JEFFERSON — When Zoe Baker, 7, of Rockport stuck her hands into a bowl of purple slime in front of a roomful of 20 people, her face sank.

The slime, made of glue, shaving cream and contact lens solution, failed to set up the way she envisioned it, dripping off her hands and back into the bowl instead of holding together like putty.

Zoe, who led a presentation on how to make fluffy, glittery, glow-in-the-dark slime, was among a handful of speakers Sunday at Jefferson Village School.

The speakers were members of 4-H groups in Lincoln and Knox counties, and hosted by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension serving those counties.

Judges evaluate a speaker Sunday during the 4-H speaking competition in Jefferson. The competition involved students from Lincoln and Knox counties. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

This was Zoe Baker’s second time speaking in public. She said she was scared before she started and proud of herself for finishing, even if the slime did not cooperate.

Her sister, Isabelle, 10, who spoke about how to manage stressful situations through breathing techniques, said she was nervous at the beginning, even though she had done it six times previously.

“I think I forgot a slide,” Isabelle Baker said, reflecting on her presentation.

Zoe and Isabelle’s father, Jake Baker, said it was important for his daughters to get the public speaking experience, even though he was a bit tired of seeing slime around the house.

“It’s good for them to learn how to do that,” he said.

Cindy Rogers, community education association with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension in Knox and Lincoln counties, said public speaking is a skill that has been a part of the 4-H program for many years.

“You just need it for everything,” Rogers said. “Most people who have gone through our program come back and say it was the skill that was most valuable for them.”

Kat Newcombe, a former 4-H member and an English and German teacher at Erskine Academy in China, said her public speaking experience with 4-H “formed a fantastic foundation” for her employment today.

“My work with public speaking and doing that from such a young age really helped me just with the basic public speaking skills,” she said.

“When I got to college and was actually put in front a classroom for the first time, I could project well and at least look confidence when I wasn’t.”

Newcombe said some of her high school students struggle with being comfortable in front of a crowd of their peers and could benefit from public speaking experience.

“A lot of colleges now are requiring a public speaking course,” she said. “Even colleges now are acknowledging that it is an important part of any field.”

Zoe Baker, 7, of Rockport removes the slime she created Sunday during the 4-H speaking competition in Jefferson. The competition involved students from Lincoln and Knox counties. Kennebec Journal photo by Andy Molloy

Rogers said the 4-H program is thought of as solely an agricultural program, mostly due to the popularity of 4-H presentations at fairs. She said 4-H members can present on just about any topic, including dance, drama and science-based topics.

“It’s all about life skills,’ she said. “It started as an agriculture thing, but members can do anything they’re interested in, really.”

For members older than 9, the event was a qualifier for the State 4-H Public Speaking Tournament at the University of Maine in April.

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