4-H: A FACS Friendly Youth Development Program

4-H is a youth development program funded by your state’s land grant college. It is run formally by cooperative extension agents, then parent club leaders & volunteers. Typically 4-H is associated with animals specifically raising & showing them. However, 4-H is so much more than animals. 4-H has been around for over 100 years and is based on the concept of projects. Each 4-Her chooses a project or multiple projects then fills out a record book about his/her project. The record book requires 4-Hers to reflect on his/her work and set goals. The record book will ask questions about what the 4-Her learned, what he/she mastered, and what the 4-Her could do differently the following year, etc. For some projects the record book requires the 4-Her to keep a log of the money spent and earned, pictures, pattern envelopes, and receipts. The project is intended to last for one 4-H year (years usually begin and end after a 4-H fair). Then some of the projects are entered into competitions against other 4-Hers¬† -most projects are entered in the 4-Her’s county 4-H fair. Some competitions are state wide like public speaking and the fashion revue. Each state varies in the activities it offers, competitions, and fairs. A lot depends on a state’s size and participation.

This is the 17th year I have attended and helped run a 4-H fair. I am not sure how it is in every state but in Connecticut each county has their own 4-H fair that is 4-Her (7-18 years old) run. It is a great opportunity for kids to learn project management, how to work as a team, work with difficult people, and lead their peers to complete a task. If it’s run correctly, 4-Hers get to make the decisions and vote in meetings and the adults just get to guide. This is very exciting and empowering for young people. Everything that I can think of in terms of event planning and project management I learned in 4-H –not college. It is a wonderful program that gives kids purpose & responsibility- two characteristics essential to kids maturing appropriately.

4-H clubs are usually started by adults who want to start a club usually for their kids. The club usually picks a specialty and the whole club will work on the same type of project. An example would be a small engines club, a horse club, a sewing club, a community service club, a foods & nutrition club, etc. There is also something called after school 4-H clubs. Teachers like you and me run these types of clubs for their students. The clubs are typically held after school or during the school’s club time. You would help guide your students into projects that they want to work on. The 4-H website even offers free after-school club lesson plans. One after-school club that I know of is a sewing club run by the middle school FACS teacher. She even has her high school 4-Hers come back to the middle school after school lets out to work on their projects. If you are interested in starting an after-school 4-H club click here for more information. If you’re not interested in running your own 4-H club, please promote 4-H in your classrooms. We’ve all seen students who are very engaged in our subject matters and want to learn more- encourage these students to join a club and enter your county & state’s competitions.To find information about 4-H in your state click here.

4-H offers inexpensive and some free curriculum that can be used with your 4-H club or in your classroom. To view the 4-H Curriculum Catalog click here. Your local extension agent probably has a lot of curriculum on hand that you can use as well. As a 4-H volunteer I had the privilege of writing curriculum for my state. It was a great experience and a good addition to my resume.

Finally, 4-H is a great place to make friends and find your spouse….ask me how I know.¬† ; )

Common 4-H Projects: Check out the 4-H Curriculum!

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