In 4-H, youth:
• Are actively engaged in their own learning and development.
• Are active participants–not recipients–in their own learning processes.
• Are encouraged to try new things and experiences.
• Interact with youth and adults from the same and different backgrounds.
When youth join 4-H, they become involved in one or more interesting 4-H projects.
What is a project?
A 4-H project is a topic that a 4-H member selects for in-depth study for that 4-H year. Youth usually choose 1-3 projects/year. Click here to learn about the more than 200 4-H projects available
One of the greatest strengths of 4-H is its “learning by doing” projects. A 4-H project is the thought, work, and action involved in learning a specific subject. Activities such as tours, field trips, judging, and workshops enhance the learning. Each member chooses a project that fits his/her interest/s, home situation, and ability. Projects vary in difficulty according to the age and experience of the member. Youth want projects that are fun, help them discover new information, and help them learn new skills.
Adults often see 4-H projects as ways to create more interest in daily tasks, strengthen family and community ties, develop leadership skills, and explore vocational opportunities. o members. (link to 4-H emphasis areas)
In addition to their 4-H project(s), a 4-H member in good standing also:
- Records what he/she learns, usually through 4-H Record Books.
- Attends meetings regularly (if a member of an organized group) and is an active participant.
- Completes a community service project (or becomes involved in a group community service project).
- Participates in some form of public presentation.
- Has projects evaluated.
- Participates in the County Fair.
One of the unique aspects of 4-H is that it is “youth driven and adult facilitated.” What does “youth driven and adult facilitated” mean? It means that in 4-H, youth are the driving force. Adults support and guide, but youth choose what they want to learn and how they want to learn it. As club officers and committee members, youth, with adult support, choose and plan projects, activities and trips.
4-H offers learning experiences in more than 200 subject matter areas. These subject matter areas are divided into 10 emphasis areas:
- Science and Technology
- Plants and Animals
- Consumer and Family Sciences
- Leadership Education
- Healthy Lifestyles
- Personal Development
- Communication and Expressive Arts
- Environmental Education & Earth Science
- Citizenship Education
- Workforce Preparation
4-H projects range from aerospace to zoology! All youth, no matter their interest, can find a place.
What do 4-Hers learn?
Through their projects, members gain proficiency in various subject matters of their choosing, they also acquire life skills which help them now and in the future, through their personal, educational and work lives. Leadership and service to the community are emphasized. 4-H alumni say the program taught them skills such as communication, working with others, creative problem solving, work ethic, decision making, goal setting, public speaking, managing resources, management information responsibility, self management, and honesty. Hands-on activities help young people in “learning by doing”.
How do they learn?
Three types of learning experiences are emphasized in 4-H youth development programs and activities: hands-on (making, producing, practicing, observing, etc.); organized activities (demonstrations, workshops, field trips, camps, etc.); and leadership/citizenship (conducting, planning, assisting, informing, organizing, etc.)
4-H encourages youth to discover their potential in many areas and expand their horizons. Young people “learn by doing” through hands on activities.
As part of the land grant university system, 4-H curriculum is research-based. Although curriculum is available through the National 4-H Curriculum collection, 4-hers can use any curriculum that meets their specific needs.
A Typical 4-H Meeting
Parents and youth interested in joining a 4-H club often wonder, “So what do 4-Hers really do?” The following attempts to explain a typical 4-H meeting, but all groups are encouraged to plan meetings around the needs of their group. 4-H groups must do certain things to be a “club in good standing,” (link) but how they accomplish these things is up to them. 4-H is “kid driven and adult facilitated.”
4-H groups are composed of youths of both sexes who are 7-19 years of age. 4-Hers typically have a business meeting once a month, at a regularly scheduled time. Meetings usually last no more than 2 hours. The business meeting has three sections – business, education and social. During the business component, 4-Hers run the meeting, follow an agenda, collect dues, and discuss old and new business. Adult leaders and co-leaders are there to assist and support. Parents sometimes stay for meetings but don’t participate. This may seem quite ambitious – kids running a meeting, BUT that is the goal of 4-H: youth learning leadership skills by leading. Of course, it does take some time to reach the goal. The older youth are usually officers; they model behavior for the younger kids. As the younger kids age, they become the officers and leaders of the group and become models for the new youth. Younger 4-Hers are given leadership tasks appropriate to their age and skill level. Younger members often are in charge of refreshments, introducing a speaker or helping to set up for a meeting.
