- Four more times likely to give back to their communities.
- Twice as likely to be civically active.
- Twice as likely to participate in science, technology or math activities outside of school.
- Two times more likely (grade 10) and nearly three times more likely (grade 12) to take part in science programs compared to girls in other out-of-school time activities.
- Twice as likely to make healthier choices (in all aspects of their life).
(Source: Tufts University Positive Youth Development Survey, 2002)
These were not known statistics to us when we signed our daughters up for 4-H. In researching this article though, it makes me want to encourage them to participate in 4-H for as long as they are eligible.
Many years spent in 4-H
I participated in 4-H activities growing up. We lived on an acreage on the edge of town where we raised registered paint horses. We showed those horses in the Iowa Paint Horse Association around the state, so it was natural to me to show my horses in 4-H. Since we lived on an acreage, I also was able to raise rabbits and show them at the fair. I also participated in 4-H projects at that time such as cooking and needlework.
Living in the urban areas, I didn’t think my daughters would be able to have many of the same experiences I had growing up such as 4-H. That is until we ran into a 4-H booth at a local family event. While there, my daughters had a chance to learn some easy coding and program a robot to navigate its way around a path. As my husband worked with the girls, I chatted with the 4-H leader to talk more about how my city girls might be able to get involved in 4-H. I was amazed to learn how the 4-H activity had grown since I was in it and the many opportunities my daughters would have if they became members.
What exactly is 4-H?
4-H is an organization that “engages youth to reach their fullest potential and empowers them to lead for a lifetime.” The organization’s programs focus on STEM and agriculture, healthy living, and civic engagement. Through hands-on learning, kids build not only confidence, creativity, and curiosity but also life skills such as leadership and resiliency to help them grow. They can focus on one project area or many. Project areas include mechanics, animal science, food and nutrition, photography, robotics, clothing design among many others.
There are two main sections for 4-H programs: 1) Clover Kids for those children in kindergarten through third grade, and 2) Youth 4-H programs for children in grades 4 through 12. The 4-H chapters meet once a month. They conduct business, learn through various activities, tour local businesses, do community service projects and have the members give presentations about different topics.
Think 4-H is just for children? 4-H needs many volunteers to help lead its programs. State and county 4-H staff members partner with adult volunteers who serve as club leaders, event volunteers, and project area leaders. These leaders can have a lasting impact on 4-H members.
More than 30,000 students in Iowa grades K-12 participated in 4-H in 2017-2018. Nationally, 4-H is the largest youth organization with more than six million young people. Surprisingly, about 1.8 million of 4-H’s six million participants live in urban communities.
Fun learning opportunities through 4-H
Our daughters are in the Clover Kids part of 4-H. Since they’re younger children, Clover Kids programs focus on:
- Investigating Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM)
- Exploring literacy through fun and engaging ways to read and write
- Learning the importance of being healthy and physically active
- Practicing communication skills and learning to work as a team
- Playing fun, cooperative games and making friends
- Participating in developmentally appropriate opportunities at county fairs
In just the short two years our girls have participated, they’ve participated in or learned about the following areas:
- Communication and presentation skills – Through roll call where they share their name and something about themselves (related to the month’s topic), as well as give presentations on various topics.
- Habitats – Components of habitats, participated in a walk outside to see different habitats, read a habitat book, made a bird feeder.
- Safety rules – Basics of staying safe and some safety rules, including making a first aid kit.
- Character – Learning what it means to build character.
- Careers – Learning different careers such as an engineer.
- Importance of community involvement and serving others – Made Valentines for residents of a retirement center, packed backpacks for Kaden’s Kloset, made a kindness box, decorated Christmas cards for residents of a retirement center.
- Parts and functions of plants – Learning about different parts and functions of plants, make creations out of toothpicks and vegetables/fruit.
- Health – Good nutrition and exercise choices including MyPlate.
- How to be a good citizen.
- What does edible mean? Make edible art.
- Understand how air helps things move or hold up objects, make parachutes, airplanes
- Explore the theatre and play theatre games.
- Toured a local library and Hy-Vee drugstore.
- Attended special events such as connecting with older adults and communications day.
Each meeting, members have an opportunity to give a prepared speech they had been working on. Our oldest daughter researched and prepared a speech about Miniature Schnauzers including where they originated from, how to care for them, common illnesses, personalities and tidbits about our dog, Max.
For her 4-H County Fair project, our oldest daughter focused on growing a garden. This included learning about different plants, selecting the plants that would grow well in our area, preparing the garden bed, maintaining the garden (weeding, watering, etc.). She also conducted a photography project in conjunction with the garden project. Our youngest daughter focused her 4-H project on how to make cinnamon toast. This included identifying ingredients and their farm source and making the toast. Both girls prepared storyboards to explain the process to the judge. They each prepared talking points to go over with the judge as well as practiced those presentations.
Attending the local fair provided the girls with a chance to present their project to a judge, talk to other 4-H members about their projects and see and learn about those project areas. In addition to learning about new areas such as STEM and agriculture, our daughters have gained life skills in how to research a topic and how to communicate with others.
Growing up in a rural community, raising animals and then working in agriculture, I have a love for the industry. I’m glad my city girls have a chance to learn about and participate in agriculture, as well as gain useful skills they can use the rest of their lives. Now I need to figure out how I can talk my husband into getting some show rabbits to raise in our urban home…
4-H’ers participate in five million science projects annually, 2.5 million healthy living projects annually and 2.5 million citizenship projects annually.
4-H in the City? You Bet!
4-H Growing in Urban Communities
Iowa 4-H Clover Kids
More Iowa Youth Are Joining 4-H Clubs and Programs
Tufts University – The Positive Development of Youth