4-H offers a variety of ways for youth and volunteers to get involved!
4-H offers one of the most dynamic youth development experiences- not only are there different types of 4-H membership, but also a wide spectrum of topics youth can explore. This post will break down the types of 4-H membership, topics youth can learn about, and what to expect during a 4-H club meeting.
4-H Membership Types
- Community and project clubs are the most traditional membership. Community clubs serve specific geographic areas and offer a wide variety of projects. Project clubs focus on one specific project area, such as sewing, horses, or robotics.
- 4-H also partners with schools and afterschool programs to provide 4-H experiences for youth. Check with your child’s school or afterschool provider to find out what is available. 4-H also offers some in-school programs like public speaking, agriculture awareness, and embryology to teach science career development.
- Youth can also participate as camp members. Most counties offer day and residential camp experiences.
- Some youth also participate in special interest projects or events. This could include Teen Retreat, judging teams, 4-H Legislature, or workshops.
4-H Topics Youth Can Explore
4-H offers multiple ways for youth to explore their sparks. We have three pillar programs- Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM), Healthy Living, and Citizenship and Leadership. You can find out more about each of the projects by clicking the links below.
What to Expect during a 4-H Program
- A Sense of Belonging– Icebreakers, teambuilding, and get-to-know you games are intentionally part of 4-H programs to help youth (especially new youth) feel like they belong and are welcome. Read more about making meetings welcoming…
- 4-H Ceremonies are part of our culture- most 4-H programs begin with the pledge to the American and 4-H flags. Annually, we have officer inductions for our youth club and council offers. For many of our overnight events (such as camp) we will also have flag ceremonies.
- Youth~adult partnerships– we view youth as resources. That means that youth voice is important, and youth are encouraged to participate in decision making and goal setting. Club programs are driven by what youth want to learn and do through 4-H, and meetings are led by youth officers.
- Opportunities to Learn– educational programs and workshops are taught by adult and teen volunteers. Programs are hands-on, and allow youth to “learn by doing.”
- Opportunities to share– 4-H uses the experiential learning model, meaning that volunteers ask questions to help youth reflect and process what they have learned, and how it will help them in future situations. Sometimes youth will give demonstrations or presentations about their project work- especially when they are preparing for a completion.
For more information about 4-H club meetings, check out these previous articles:
Enrollment for the 2021-2022 4-H year opens August 20th. For more information about opportunities for youth and volunteers in your area, contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office.
4-H offers many different ways for volunteers to get involved. No matter how much time you have, volunteering with 4-H makes a difference by helping youth grow skills and knowledge that last a lifetime. Here are a few ways you can engage as a volunteer with 4-H:
- Help youth lead a club- our 4-H clubs are led by youth officers and members, but they need adult guidance. Most clubs meet once a month during the school months, but some clubs meet more frequently for a shorter period of time.
- Teach a skill- share a skill by speaking at a club meeting, teaching a workshop, or leading a project. Florida 4-H offers more than 60 different project areas!
- Judge projects- we need judges to provide constructive feedback to youth on their project work.
- Plan or help with an event- 4-H offers many events throughout the year and we need volunteers to help with the planning, set up, registration, refreshments, and of course- clean up!
- Serve on an advisory committee or board- each county has an advisory committee to help provide direction and financial oversight of 4-H funds.
- Be a project mentor- Advise a 4-H member on their project work- help youth set goals, implement a plan, and reflect on what they learned.
- Help deliver a program- Volunteer at an afterschool project, summer program, or school garden.
- Serve on a fair committee- Volunteer with your local or regional fair to help provide learning experiences for youth.
- Share your professional skills- share your technical skills and knowledge with youth. Coach youth on how to build a resumé or interview for a job. Volunteering with 4-H can also be a great resumé builder!
- Share your experiences- share your passion by serving as a guest speaker or short term instructor. Allow youth to shadow you for the day.
Check out this video about different 4-H volunteer service roles:
You can also find detailed descriptions of these service roles on our 4-H club hub site. 4-H can work with you to tailor a service role that fits your interest and schedule. Whether it’s once a week, once a month, or once a year, 4-H needs caring adults like you to inspire the next generation. Contact your local UF IFAS Extension office to start a conversation about how you can contribute to growing #TrueLeaders!
Photo credit: UF IFAS Photography
The 4th of July is one of my favorite holidays! Growing up it was the time that my family (even those distant cousins) gathered together for a weekend of fun, food, and fireworks. There is nothing worse than spending your holiday sick or injured, so we have complied plenty of resources to help you plan a celebration that is fun, but also keeps everyone safe:
We hope you have a fabulous 4th of July and that these tips and resources add to the fun!