During the educational portion of the business meeting, groups have guest speakers, or a 4-Her might do a demonstration. The social component is very important. It allows youth a chance to relax, catch up and get to know each other better.
Sometimes 4-H groups have additional meetings during the month for community service projects, field trips, craft projects, marching in a parade, doing project work or preparing items for the Fair n Fair or the County Public Speaking Program. Clubs make those decisions themselves.
SOUNDS LIKE FUN? Why not go to a few meetings as a guest?
Types of Membership
There is no fee to join. Boys and girls, ages 5 – 19, can choose nearly any area of interest for their 4-H project. All 4-Hers are encouraged to participate in club and county activities (link to yearly activity calendar) and are eligible to receive year-end awards. Activities and awards are available at the county, state and national levels. Prospective members may choose to join an existing club, after-school group, short course, camp, start a new club, or become an independent member.
Anywhere from five to twenty-five or more youth members meet in organized 4-H groups led by trained adults and teen leaders. Members of 4-H Clubs (link to FC listing) belong to organized groups. The club usually meets once a month. Club membership provides the best avenue for positive youth development. In clubs, members and volunteers work together over a period of time. This is the strength of the 4-H program. Each club must have at least one official adult-leader 4-H volunteer. Clubs:
- Hold regularly scheduled meetings
- Carry out club business
- Concentrate on one or more projects – (link to emphasis areas)
- Exhibit their work at a variety of events
- Work together on community service projects
- Have fun
The club provides an atmosphere in which youth:
- Build leadership – as officers and by planning and conducting club business
- Make new friends
- Belong to a group
- Experience a sense of mastering of skills
- Develop independence and generosity
- Keep records
- Develop valuable workforce and life skills — listening, speaking, creative problem solving, decision making, goal setting, responsibility, integrity, honesty, teamwork, negotiation, ability to work with diverse groups and knowledge on how to acquire, evaluate, use and communicate information
4-H projects can diversify or strengthen related school curriculum in after-school programs. 4-H can provide curriculum (link) and training for staff or in some circumstances can provide staff for the 4-H program.
Special Interest Groups
In special interest groups, youth meet in a less formal way. Youth in special interest groups:
- Usually do not participate in community service projects or elect officers.
- Meet for a short time and learn about a specific project or topic.
Youth from rural, suburban and urban communities have a fun time at 4-H camp. (link to state 4H page) Campers ages 8 – 15 attend one or two week camping sessions at one of four 4-H camps located in the eastern area of Connecticut. Activities offered include specialty camps, crafts, horseback riding, outdoor cookery, nature, swimming, etc. Special clover camps for 6 and 7 year olds are also available. Some camperships are available for Fairfield County 4-Hers. Youth do not need to be enrolled in 4-H to attend camp.
Do you have a special interest that you want to pursue? Does your schedule not “fit in” with others? Is transportation a problem? Independent 4-H members complete many of the same requirements as club members, but do so without belonging to a larger group. They are able to work on their projects within their own time schedule and do not need to travel to club meetings. Support is available to them through the 4-H office. Independent members are encouraged to attend county events and apply for county awards. Independent members may invite friends to do projects with them, thus forming their own small clubs. It is required that Independent members have an adult volunteer to work with them. As in independent 4-H member you:
- Select projects for in-depth study
- Keep records
- Exhibit your work at a variety of events
- Have fun
- Complete a community service project
- Participate in some form of public presentation
Start a new club
No clubs in your area? Fairfield County encourages the formation of new clubs. Interested in being a club leader? Click here for volunteering.
4-H Teen Opportunities
Teens can participate in 4-H in more ways than younger members. As teens, 4-Hers can participate in county and state activities and events or they can assume a leadership role for those activities and events.
Teens Can Participate!
