Due to social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension agents and specialists quickly shifted gears to deliver in-person programs online. But they didn’t expect the overwhelming response they received from the public.In Fayette County, Agriculture and Natural Resources (ANR) Agent Kim Toal and Program Assistant Cynthia McCrary have been offering hour-long programs via Zoom three days per week since March. “To me, it’s been a really great experience. I’ve had people email me saying they have enjoyed the online format because they usually weren’t able to come in person,” said Toal, who previously organized weekly in-person seminars on Tuesdays. “We try to do weekly themes and offer a mix of programming on vegetables, ornamentals, etc. Native plants and pollinators have been really popular.”The response to online delivery has been much higher than Extension employees originally expected, with an average of 50 people logging in to each online session versus 30 to 35 participants attending weekly face-to-face meetings, according to Toal.Camden County ANR Agent Jessica Warren has seen a similar jump in numbers. Her Friday “lunch and learn” series has attracted 25 to 60 people each week, double or triple the previous average number of participants. If that many people were to show up in person, they wouldn’t be able to fit in the local Extension office.“When we started working at home, I thought I wouldn’t hear from anybody, but it’s just the opposite,” Warren said. “It’s also less of a commitment to take a lunch break and learn something online (than to travel to attend in person).”While UGA Extension was already using digital platforms for professional development and meetings, this has changed the way many agents and specialists will use technology for outward-facing programming.“In an effort to continue to provide educational content to the citizens of Georgia during the periods of reduced mobility and social interaction, Extension has significantly increased its use of digital learning technologies,” said Mark McCann, assistant dean for Extension in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “The most popular method has been through online webinars. This is a platform that UGA Extension has used frequently in the professional development of our faculty and staff over the past several years.”Already a tight-knit community of colleagues, producing new online content has increased opportunities for collaboration among Extension specialists and agents across the state and beyond.For a four-week backyard fruits webinar series, Fannin and Gilmer County Agent Ashley Hoppers is collaborating with Josh Fuder in Cherokee County and Ashley Brantley in Muscogee County, as well as colleagues from Auburn University, University of Tennessee, North Carolina State and Auburn University to present sessions on everything from berries to specialty fruits. Hoppers has been amazed at the level of participation — each session has had an average of 300 participants and more than 1,000 people have registered for the sessions.Faculty have found that online sessions have attracted their “regular” local audiences as well as participants from all over the U.S.“It has been neat to see who has tuned in and to see this level of engagement. It’s very humbling, actually. I had no idea this program would be embraced like it has,” said Hoppers, who surveyed participants to see where they were tuning in from, including one from Italy.Poultry science Extension specialists who previously held fee-based poultry housing workshops for 100-125 individuals on campus, with additional attendees via webinar, have held eight free weekly webinars. These have reached over 8,000 people with 5,800 live viewers and nearly 3,000 more watching recordings.“It’s been sort of an explosion of interest,” said Michael Czarick. “We’re reaching smaller farmers, a broad and more diverse audience than was held before.”He and his colleague Brian Fairchild have seen their reach expand to 40 states and 77 countries. Their email list, which they use to announce workshops, has doubled in the number of subscribers through their website, poultryventilation.com.Extension specialists and agents have shared their expertise about trending topics to employees statewide and answered questions via webinars. Subjects have included specific health information related to COVID-19, working and parenting at home, personal finance, gardening and many others. These resources are available at extension.uga.edu/emergencies.The webinars have served a public relations role for Extension as well, reaching audiences that were previously unaware of Extension and its many offerings.“One of the questions in my pre-webinar survey is whether this is your first Extension program and many people said yes. I think it is growing our base in a way that was unanticipated. Through this program alone, having an online presence is engaging with new audiences. They are tuning in and then become interested in finding their own local office,” Hoppers said. “UGA Extension is a statewide entity and we are letting people know that Extension exists in their own home counties and that Extension is here and ready to help regardless of where they are located.”People aren’t just listening, they’re engaging and following up, too.“One couple was in New York looking to move to the area,” said Warren, who answers many questions for retirees who move to coastal Camden County as well as for locals. She covers topics including misunderstood species, beekeeping, seed saving, citrus issues and water quality. Composting at home has been the most popular, she says.