COLUMBIA, Mo. — Show Me Resilience. This simple phrase illustrates how University of Missouri Extension and communities across the state are showing up for each other.
People, businesses and communities are working together in innovative ways — bringing the resources of the University of Missouri to the people who need them. As we’ve seen our nation work to minimize the spread of COVID-19, faculty and staff have been finding new ways to serve learners.
Within days of program suspension, MU Extension launched a statewide COVID-19 resources website at bit.ly/39oYdMs to help Missouri families, communities, businesses and workers navigate this pandemic and response. This frequently updated centralized hub collects reliable and carefully sourced content from MU Extension and elsewhere.
When Chelsea Corkins, county engagement specialist in 4-H youth development in Saline County, heard that face-to-face programming was suspended, her immediate thought was, “We are educators. We are not going to stop educating. So what do we do next?”
“Next” was a brainstorming session with Blake Gazaway, Velynda Cameron and other 4-H specialists across the state. What emerged was an innovative nine-week plan for Missouri youths that includes brief daily lessons via Zoom on a variety of topics; 30-minute 4-H Facebook Live sessions in which Corkins explores science-based topics through hands-on lessons kids can easily replicate at home; and a daily Demonstration Showcase, giving youths a forum to post videos showing their work on the “skill of the day.”
Agriculture specialists have moved workshops online, including Joseph LaRose’s daylong “Digging Deep on Cover Crops and Soil Health.” Essential pesticide applicator training continues, as agronomist Pat Miller presents the mandatory instructional video via Zoom, sharing her screen to ensure all those who’ve registered are present.
To help the transition to different ways of teaching and learning, MU Extension faculty are developing resources for their colleagues, including how-to tutorials on using new technology. Faculty are also providing important new content related to COVID-19 issues, such as best practices for safe food handling.
MU and the UM System are developing key resources such as Show-Me ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes) sessions for Missouri health care professionals on how to protect, diagnose and treat patients with COVID-19 and how to safeguard their communities.
In Madison County, MU Extension specialists Shanna Sorg and Ashley Bales set up a Facebook group that’s become a hub for tracking and sharing individual and community needs; scheduling volunteers to help collect and deliver food to the homebound and the local food pantry; converting free library boxes into well-stocked community food donation boxes, and staffing the food pantry (observing CDC guidelines, of course).
“Our work doesn’t stop just because we can’t do it in person,” Corkins notes. “Here’s a need. Let’s figure it out. It might not look as pretty on Day 1 as it will two weeks down the line, but in the meantime, families and youths have a need and we are ready to serve.”
Megan Silvey is the director of communications and marketing for the University of Missouri Extension service.