Bake-A-Long club keeps 4-H’ers in the kitchen during pandemic

Published 1:12 pm Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Club provides return to normalcy, everyday life

By Katie Pratt
University of Kentucky

A University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service club is keeping young people engaged with 4-H and returning some normalcy to their lives during these uncertain times by teaching them to bake.

Each month, nearly 100 youth sign on to the videoconferencing platform Zoom to participate in the monthly meetings of the Kentucky 4-H Bake-A-Long Club. During the meetings, Cathy Weaver, Jessamine County 4-H youth development agent, guides them through a new recipe.

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“Since their parents are usually close by and willing to assist if needed, the 4-H’ers are learning to bake at a higher level than what we normally could do at an in-person club,” Weaver said. “It amazes me that I taught more than 90 kids how to knead dough at our last meeting. They were so proud of themselves for learning this challenging skill.”

Weaver started the club after seeing a similar program on Instagram. She thought it would be a good way to share one of her passions and promote creativity, increase self-esteem, and foster life skill development with young people. She approached Rachel Noble, Kentucky 4-H specialist for youth development, who thought it was a great idea.

“I think this Bake-A-Long brings 4-H into the homes of young people in a new way,” Noble said. “We’ve had to pivot our programming to meet youth where they are. The 4-H Bake-A-Long has given youth the opportunity to belong to a community of young people during this time of social and physical distancing.”

As soon as the pandemic struck the state in March, Weaver began hosting weekly Facebook Live baking events on Kentucky 4-H’s Facebook page. The videos were wildly successful and attracted young people from across the nation. From March 30 until June 11, her Facebook Live posts had more than 11,000 engagements and 30,000 views.

This fall, Weaver moved the meetings to Zoom to allow for more interaction with the aspiring bakers. She wanted to make it a monthly club to allow young people to get some of the traditional 4-H experiences they were missing through the pandemic. Thus far, club members have made pumpkin rolls and yeast rolls.

Carroll County 4-H’er Brenna Mefford said she is enjoying the club because it introduces her to new recipes in an interactive way.
“Cathy can show us what our finished product is supposed to look like, and we can help each other with tips and tricks,” Mefford said. “The Zoom platform is working well as we are able to ask questions in real-time, and we can see and connect with our fellow club members. What an awesome baking community we’re building.”

Before each month’s meeting, club members receive an ingredient list, so they can purchase the items and, if they like, measure them beforehand. While Weaver teaches everyone the same recipe, participants are separated by age in Zoom Breakout Rooms to conduct the official club meetings.

Each age group has its own club officers, recites the 4-H Pledge, and participates in the traditional 4-H meeting structure.

Kentucky 4-H agents Lois Carter, Kim Ragland, Susan Campbell, Sarah Redmon, Madalyn Wells, Sherri Farley, and Courtney Brock serve as Weaver’s Zoom sous chefs and help guide the online club meetings. In between meetings, participants get an optional challenge recipe they can complete on their own.

“As 4-H agents, we have missed interacting with 4-H’ers during the pandemic,” Weaver said. “This club is a good way for us to connect with them on a more normal level.”

Katie Pratt writes for the UK College of Agriculture, Food and Environment.