All 4-H members are encouraged to complete at least one activity or project that helps their community. Community service is usually a short-term project to help the community, whereas service learning is a longer-term project where youth identify a need, research the problem, and design and develop solutions to address the issue long-term. If you haven’t read it, check out our previous post about the difference between community service and service learning, or download this tip sheet to share at your next 4-H meeting. Here are 17 ideas to jumpstart your community or service learning projects in the coming 4-H year, organized by topic:
- Collect food for a local food pantry- check out our Peanut Butter Challenge!
- Volunteer for our local Food4Kids Backpack program
- Start a community garden.
- Hold a town hall to increase awareness about food insecurity in your community; share your results with community leaders.
- Use the 4-H GIS project to map your community to identify food deserts; share your results with the chamber of commerce.
- Organize a litter clean-up for a local park, beach, river, or lake.
- Participate in a citizen science project– the University of Florida has more than 20 projects to choose from!
- Start a fishing line recycling program in your community.
- Design displays and presentations to raise awareness about invasive species impacting your community.
- Design a campaign to address water quality or conservation at your school or community.
- Help your community prepare for hazardous weather- join your local CERT (community emergency response team) or create awareness about the importance of a having an emergency plan for families. In 2018, 4-Hers in the Northwest District held a retreat to learn all about disaster preparedness. Check out their video:
12. Host a Living on My Own financial simulation for your school, community, or club.
13. Plan a day camp for younger youth to teach them financial literacy.
14. Plan a piggy bank decorating contest to raise awareness about the importance of saving.
15. Plan a 5K to raise awareness about healthy lifestyles; donate the funds raised to an organization that is working to address healthy issues such as obesity, heart health, or diabetes.
16. Host a health fair to educate your school or community about healthy lifestyle choices.
17. In 2018, teens in northwest Florida prepared chemo kits for individuals battling cancer. Check out this video about their project:
photo credit: National 4-H Council
One of the requirements for 4-H clubs to be chartered is annual participation in a service project because it helps youth develop compassion and empathy for others. This is an important step to help youth live our pledge “my heart to greater loyalty” and “my hands to greater service.” Recently, the terms community service and service learning are being used interchangeably, but they are not the same. This post will explain the difference between the two and provide additional resources for 4-H parents, volunteers and club officers.
What is community service?
Community service is usually a “one and done” activity. It is often associated with short term volunteerism, and sometimes can be associated with court-mandated sentences. Community service includes things like a food drive, clothing drive, or litter pick up. These types of activities help youth apply the “heart” and “hands” parts of our pledge, but youth typically do not organize the activities; they are often done in collaboration with another organization, such as Toys for Tots, a local food pantry, or Adopt a Highway. Community service is a great way to introduce the concepts of giving back to the community and helping others. It is very appropriate for our younger 4-H members, who don’t yet have the critical thinking, decision making, and leadership skills to execute a service-learning project.
What is service learning?
Service learning engages not only the “heart” and “hands” but also the “head.” Service learning is a process in which youth identify a need, develop solutions to address that need, implement a plan to put their solution into action, and reflect on the results of their action. Service learning should be planned and implemented by youth, with parents and volunteers supporting and guiding the process. Service learning is more appropriate for older youth who are ready to take on more responsibility. Service learning not only helps youth develop a sense of compassion, but it also helps them develop more independence.
So What’s the Difference?
For example, when a 4-H club decides to lead a food drive for the local pantry, they are contributing to the issue of food insecurity. Food drives are an effective way to meet the immediate need for more food, or more nutritious food. Our annual Peanut Butter Drive is a great way for 4-Hers to get involved with food insecurity; the Florida Peanut Producers match what is collected and everything is donated to a local food pantry. However, if youth want to address the issue of food insecurity in a more systemic way, they might choose to apply GPS technology to map the food deserts in their community or county. Next, they might present their findings to county commissioners or the chamber of commerce. Together, they brainstorm solutions on how to address food insecurity issues in those food deserts, but increasing awareness, or finding partners to provide sources of nutritious food. After implementing solutions, they look back and reflect on what they did, what worked, and what could be improved for next time.
Download this one-page document to help explain the difference between community service and service learning. This is a great resource for volunteers, parents and club officers. Next week, we will share ideas for service learning and community service related to a variety of issues, that can be a great discussion starter for your club meetings this fall!
If you have a passion for civic engagement and making a difference in your community, consider sharing your passion and skills with youth. We need volunteers to help youth understand what it means to be engaged in their community, and volunteers to empower youth to make a difference locally. We match volunteers’ skills and schedules with our program. Contact your local UF IFAS Extension Office for more information.