Wednesday, September 21, 2011

4-H 101: What Is 4-H?

We are beginning our 3rd year in 4-H. Honestly, I had never really heard of 4-H until about 5 years ago, when we met some homeschooling friends who were involved. The mom shared with me the wonderful ways that it can supplement homeschooling and the kinds of things her children learned there. And I became convinced.

And since I didn't know much about it when we started, I am guessing some of you don't know much either.

I am still learning and figuring out everything, but I do feel I have enough of a handle on it to do a little blog series on 4-H and what it is about.

Here goes.

First, when did it start and why?

4-H is a youth organization that is actually administered by the USDA and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. As you can guess, food, farming and animals are huge in 4-H. 4-H strives "To Make the Best Better" (their motto), by developing leadership, community service and life skills through the club meetings and projects. 4-H began in the early 1900's as a way to introduce new agricultural technology to the youth. Since then, it has grown to include almost anything and everything that has to do with learning.

Second, what is 4-H?

At our club meeting last week we had an orientation for new members and visitors. The club officers were each responsible for making a visual presentation of a different facet of 4-H, and then explained that area of 4-H to the newcomers. I had my camera and took shots of the different learning areas and thought this would be a great intro for anyone not familiar with 4-H.



Uniforms


There are 2 different uniforms in 4-H; the first is the green shirt and hat which you should wear at meetings and when representing 4-H. The other uniform is the 'whites', which is a white shirt and pants/skirt, boots, belt, tie or scarf, and hat. You wear your whites at the fair and when presenting something to judges.



Fund Raising


The NIFA and USDA administer 4-H, but each club is responsible to raise their own money. This is used for the club meetings, room rentals, awards and pins, and other miscellaneous costs. Our club has an arrangement with a nearby grange, and we sign up to serve breakfast at their monthly meetings. We make enough from the tips to count this as our only fund raiser for our club. (Which is why I like this club.....no candy bar sales, Saturday car washes, spaghetti feeds...)



Projects


Member of 4-H are required to come to the club meetings. These are held once a month during the school year and look a lot like a business meeting, only they are run by the 4-Hers. (I'll blog more about club meetings later.) The other meetings you can attend are project meetings. These can range from dairy cows to knitting, canning to archery, electronics and flower arranging.....if you can think it up it is probably a 4-H project. At the beginning of the year, you choose which projects you want to do and then you meet with your project through the year, usually once a month.



Record Books



Ah. The dreaded record books. I know you have heard me complain about the work my kids put into them, but I will tell you it is well worth it. A record book is just that, a record of everything you did in 4-H that year. It includes photos, creative pages, personal development report, project reports, and a biography that the member writes each year. It sounds daunting, but there is a very well organized handbook that helps you figure out how to put it together. These books are then judged at the club, county, and state level using the Danish judging system. (This is a judging system where the members are not judged against each other, but against a standard.)



Presentations


Each year, members can do presentations. You pick a subject matter that relates to one of your projects. (Such as egg fertilization in the chicken project, food contamination in a canning project, or how to knit if you are in the knitting project.) The member prepares and memorizes a presentation, complete with visual boards. In January or February all the counties have their presentation days. Again the Danish system is used, the age of the member being taken into consideration. Gold is the top medal; if you get gold you can move on to Sectionals and beyond that to the State level.



Community Service


Community service is another part of 4-H. Our club does river clean ups, a blanket drive, we write letters to soldiers and also pass food out at food drives. All of this is voluntary, but does fill up your record book and is a great way to help others.



The Fair


The fair is the reward at the end of a lot of work. Pretty much anything you learn in 4-H can be displayed/judged/showed at the county fair. And how much you learned, the animals you worked with, the handicrafts you made, are all evident at the fair. And like my kids say, the fair is tons of fun.


Well, that is an extensive overview.

I hope it answered some questions and got you curious about the whole thing. :-)

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