“I’ve been surprised how many people actually choose to turn their camera on,” said Warren. “For a lot of people, they like to learn something and do something, but it’s also a time to make connections and even see other people that they know in some cases, especially since we’re not doing a lot of that right now.”Agents and specialists field dozens of questions during and after the virtual sessions.“Loads of people are really appreciative of what we are doing,” said Czarick. “We probably get 30 to 50 emails afterward with follow-up questions and feedback, and we answer 50 to 100 questions during the webinar through the chat.”The overwhelmingly positive response from the public has served as a case study for virtual Extension programming.“I believe the reception of the recent webinars indicates that our audiences are ready for more content delivered digitally,” said McCann. “The time and distance constraints of our audiences make this a convenient and efficient teaching tool.”Extension employees and offices are also ramping up their social media presence and reach during this time by posting events, videos and tips. Although many offices were already on these platforms, they have seen more interest and engagement from followers. “We’re reaching way more people with this online way of doing things,” said Hoppers. “The trade-off is that face-to-face human interaction that is the bread and butter of Extension — having that personal engagement is important — but there is definitely room for technology in our future programming.”For a list of upcoming Extension programming, visit extension.uga.edu/calendar.Find recordings available on the Extension YouTube channel at www.youtube.com/user/ugaextension or contact your local UGA Extension office for more information by visiting extension.uga.edu/county-offices.Maria Lameiras contributed to this story.
When the temperature dips below freezing, most of us hang up our backpacking gear and turn to more comfy pursuits, like Netflix marathons. Jack Schroeder, an A.T. thru-hiker and life-long backpacker sees the cold weather as an invitation for adventure. “Winter is my favorite time to go backpacking,” he says. “The views are often better, hiking in the snow is a blast, and I just like the cold air.”Schroeder teaches winter backpacking courses through Diamond Brand in Asheville. “People tell me about the coldest night they ever spent in the woods and how miserable it was. But if you have the right gear, you can stay warm and avoid shivering through the night.”Schroeder’s tip for staying warm on extra cold nights: “Heat water and fill your water bladder with it. Get in your sleeping bag and hug the water.”Here, Schroeder talks about the winter backpacking gear that has kept him warm, even when temperatures hit zero in the backcountry.Three-Layer SystemThis is my layering system that works for sleeping, hiking and just hanging out. I start with Ice Breaker Oasis long sleeve top and leggings, made from Merino wool ($90). The mid-layer is Patagonia’s R1 Fleece, full zip ($159), and on top of that I put the Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer. It’s the lightest weight full featured jacket I’ve found, with 800-fill down that’s only seven ounces and really packable. They’ve treated the down with DWR coating to help it shed water. It works. ($350)Keen Saltzman ($130)Even in the winter, I like to keep it fast and light with a low-cut hiking boot. But waterproof upper is key. I used this boot on my thru-hike, and hiked over 2,200 miles without a blister.Western Mountaineering UltraLite ($485)You want a good bag and a good pad. Those are the two keys to staying warm at night. Not all bags perform the same, even if they have the same rating. This is a 20-degree bag, the highest quality of bag on the market, and it’s under two pounds. If you’re not worried about weight, go down to the 10-degree down bag.Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite ($129)A lot of people think they can get away with a cheap pad, but 60 percent of body heat escapes through the ground. This pad is really warm and weighs only 12 ounces for the full length.MSR Hubba Hubba NX-2 ($399)It’s a two-person, double wall tent. You don’t need a true four-season single wall tent in the South. I’ve been through the worst weather in this tent and still came out dry. It even holds up well under snow pack. And it fits two people and their packs really well.Merrell Capra IceWaterproof Hiking Boot ($130)Built for rugged, aggressive hikes, the Capra climbs like a mountain goat thanks to its grippy tread and lightweight, agile construction. The 4.5-mm lugs and Vibram Arctic Grip provide outstanding traction on snow and ice, and the breathable, waterproof construction keeps toes toasty without overheating.Secur Products 5005 Waterproof Bluetooth Flashlight ($99)This LED flashlight, USB charger, and Bluetooth speaker is contained in one rugged waterproof device, powered by a lithium-ion battery that plays 28 hours of music and keeps the long nights of winter brightly illuminated.Mission Radiantactive Running Performance Midweight Gloves ($40)These dual-layer, carbon-infused fleece gloves retain 20% more heat and are touch-screen compatible. The gloves are flexible yet provide a secure grip. Perfect for trail running, the Mission gloves provide excellent warmth while still remaining lightweight, flexible, and pliant.AMPware Rechargeable Smartphone Case ($80)Solar charging isn’t always possible. Hand crank this case for five minutes, and you have an hour of normal use.Osprey SKARAB 24 ($100)A classic day pack, the Skarab is lightweight, versatile, and voluminous. The harness and hipbelt spread the load evenly, and front access panel means you never have to dig for anything buried at the bottom.
