LIVINGSTON -- For Doyle High senior Ally Holder, 4-H Demonstration Day is something she can’t miss.

She’s presented at the program all nine years she’s been in 4-H — in fact, she presented twice each year — and has demonstrated to judges how to make an array of items, ranging from animal houses to tie-dye roses to chocolate-covered pretzels.

Naturally a quiet person, Holder credited her 4-H experiences — specifically Demonstration Day — for helping her get “out of my shell.”

“I can tell you that if it wasn’t for 4-H, I wouldn’t be able to talk in front of people,” said Holder, who’s also the vice president of her school’s 4-H Club. “I used to be that kid that sat in the back and didn’t want to present anything, but now since I’ve become more comfortable, I can speak in front of people, which will help me in college and the future.”

Holder was one of around 300 4-Hers from across Livingston Parish who showcased their knowledge and skills in a variety of topics during the annual Demonstration Day that took place at Doyle High.

Approximately 119 teams signed up for the program and presented in different categories through a variety of demonstration methods. Students were allowed to choose their own topics, and each received a participation certificate following their 10-minute demonstration before a judge.

There weren’t many guidelines on what students could present, said Mikaela Carender, assistant extension agent for 4-H Youth Development, though she did mention one criterion.

“We just ask them to give a demonstration or speech on something they’re passionate about, because this is about giving them an opportunity to practice those public speaking skills,” she said. “Most of them haven’t had much of a chance to practice that, so this is more of a fun opportunity for them to practice those skills in a controlled and competitive environment.”

The 4-Hers who participated took that advice to heart, presenting on topics they either enjoyed or found fascinating — or both. 

One group demonstrated how to properly cast a bell rod; another showed how to nose-ring a cow; others walked judges through the steps of making a bird feeder or squirrel trap; and one duo explained the proper technique for fielding a softball.

A few groups went scientific: Sadie Coates and Kinsley Theriot of Eastside Elementary discussed chemical reactions in wood, while Rhoby Graham and Morgan Gill of North Corbin Junior High explained the functions of an electroscope.

Though they couldn’t grow their plants during their presentation, Live Oak Elementary fourth-graders Leyla Shaidaee and Mallory Prestridge made interactive posters — as well as a pamphlet — that listed all the steps for “Planting Seeds and Raising Seedlings.” They also brought potted cayenne peppers and tomatoes so the judge could see the fruits of their labor. 

Like they’ve done for presentations in the past, Holder and her partner Kaely Scarle combined creativity with cooking: Together, they demonstrated how to make “snack-mix bars,” a treat they said consists of corn chex, M&Ms, pretzel sticks, and marshmallows that are cooked with a mixture of butter and peanut butter.

Like Holder, Scarle joined 4-H in fourth grade and looks forward to Demonstration Day every year. In past Demonstration Days, she’s explained how to make items such as candy deviled eggs and bath bombs, though she prefers to stick with food.

“There are different categories, but I usually go with food for the most part since I love to eat and fix food and make crafty desserts,” said Scarle, a sophomore at Doyle High. “But it’s always fun getting to compete here.”

Judging Holder and Scarle’s presentation was Peggy Amond, a former 4-H leader of 33 years, with most of that time spent at Doyle High.

Amond said she’s judged “many” Demonstration Days in the past, and her judge sheet this year was broken down into four main criteria: manner of presentation, knowledge of presentation subject, completeness of presentation steps, and skill in presentation.

Amond, who was also a 4-H club leader at Southside Junior High, said how a 4-H student does at Demonstration Day can typically be connected to the involvement of that student’s family or club leaders.

“If the kids have had parents in 4-H or an active club leader, they have an upper hand,” Amond said. “There are some that come in and don’t have a clue what’s going on, but it’s just because they haven’t been guided. If you have a leader or parents that will show them what to do, they usually do well.

“When I judge them, I’m looking… at their speaking skills, how they are at relaying the concepts to an audience, if they’re enthused and actually know the material, and do they have a finished product.”

Some students actually made the finished product while presenting, such as the duos of Natalie Johnson and Caleb Baxter of Live Oak Elementary and Jake Landry and Davin Williams of North Live Oak Elementary.

Johnson and Baxter created slime in their presentation, which they made using clear glue, paint, glitter, foam beads, contact solution and baking soda. Johnson said they chose slime because “we like it, it is easy and fun to make, and if you get bored and have nothing to do, you can play with it and do what you want.”

“You can also turn it into a stress ball,” she told her judge, Brandi Desselle, a curriculum coordinator for the school system.

For their project, Landry and Williams made an “anti-gravity galaxy” using glitter, baby oil, water, food coloring and a plastic bottle they shook to mix the ingredients together. Landry and Williams said they made the project at home a week before the demonstration but had been thinking about it since January.

After a successful presentation to their judge, both said they plan on presenting during next year’s Demonstration Day.

“I think it’s a fun way of showing people I can do things and getting your idea out there,” Landry said.

The winners of Demonstration Day will be announced during the annual Achievement Day to be held at Walker High School, starting at 9 a.m. on Friday, March 29.

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