Extension educators have proudly been a pillar in their communities, whether that’s from attending city meetings to making guest appearances in classrooms. But in a time when communities are not gathering and Extension’s usual avenues for connecting are put on hold, how do you remain a local face in your community? Beth Chatterton, a 4-H program coordinator in McDonough County, Illinois has found one solution.
When the Coronavirus restrictions started happening, Beth knew she wanted to help: “I was trying to figure out what I could do to still be connected to my 4-H family. One of the things I was thinking about is during this time I’m in schools, I’m in public libraries doing storytime with my kiddos and it’s something I’ve always enjoyed. I’m an 80s-90s kid; I had Reading Rainbow and Mister Rogers and thinking back, storytime was always just very comforting for me and something I really enjoyed. So I thought maybe we’ll just go on that.”
Beth’s top priority is keeping her connection to the community and supporting families navigating this difficult time. This goal, combined with her knowledge and experience led her to her solution: “I could do Facebook lives and read stories.”
Facebook live stories allow Beth to contribute from the safety of her home. She started doing Facebook live storytimes in mid-March. Though her process has adapted and changed, Beth is now doing storytime Monday-Friday at 12:15 CT. At the end of each story, Beth connects it back to 4-H with an activity because “one of the nice things about 4-H is there’s like a hundred projects. So if you’ve got a hobby, we’ve got a 4-H project to go along with it.”
Since starting storytime, Beth has been blown away by the response she has received. She has 15 families that tune in regularly and her videos get about 150 views on average. Families reach out to her with suggestions and requests, from both parents and kids.
“It’s something I think people can connect with. It’s just kind of an easy thing to just grab a story and try and figure out an activity to go along with it. As we do social distancing, it’s very easy to feel like you’re stuck and in a bubble and not really connecting with people. I’m hoping that them [families] seeing my face and having questions asked to them, they feel like there’s that connection still, that we’re still here.”
Beth is just one example of how Extension educators across the nation are adapting during this time. Many other educators are doing similar programs, but for those who are still exploring new options, Beth has some advice:
“Don’t get in the way of yourself. Sometimes when I talk to people about doing a Facebook live, it can be very intimidating because anything can happen and you can make a mistake and it’s there because it’s live. But I think that that’s one of the reassuring things—one of the genuine things. That when I hop on, I do make mistakes. I stumble over words when I read a book, one book I missed a whole page. But we’re all human and we all make mistakes and it’s just one of those genuine things. So just give it a go.”
If you or another Extension educator have adapted programming for COVID-19, responded to COVID-19, or just want to brag about your amazing innovations, be sure to fill out the form below to let the rest of the nation know just how awesome you are. Be sure to check out the COVID-19 page to see what other Extension systems are doing and find helpful resources from our partners.