Nebraska 4-H supports positive youth development for Offutt’s military families

4-H at Offutt
Nebraska 4-H education team member Ashley Goodman helps Tiana(left) and Joshua apply lotion to their hands during a healthy lifestyle activity during a 4-H session at Offutt Airforce Base.
(Haley Apel - IANR Media)

December 12, 2017

Lincoln, Neb. — For military families, constant relocation and deployments are a way of life. These circumstances can lead to numerous challenges when it comes to positive youth development. To support these families, Nebraska 4-H, along with 4-H clubs across the United States are active on military installations across the country and around the world.   

According to the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, there are 1.9 million children with a parent serving in the military. Research suggests that children of deployed parents experience more stress than their peers. Active duty installations, the National Guard and Reserves partner with the nation’s land-grant universities to provide youth a safe environment with consistency in belonging through 4-H.  

For over a decade, Nebraska 4-H has provided education and activities for children of military members at Offutt Air Force Base near Omaha. Youth in kindergarten through sixth grade participate in weekly activities designed to help them learn about leadership, citizenship, personal safety, healthy living and STEM-issues. In 2016, Nebraska 4-H served 275 youth at Offutt AFB.

“Military life can be very challenging for youth. Through participation with Nebraska 4-H, they can develop empowering traits to overcome the stressful emotions that can come with daily life,” said Ashley Goodman, Nebraska 4-H education team member.

Goodman visits the Offutt Youth Center twice per week to provide military youth programming. One recent activity for kindergarten through third graders helped the youth learn germs and healthy lifestyle traits. To start the lesson, Goodman asked the youth what they knew about germs.

“Germs can make you sick,” exclaimed Xoe, one of the youth participants. “You should wash your hands to keep them off of you.”

To put Xoe’s theory to the test, the youth put special lotion on their hands. When exposed under a black light, the lotion helped youth see the germs living on their hands. One-by-one, the youth placed their hands under the light and were astonished by the number of germs they had. 

“I’ve got a million of them! They’re teeny, tiny,” said Grace. 

Once the youth saw the germs on their hands they each took a turn at the sink, scrubbing their germs away. Goodman told the youth to wash both sides of their hands for 20 seconds and offered a fun tip to help them keep track of the time. 

“To make sure you wash your hands for a long enough time, try singing a song. Sing happy birthday twice, or recite the ABC’s,” she said. 

Once the youth washed their hands, they returned to the black light to see how many of the germs remained. To their astonishment, many of the youth still had germs on their hands.

The participants enjoyed the activity so much, they wanted to repeat the process. Goodman believes simple activities like hand washing can go a long way in helping youth develop skills that will support their positive youth development. 

“Today’s lesson was about more than just hand washing,” Goodman said. “We’re helping the youth practice healthy and safe decision making skills that can lead to decreased health related problems.”

Such healthy lifestyle traits can help military youth develop resiliency during parent deployment or relocations. 4-H military youth programs make it possible for youth to continue their 4-H involvement wherever they move. In addition, knowing their children are in safe learning environments, the men and women of the U.S. military are able to focus on their critical missions.

To learn more about 4-H military partnerships, visit

Ashley Goodman
Education Team Member
Nebraska 4-H