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Kansas 4-H Tip Sheet

July 16, 2018

4-H: Tell Your Story

Submitted by Wade Weber

Here is my quick attempt when I talk to adults and community/corporate/educational partners: 4-H Youth Development programs are designed to meet the…

FOUR developmental needs of youth:

1)      Belonging
2)      Mastery
3)      Independence
4)      Generosity

Through FOUR content pathways of learning that involve both community and university resources:

1)      STEM & Agriculture
2)      Communication and the Arts
3)      Healthy Living
4)      Community Vitality (leadership and engagement for the sake of others)

Growing FOUR primary life skills essential to adult and career development:

1)      Learn
2)      Communicate
3)      Collaborate
4)      Contribute

Some of you have heard me describe this at the 4-H Formula.  While the organization might seem new, these are all concepts and content that has been around 4-H since its beginnings. This formula is merely a tool to introduce the “why” and the “what” of 4-H historically and package it in a contemporary context. 

In short: 4-H Youth Development helps youth grow up.

Almost 20 years ago, McLaughlin (2000) affirmed in Community Counts: How Youth Organizations Matter for Youth Development, what we have known in 4-H circles for some time. Dynamic learning “environments deliberately created to engage youth in ambitious tasks, to stretch their skills, experiences, and imagination” are community, project or afterschool clubs that thrive. Uninspired and impersonal environments were a club killer back then and they are even more so today with the average attention span for a youth shrinking over the last 20 years to just 6 seconds. Learning needs to be challenging and engaging – enriching both the youth and the adult.

When I was leading summer 4-H robotics camps a few years ago, I could see the power of engagement and developing persistence in challenges.

At the beginning of the camp, there was lots of excitement and anticipation for the learning.  We had music going, snacks, and short engaging lessons that taught a principle.  All building to the afternoon challenge! I set out the challenge, paired them up and then watched them work.  Some started off fast, some looked confused, some were distracted – variety of responses as diverse as the youth present. But what was challenging was seeing the amount of time and determination that it took in my coaching and periodic check-ins to help grow perseverance and self-determination.  We all live in a world of convenience, and constant interruption and distraction. In our plug and play culture, figuring out how something works or how it can work better is somewhat of a daunting task.     

But I work as a youth development professional, volunteer and parent not because youth already have these skills, but rather I am crazy enough to believe I can assist youth in learning those skills.

Youth have always needed adults to believe in them and take a chance on them. To look beyond what is present and see the potential and call it out.

As the stress would mount, I could see it on their face. They were about ready to shut down.

I then would say, “It is ok to take breaks, its not ok to give up.”

As so we took a break, focused on something else for a while and then invited them to resume their problem solving.

For some youth, it took the first three out of the four days of the Robotics camp to finally get to a point where they were problem solving themselves and with their peers instead of waiting around for an adult to help them. But once they got it, there was no stopping them.

This time of year, I love listening to the stories of 4-H Youth as they describe their project learning.  They often are slow to warm up to sharing because many youth are surprised to have adults interested in what they are doing and learning. I am so glad for those that purposefully grow the culture in 4-H circles that affirms youth in their learning journeys.

Dr. Tim Elmore in Marching off the Map has said it this way, “We must be inspirers of learning. We must help pull ambition our of them, not push information into them.” (Elmore, 2017, p. 51)

I believe that we all are insatiably curious and that is a key distinction of being human.

So as you see youth and their exhibits at county fairs or at summer events, leverage that curiosity - ask questions. Explore the story behind the project. Give careful attention to the choices they have made and the persistence they have demonstrated. Celebrate and affirm what youth have been learning through 4-H!

In this issue

From the 4-H Program Leader
Upcoming Events
Volunteer Development
Awards and Recognition
Project Information
Kansas State Fair
Professional Development
Funding Opportunities
Program Information
Other News
Global Citizenship Opportunities