Teens can participate in any and all club and county events. There are several 4-H teen state conferences held throughout the year that any teen can attend.
Teens Lead The Way!
There are also many opportunities for 4-H teens to assume leadership roles at the club, county, state and regional levels in the Connecticut 4-H Program.
At the club/group level, teens can be Junior Leaders.
Junior leaders, age 13 and older, assist leaders with planning, organization and implementation of group activities. Junior leaders require guidance and direction from the volunteer leader.
4-H Opportunities at the County Level
• Teen Member of the County Development Committee
Teens 13 and older may have the opportunity to become a teen member of the Fairfield County 4-H Development Committee. The 4-H Development Committee is composed of leaders, volunteers, parents, alumni and teens. On this committee, teen leaders work in partnership with adult volunteers on real issues and concerns regarding our 4-H program; assist with planning of events, promotional activities, fundraising and program activities. Teens have the same rights and responsibilities as adult members.
- Special Leadership Project
Special leadership projects are suggested by the teen. Projects may include serving the community at large, serving as a volunteer in other agencies, conducting community service/improvement projects or implementing short educational programs.
- Teen Master/Mistress of Ceremonies
Be a moderator or the master/mistress of ceremonies at Recognition Night, Fashion Revue and Nutrition Fair, County 4-H activities, the County Fair, State 4-H Day or other events. Training provided.
- Teen Evaluator
Teens age 15 and older work with the 4-H Educators or other adult mentors to receive training in evaluating younger members in their project areas at events such as 4-H Nutrition Food Shows, Fashion Revue Evaluations, Fairfield County Fair and/or other local events.
- Special Workshop Leaders
Teens may present educational workshops in project area specialties at programs throughout the year.
- Promotional Exhibits
Provide exhibits and assist in presenting Cooperative Extension Program information for specific activities including information or interactive booths at County, State and Regional events.
4-H Opportunities at the State Level
- Planning Committee for Other State Teen Programs
This committee is an opportunity for teens to be in on the planning for State 4-H Citizenship Day, Teen Leadership weekend, Teen Connection and other events throughout the year. Teens from all around the state meet several times to plan the specific program.
- Connecticut State 4-H Citizenship Day
Youth observe state government by participating in workshops at the state Capitol as well as meeting with legislators and other government officials. Workshops may include holding mock debates and votes on a selected topic of interest to teens. This conference is held annually, in April, for age 12 – 18. Teens are invited to be on a planning committee for this event.
4-H Teen Opportunities at the Regional Level
- Delegate to 4-H Programs at Eastern States Exposition.
4-H members age 12 and over have opportunities to participate in 4-H livestock programs as well as non-animal programs at Eastern States Exposition. Each program has its own criteria for delegate selection and age.
4-H Teen Opportunities at the National Level
For the following opportunities, there is a selection process at the county and state level.
- Citizenship Washington Focus (CWF)
CWF provides an opportunity for Connecticut teen delegates to visit Washington D.C. to learn more about our national government through workshops, meetings with national legislators and other teens from throughout the country. This conference is held on odd numbered years in July and is open to teens age 15 – 18. Delegates are responsible for part of the cost.
- National 4-H Congress
Teens age 14 – 19 may apply to become a Connecticut State Delegate to this leadership forum. Youth delegates are exposed to current leadership, philosophy and research in critical areas such as agriculture, environment, community, families, youth and children and communications and technology. Teens participate in a variety of hands-on workshops as well as other interactive events. This is a Connecticut 4-H Award Trip and most expenses are paid for delegates.
- National 4-H Conference
Teens ages 15 – 18 may apply for this Connecticut State 4-H Award Trip by completing the Connecticut 4-H Report Form and returning it to their county by the January due date. This conference raises their voice around issues and concerns facing youth in communities, provides opportunities for youth and adults to work cooperatively around real issues, and gives delegates the opportunity to help provide ideas for future 4-H program directions. This is a Connecticut 4-H Award Trip and most expenses are paid for delegates.
How do I join?
4-H always welcomes new members and volunteers. Contact the Fairfield County 4-H Educator in Bethel- 203-207-3264 or firstname.lastname@example.org