I really believe in 4H. It is a youth organization that was started and upheld by Purdue University and Land Grant structure. The regular 4H clubs offer children the opportunity of “learning by doing”. Traditionally, people associate 4H with showing cows, pigs, horses and sheep or sewing, food, needlework and canned goods at the county fairs. But 4H is so much MORE!
Today’s 4H offers Mini clubs for children who are not yet in the 3rd grade to learn even more simplified lessons while having fun in a structured, nurturing club setting. The total number of projects offered has skyrocketed over the almost 30 years since I was a 10 year 4H member. The offerings now include such things as collections, writing, personality, health, woodworking, woodcraft, computer, animal posters, wildlife, forestry, genealogy, bowling, gardening, clothing design, sewing, miscellaneous crafts, recycling, pottery, ceramics, electricity, and independent study projects. These are only some of the offerings. Chances are, if your child is interested in it, there is a project for them. If you have knowledge of it, there is a 4H leadership opportunity for you.
I was a farmer’s daughter and a former FFA member at my highschool. Besides taking part in animal projects, vet science, livestock judging, fine arts, soil judging, parliamentary procedure, sales demonstrations, speech, choir, wildlife management…etc, I developed skills of leadership, cooperation, community awareness and civic responsibility.
Now, that I am raising my daughter in the city, I got plugged into 4H anew as a leader. My first love is in leading a local 4H Dog Club. We offer obedience training which all members must participate in, then, optional Showmanship and Dog Agility. My husband and I have made most of the equipment, but are in need of obtaining more as our program advances. The parents of the kids in our club are ACTIVE participants. Together we are a family. Like a pack of dogs, we show one another respect, learn from each other and experience successes with one another. All the while the kids are learning that I am not there to train their dogs. We are there to help THEM to train their dogs. Even the most timid little child learns how to take charge, communicate clearly (even nonverbally) and grows in understanding and confidence. It truly is a wonderful thing.
Our particular dog club is open to any child grade 3 through age 18 at the beginning of the school year. They first register as a 4H member, pay a nominal membership fee, and sign up for as few or as many projects as they believe they please. There is the Dog Poster project available for even the child who may not own a dog, but want to learn and exhibit. Many materials are provided by the County Extension Office through trained and certified volunteers who schedule and lead meetings. There are also record sheets to be filled out to assure orderly organization and team the skill of record-keeping.
The 4H year culminates at the County and State Fairs where the project(s) of the child can be viewed by all. At the fair, projects receive ribbons and the appreciation of the general public. A sense of accomplishment is instilled in the growing minds of our communities children thanks to the program of 4H, the service of volunteers, involved parents and leaders, and the effort put forth to “make the best better”.
If you have questions regarding signing up a child in 4H or becoming a volunteer leader or resource assistant, please contact your local County Extension Office Agent and inquire. The number for your area is in the blue pages under county government or just search on the web for “County Extension Office AND (the name of your) County.”