Select Page

What are 4-H Standards of Excellence?

4-H Standards of Excellence are tools to help individual members and clubs set and achieve goals and are part of our recognition model.  Recognition is an important part of the 4-H experience; it helps master skills and knowledge by providing feedback on progress towards goals.  Standards of Excellence is one of my favorite ways to recognize youth and clubs.  Here’s how it works:

At the beginning of the 4-H year, youth decide which level of recognition they would like to receive.  The levels are bronze, silver, gold and emerald.  To help youth decide, they should review the Standard of Excellence matrix with their parent or club leader. The matrix outlines what a member needs to do in order to achieve each level of recognition.  For example, if a junior member (ages 8-10) wants to achieve the gold standard, he/she would need to plan to do the following throughout the course of the 4-H year:

  • Attend at least 2/3 of club meetings (or number established by club).
  • Share project experiences by giving a presentation.
  • Attend three different activities
  • Participate in three different activities
  • Participate in three community service activities
  • Participate in four different competitions / exhibitions
  • Complete two project record reports
  • Teach one club level activity
  • Make a poster on “My 4-H Experience” or submit Building My 4-H Portfolio

But wait, that’s not all!  4-H Clubs can also achieve Standards of Excellence.  During the club organizational meeting, members can choose which type of club they want to be (bronze, silver, gold or emerald), and build those requirements into their club plan (most of the items are things that clubs would want to do anyway, so why not be recognized for it?):

  • Bronze club- 12/20 items on the list
  • Silver club- 14/20 items on the list
  • Gold club-16/20 items on the list
  • Emerald club- 18/20 items on the list

Once a member or club establishes their goal, they can submit their plan to their club leader.  Towards the end of the 4-H Year, the member submits their application to their leader, who signs off on it and submits it to their 4-H agent.  Youth are recognized during their County Achievement Night, or Awards Banquet.

Interested in helping?  We need volunteers to serve as project mentors, review/judge awards applications or help plan annual recognition programs.  Contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office if you would like to get involved.


4-H Family Guide

This article will help you know what to expect at your first club meeting.

Is your family new to 4-H?  Welcome!  We are glad you chose us to help your child reach his/her fullest potential.  Here are a few basics to help you become familiar with 4-H as you begin your journey with us:

  • The 4-H year starts September 1st through August 31st.  Whatever your child’s age is on September 1st is his/her “4-H Age” and determines his/her eligibility for certain programs.
  • There are four age divisions in 4-H (you can find policies for participation based on age here):
    • Cloverbuds (ages 5-7)
    • Juniors (ages 8-10)
    • Intermediates (ages 11-13)
    • Seniors (ages 14-18)
  • Youth can participate in 4-H through a variety of methods (camps, school programs, after school programs, and clubs).  Youth can participate in all or just one of these delivery modes, or types of 4-H memberships.
  • To join a club, you will want to enroll through 4HOnline.  Many counties offer an Open House, or Kickoff night where families can preview the different types of clubs available in their community. Some clubs offer a variety of projects, while other clubs focus on a particular project (like archery or sewing) or a project area (like animal science or leadership).  Some clubs meet all year and others may only meet for six consecutive weeks (SPIN clubs- special interest clubs).  If you are not sure which club is the best fit for your family, schedule an appointment with your local UF IFAS 4-H Extension Agent.

Talk to your local 4-H Agent to decide which club best suits your family.

Preparing for your first club meeting:

  • There is no uniform for 4-H, but some clubs will order shirts for youth to wear when they go on field trips or compete in contests.
  • Clubs typically open with icebreakers, or get to know you games (especially at the beginning of the 4-H year).
  • The club business meeting lasts about 1/4 of the total club meeting and is always opened with the American Pledge and the 4-H Pledge.  Check out this video to learn the 4-H Pledge. During the business meeting, youth will give committee reports, discuss and vote on club business, and announce other 4-H opportunities.  Clubs made up of primarily Cloverbud members do not have elected officers, but encourage members to take turn leading the pledges and helping with the business meetings.
  • The first club meeting is the organizational meeting.  During this meeting, youth will plan the club calendar and elect officers.  If it is a new club, they will also select a name for the club.
  • Once the club calendar is set, about half of the club meeting time will be spent on educational activities.  This may include a guest speaker, field trip, or a hands-on activity to learn about a subject or project area.
  • Every club participates in at least one service project each year, decided on by the club members.
  • The last 1/4 of the meeting is usually spent on recreation- this can be icebreakers or team building activities.  Sometimes, it is just a time to socialize while enjoying light refreshments.

What is the role of the parent?  4-H is a family affair, offering many opportunities where both child and parent participate in common interests.  This not only strengthens the club, but strengthens family ties. When parental support is positive, the club is likely to become stronger, larger, and more active because parent volunteers help broaden the scope and reach of the club.  A few ways parents can support and strengthen the club include:

  • Arriving on time and being prepared (if working project books, make sure your child has theirs)
  • Offering to help with a club meeting or activity
  • Sign up to help with refreshments
  • Offer to share a skill or knowledge that you have by becoming a 4-H project leader

We are glad to have you as a part of our 4-H Family and look forward to getting to know yours!

4-H Record Books…Simplified!

No need to dread the record book! This article breaks it down into simple steps.

In 4-H, young people have tracked their activities, events, profits and losses, skill development and learning experiences, and much more using the iconic 4-H Record Book. In addition to record keeping, the 4-H Record Book gives members an opportunity to reflect on their year, measure their achievements and growth, set goals, and develop plans to meet those goals. Once you understand the purpose and value of record books, you are probably wondering where to start.  Here are the most frequently asked questions about record books to simplify the process:

What’s the difference between a project book and a record book?  A project book guides youth through the project and includes background information and activities to help them master the subject matter.  A record book is the record of what youth did and learned in the project and documents goals, knowledge and skills gained, leadership experiences, awards earned, and service to the community. Record books are typically bound in a cover, scrapbook or three-ring binder and turned in for evaluation at the end of the project or 4-H year.

