According to J.D. Sexton, Moffat County Extension 4-H youth development and agriculture agent, “4-H is the largest youth organization in the country.” And while 4-H members keep busy all year long, late summer is perhaps the busiest time of all for them.
That’s because it’s time for county and state fairs, exhibit days for general 4-H projects, and other competitions. It’s when 4-H members get a chance to show off what they have learned during the previous six or seven months while completing their project goals.
In Colorado, the 4-H year begins in January when youngsters enroll in the program. At that time they choose one or more projects to work on during the coming year. What a wide range of projects there are, including — to name a few — veterinary science, gardening, bicycle, computer, electricity, small engines, rocketry, entomology, shooting sports, sport fishing, ceramics, leather craft, photography, woodworking, cake decorating, foods, clothing, dog and livestock. Whew!
Soon after members enroll, project leaders start holding meetings, each with an agenda of activities designed to help the 4-H members complete project goals.
In Unit 1 Woodworking, for example, the 4-Hers learn about basic tools and safety and then begin working on activities in order to learn beginning skills, such as measuring. They answer questions in the record book, get hands-on experience with the tools and take photos of work accomplished. Then before 4-H Completion Day (the day that general 4-H projects are exhibited), the 4-Hers build a final wood project for exhibit.
During competition, all 4-H members are interviewed, giving them a chance to show the judges what they have learned during the year.
A record book is required for each project. By keeping records, 4-H members learn to write answers to questions or stories about their projects. Members with livestock projects learn to keep accurate records of expenses, losses and profits. All of the 4-Hers learn to be responsible about meeting deadlines for turning in records.
In recent years there has also been a nationwide push to increase a 4-H member’s knowledge of skills in science, technology, engineering and math. Known as STEM, this program strives to incorporate these skills into 4-H project work, such as project books, project meetings, and workshops.
So, 4-H members around the country are getting ready to exhibit their projects (or, in some cases have already participated in competitions). In Moffat County, some of the 4-H shooting sports events are already underway. The judging of 4-H general projects will take place on July 30, with the Fashion Revue and General Projects Recognition Night on Aug. 1. Livestock and dog projects will be shown during the Moffat County Fair that begins on for 4-H members on Aug. 5 with horse competitions. The fair will officially end on Aug. 15 with the carcass contest for 4-H market animals.
The 4-H members competing in these events will come away with pride in their accomplishments. While competing they will realize that mistakes can be turned into opportunities to learn (instead of blaming others). Successful 4-H members keep right on trying — no matter what. And through competitions, 4-Hers make friends and are happy for their friends’ achievements.
That’s the “completing projects and competition” side of 4-H, but there’s more — some things that others might not see. For one thing, some 4-H members join community 4-H clubs in addition to project clubs. An example of a Moffat County 4-H community club is the Hamilton Busy Beavers.
These clubs elect officers, giving 4-H members the chance to learn about parliamentary procedure. As officers, they have to get up and talk in front of others. Also, these clubs plan and participate in community service work, such as planting trees and flowers and visiting senior centers.
Some 4-H members attend 4-H conferences and workshop where they listen to inspirational speakers and participate in group discussions. As a result, the 4-H members learn to develop leadership skills.
4-H members are tomorrow’s outstanding adults!