What has prize packages, office hours and tours of lands far, far away?

If you guessed the 2020 Tennessee 4-H Academic UN-Conference, then you are correct.

For the last 30 years, Tennessee 4-H hosted a 4-H Academic Conference in June. This four-day event provided junior high 4-H members all across the state a chance to come to the campus of the University of Tennessee in Knoxville for a week-long, college experience. The 4-H’ers lived in the residence halls, ate in the cafeteria, learned about the university, explored potential careers and took college classes (that relate to their 4-H project) with actual UT faculty and Extension specialists — just like a “real” college student.  

This year, it’s going to be a little different.

Because of the COVID-19 outbreak, 4-H Academic Conference — along with other summer events — has been converted into a virtual event and UN-Conference — in order to protect the health and safety of all involved.

“In spite of the outbreak, we wanted to still give every Tennessee Junior High 4-H member the opportunity to get a taste of college life while learning more about their 4-H project area,” explained Dwight Loveday, interim state 4-H program leader.

So, instead of 4-H Academic Conference, this year the event is called 4-H Academic UN-Conference.  While some of the traditional experiences are on hold, the UN-conference, scheduled for June 9-11, will continue to focus on helping 4-H’ers gain important subject matter knowledge and skill as it relates to their 4-H project. Instead of face-to-face instruction, UT faculty and Extension specialists will work with 4-H’ers virtually to share in-depth, research-based knowledge and career exploration through a variety of teaching methods such as hands-on demonstrations, interactive activities and virtual tours.

“Virtual technology does not limit our ability to learn and network with others,” said Dr. Loveday. “Actually, our 4-H’ers will be experiencing exactly what our UT students experienced last semester with their class work. While it is not the norm, it was the norm this spring.”

This year’s 4-H Academic UN-conference will feature more than just learning. The 4-H’ers will participate in hands-on activities, meet other 4-H’ers and have an opportunity to win prizes for their academic achievements.

Another change for this year is the selection process and cost. For 2020, any Tennessee 4-H member in grades 6-8 (as of Jan. 1 of this year) is eligible to attend the conference in one of 16 different project areas.

Conference fees are also waived for 2020. Club members should contact Staci Foy at sfoy@utk.edu, or call 642-2941 to register. The registration deadline is June 1.

STACI FOY is an agent with the Henry County Extension Service. She can be reached at the Extension office at 642-2941 or by email at sfoy@utk.edu.

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