitches.

“It was a lot of physical therapy, and a long healing process,” she said. “Now, I am completely healed, and I have motion in my hand back.”

For her project, Rachel shadowed and interviewed the staff at the emergency room, and took pictures of the equipment they use.  As a visual aid, she included a box of tools used to treat a lacerated tendon.

“It was a lot of fun,” Rachel said, adding that the project took first place and grand champion at the McLeod County Fair, and first place a the Minnesota State Fair.

One of Rachel’s other memorable projects was in the fashion category.

She was in eighth grade at the time, and needed a fancy dress to wear to an event. Rather than buy new, she found a $5 prom dress at a thrift store. The project won first place at the county level, making her eligible to compete at the state 4-H fashion show.

“It’s an all-day process. I got to model the dress, and the judges ask questions about accessories, and how the dress will be useful in the future,” Rachel said, adding that she also had the opportunity to meet someone who works for a modeling agency.

Give 4-H a try
Rachel encourages people who think they might be interested in 4-H to give it a try.

“The easiest categories for new members to get involved in are probably food and nutrition, and photography,” she said. “For photography, I started off with a disposable camera – you don’t need to invest a lot.”

Food and nutrition is also popular, because it allows people to show off their cooking skills, Rachel said.

“I started cooking with my grandmother,” she said. “It was a fun way to spend time with her.”

On the other side of Rachel’s family, a homemade “snowball” recipe has been passed down for many years.

“I’m the sixth generation to learn how to make these,” Rachel said. “It’s like a homemade cake donut with frosting, coated with coconut. It’s really good.”

In addition to serving as secretary of the Bergen Busy Bees, Rachel also keeps busy with student council (secretary), band, jazz band, yearbook (editor), drama club, and Knowledge Bowl.

When she graduates, Rachel hopes to attend Southwest Minnesota State University in Marshall for secondary education in social science and psychology.

“I’d like to teach anything to do with history, geography, psychology, or possibly government,” she said.

Join the club
4-H serves youth in  kindergarten through one year past high school. Bergen Busy Bees meetings typically take place the first Sunday afternoon of each month.

To join, contact McLeod County 4-H Coordinator Jill Grams at 800-587-0770.

More information is also available on the University of Minnesota Extension website.

4-H awards
Awards were recently presented to five first-year and one 10-year member of the Bergen Busy Bees 4-H Club:

10-year member:

• Rachel Stender

First-year members:

• Ryan Bryant

• Aaron Valen

• Maggie Piehl

• Kayla Weinzierl

• Matt Oestreich

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