Some project books include a records section, but many do not.  If your project does not have a section for records, then you will want to insert a Florida 4-H Project Report Form (based on your age level).

What types of information should I keep track of for my record book?

Cloverbuds Juniors Intermediates Seniors
Personal information Name, 4-H age, club, # of years in 4-H, member, parent/club leader signatures
Project Plans and Goals NA What are your goals (run for office, attend a workshop, earn a blue ribbon in showmanship)
Project Highlights A list of activities you did this year (demonstrations, field trips, leadership activities, workshops, exhibits)
Project Attachments Photos of you doing project activities; newspaper clippings, club or workshop programs, exhibitor tags, cage cards, feed tags
Project Story, or Reflection NA What you learned, who helped you, what you liked (or disliked) about the project, what you would do differently next time, whether or not you encountered any problems and what you did to overcome them
Financial Records Financial records are usually only associated with animal science, gardening and entrepreneurship projects.  Not all record books will have a financial record section.

How do I keep up with all that information?

Calendar Have a calendar dedicated to your 4-H work and record your activities- club meetings, workshops, how often you feed or water your project, shows or exhibits, etc.
Index box Keep a recipe box full of index cards with dividers for each section of the record book.  Each time you do something related to one of the sections, write it on the card.
Notebook Keep a journal of your project, recording activities.  You can even divide the notebook into sections that correspond with each section of your record book
Electronic Device Yes!  There is an app for that.  Sponsored by Tractor Supply and National 4-H Council, there is a market animal record book app you can download from iTunes.

To inspire you, here are some quotes that Florida 4-H youth wrote in their record books:

  • “As the VP (vice president) of my club, I had many opportunities to speak in front of a crowd.  This has helped me in other aspects of my life such as school.  I have become a better public speaker.”
  • “I have taken bigger and better responsibilities.  I learned to be responsible and to challenge myself to bigger expectations and to be kind, nice, and pleasant to others.”
  • “4-H has given me the opportunity to do things that I normally would not get to do.”
  • “4-H has meant a lot to me because it teaches me so much about my project and our world.  (I learned) to follow safety practices, treating animals with respect, being careful when leading an animal and watching out for others and their animals.”

As we start the 2017-2018 4-H year, think about your 4-H project area and how you will document it this year. If you have a skill to share and would like to inspire the next generation, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.  We offer a wide variety of roles to fit your interests and schedule. For more information about 4-H, visit our website or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

NO! Not the Dreaded Record Book. . .

Many youth (and parents) dread the 4-H Record Book

In the early years of 4-H, record books were a way to document profit or loss on a project, such as raising and preserving a crop or raising a herd of cattle. Over the years, record books have expanded to include topics like babysitting, robotics and sewing.  However the reasons why 4-H encourages youth to complete record books is the same- it is one of the most effective tools in positive youth development.  4-H Record Books foster the Essential Elements of positive youth development through:

  • Belonging: 4-H members are awarded for their participation in activities, earning symbols of belonging as they continue in 4-H (e.g. ribbons, achievement pins).
  • Mastery: Through competition, 4-H members receive feedback on their participation and record keeping skills so they can improve and grow.
  • Independence: 4-H members set and record goals and their progress towards those goals throughout the year. Record books also encourage members to participate in leadership development activities.
  • Generosity: 4-H members are provided an incentive to engage in their communities through positive citizenship and community development activities.

Record books are an effective way for youth to learn life skills.

However, record books are generally regarded as a chore young people; most fail to realize its value until they reach adulthood.  However, many 4-H Alumni still have their record books and will be quick to point out that the process taught them multiple life skills such as:

  • Time management and organizational skills.
  • Responsibility
  • How to set goals
  • Preparation for completion of resumes and applications for awards, college scholarships, and jobs
  • Financial literacy and keeping track of expenses
  • Written communication

But what does the research say?  Life skill development through record books is well documented.  During a recent study, 4-H alumni were polled regarding their experiences in 4-H and the use of record books (Bikos, Haney, Kirkpatrick-Husk and Hsia. Journal of Youth Development, 2014).  Alumni spoke of the real-world applicability of skills acquired during completion of record books to their adult life:

“It prepares us for life after we leave 4-H,” and “It has helped with a number of projects since I’ve left 4-H.”

Comparing skills learned in her Sewing/Needlework project to those gained from completion of record books, one alumnus said:

“Even though I’m not still doing clothing type things, I’m still doing things that I have to take records of.”

Leader perspectives voiced a similar theme but with a more parental tone:

“They may not be really aware of how this is going to relate in their real life, but it’s going to   whether they know it, or like it, or not.”

Alumni and leaders who had completed record books reported that the experience helped them successfully apply for college, scholarships, and employment. While most used the record book as an organized resource for easily locating information (e.g., “It was all there for me which was amazing”), a few were able to use the actual record book itself. 4-H members in Florida refer to their record books when completing their 4-H Portfolio, part of the process for applying for state awards and scholarships.

If you have a skill to share and would like to inspire the next generation, consider becoming a 4-H volunteer.  We offer a wide variety of roles to fit your interests and schedule. For more information about 4-H, visit our website or contact your local UF IFAS County Extension Office.

Next up, how to complete a record book (the easy way) by Escambia County 4-H Agent Brian Estevez.

 Full research article on the benefits of 4-H Record Books