Sometimes the lesson learned is not in the lesson plan

In our roles at Michigan State University Extension, we might spend many hours preparing a presentation or workshop with specific objectives in mind expecting that participants will grasp the intended educational concept or skill. Sometimes, we have the unexpected pleasure of participants gaining even more than what we’ve planned for. That’s what happened at the 4-H Visual Arts and Crafts Workshop that took place at the Kettunen Center in Tustin, Mich., Oct. 12-13. Surprisingly, it happened because of what most of us would consider an unfortunate situation.

 The hands-on aspect of visual arts makes it a good vehicle to teach life skills. The workshop participants (4-H volunteers aged 12 and up) learn to serve as role models when they’ll teach and help process these same activities, connecting the 4-H members they work with to life skills used in science, entrepreneurship and leadership.

Roma Fuller, 4-H Visual Arts and Crafts Workshop .

Roma Fuller, 4-H Visual Arts and Crafts Workshop participant, uses battery-operated light to work on her glass etching project when the power went out during the workshop that took place at the Kettunen Center in Tustin, Mich., Oct. 12-13, 2014. Photo credit: Connie Lange

 However, when a transformer blew and the power went out for almost five hours, participants practiced some life skills not in the lesson plan that day. As participants continued to work on their projects in the dark, both staff and participants practiced resiliency, teamwork and patience. Kettunen Center staff members brought in candles and lanterns, and participants used their flashlights to finish their projects.  The planned hot meal was no longer possible, so Kettunen Center staff rose to the challenge, serving a cold-cut buffet with trimmings.

 Extension educator Connie Lange remarked, “Everyone worked together to make it successful so a challenging time is now a memory that makes us smile and proves the resourcefulness of 4-H people! The workshop is a true example of how 4-H people can work through just about anything!”

 Three work groups collaborated to plan this workshop including Leadership and Civic Engagement, Career Exploration/Workforce Preparation and Academic Success. Senior Extension educator Nancy Victorson chaired the workshop while Jan Brinn, Sara Keinath, Rebecca Krans, Connie Lange, Bev Przystas, Dave Radloff and Laurie Rivetto served on the committee. All committee members facilitated portions of the workshop and pitched in to make things work when the lights went out. Other staff members who taught were Catarina Edison and Cheryl Powell.

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