Published on October 28, 2014 at 12:06 am Contact Sam: [email protected] | @SamBlum3 Scout.com, ESPN, Rivals and Hudl all list Daivon Ellison as a cornerback.But the Don Bosco Preparatory (New Jersey) High School senior doesn’t define himself as the recruiting websites do.The reason Syracuse recruited him, he says, is because he can basically play any position.“I’m not just a corner,” he said.And it’s Ellison’s ability to play safety and corner that can only help a Syracuse secondary that has struggled with its depth in the last couple of seasons. He is the most recent commit to SU’s Class of 2015 after verbally committing on Aug. 25 and will have a lot of competition to see the field right away.AdvertisementThis is placeholder textAlso part of the class are cornerbacks Gerald Robinson and Andrew Spence, along with three more safeties — and Ellison’s versatility could give him an edge as the Orange secondary continues to evolve.“He really is flying around everywhere on the field, all different types of positions,” DBP defensive tackle Kevin Feder said. “He’s a huge game-changer having him in the game. It helps out every which way.”Injuries — along with freshman safety Naesean Howard leaving the team earlier this season — have struck the Syracuse secondary multiple times in the past two years. This season, third cornerback Wayne Morgan has battled a lower-body injury and it was announced by SU Athletics on Monday that freshman safety Rodney Williams will miss the rest of the season with a lower-body injury.Last year, safety Durell Eskridge and cornerback Julian Whigham both had season-ending injuries. And with Eskridge eligible for the NFL draft at the end of the season and Brandon Reddish graduating, there will be opportunities for the current crop of freshmen and the incoming defensive backs to contribute.“But the key thing is that can they line up and play our base package?” said SU defensive backs coach Fred Reed during training camp of how he develops young players. “If they can line up and play our base package, then we got a chance to get them out there and be able to perform.“We try and teach them our base system and not put too much on their plates. That’s how we approach it.”Ellison started out as an outside linebacker his freshman year, before eventually transitioning to cornerback his sophomore year. As a junior, he split time at both, but has focused the majority of his time at cornerback his senior year at Don Bosco.He also moonlights as a wide receiver and running back, playing 5–10 plays per game on offense and also contributing as the team’s top kick returner on special teams.Ellison is always the guy talking with coaches so that he could have both the offensive and defensive playbook memorized.“During the offseason he just trains to get his stamina up, because he’s going to be on the field most of the time,” said Wes McKoy, Don Bosco’s quarterback.Ellison said there are pros and cons to playing both cornerback and safety. As a corner, he said he loves being on that island and shutting down a wideout one-on-one. But he also resents the fact that he can’t be a game-changer at cornerback if the opposing team runs plays away from him.At safety, he feels like the leader of the defense. He likes being in the middle of the field, coming up on the runs and shutting down the deep passes.At Syracuse, he could zero in on one or play either position — a luxury the Orange can only benefit from.Said Ellison: “As of right now, I’m roaming around the defensive backs.” Comments Facebook Twitter Google+