Written by Andrea Knox, former SDSU Extension 4-H Youth Development & Resiliency Field Specialist.
Do you want youth in your community to make good choices, be involved in their community and develop genuine positive character traits? The answer to helping young people reach those goals may lie in a well-known organization likely already established in your community. That organization is of course- 4-H! The fact is 4-H today has the framework supported by current research showing it makes a big difference to help young people develop positively and buffer against negative experiences. 4-H has a strong history within South Dakota and across the nation, yet is certainly relevant to the needs of today’s youth. Joining a community 4-H club can make a real difference in a young person’s life. As an adult in your community consider starting a 4-H club or revitalizing an existing club. You’ll be happy you did! Contact a local Extension Office to get started.
You may be asking, exactly what would youth do in a community 4-H club. That all depends on the interests of the youth involved. Clubs organize regularly scheduled meetings or events usually on a monthly basis. Members themselves help determine what a club will do throughout the year. Successful club meetings generally include the following portions; recreation, education and a short business meeting. We’ll talk more about those three in upcoming articles. For now, let’s focus on some fun ways to increase participation in the club planning process. Here are some ideas.
- Sticky Note Method
Put topics on large sheet of paper (i.e., community service, fun, project work, presentations, field trips, judging). Give each member some sticky notes and have them place their ideas on the appropriate sheets. Leaders and parent may be allowed to participate. After everyone has had the opportunity to put their ideas up, the sheets can be distributed to small groups to be organized or condensed. When the groups are finished, they can report back to the entire club. After group discussion, either the club or the officers can build the final calendar. The entire group then must approve the calendar (if more time is needed, the approval can be granted at the next meeting).
- Small Group Method
If the club is relatively small, everyone can work together to create the plan. If the club has a large membership, divide the kids into topic areas. Each group brainstorms ideas and develops a proposal for their area. Each group reports to the club, and the entire group discusses the proposal’s merits. The officers can then take all the group’s ideas and incorporate them into one plan, with the final approval at the next meeting.
- Committee Method
This method works especially well for clubs with older members, but it can also work well with younger kids if a leader or parent provides some support. Before breaking into committees, the entire group brainstorms. Each committee then takes the ideas, discusses them, and creates a plan. The committee works with the officers to put their plan into a club calendar, and the entire plan is approved at the next meeting.