While we often think of 4-H in terms of events such as the county fair or club days, the formula for youth development as 4-H is so much more!
Like all other Research and Extension information, positive youth development is based on considerable documentation including the research of Lerner and Lerner in the “Comprehensive Findings of 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development (Tufts University 2013)” and Brendtro, Brokenleg, and Van Bockern in “Reclaiming Youth at Risk: Our Hope for the Future”, among others.
Based on this research, the WHY for 4-H includes developing a sense of belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity. Each of our activities and events include facets of these. Working on a project helps youth to find and develop skills, work independently as they progress, and learn to share their skills and knowledge with others. A fair entry is the result of project learning and provides feedback for appropriate level of mastery, working independently, and working together for learning and sharing.
Kansas 4-H offers 40 different project areas grouped into STEM and Agriculture, Communication and the Arts, Healthy Living, and Community Vitality which offers leadership and civic engagement. Each of these project areas have research-based curriculum to provide opportunities for learning and growth. Each project area also includes opportunities for youth to practice communication, leadership, and civic engagement skills.
One focus of the 4-H Formula is to have an impact on youth by developing life-long learners with an empathetic and curious view of the world. Another is to develop youth with good communication skills which are crucial no matter your job or career. Providing opportunities to understand how to collaborate with peers and adults in a positive manner is another goal.
One of my favorite goals of the 4-H Formula brings all of these pieces together by developing youth who have the skills and knowledge to contribute to their communities. I often say that 4-H is important to develop the next generation of leaders so that our rural communities don’t just survive but thrive!
Keep learning. Keep showing grace and kindness.
Michelle Beran is the 4-H and Youth Development agent for the Cottonwood District, Barton County office. For more information on this article or other 4-H Youth and Development related questions email Michelle at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 620-793-1910.