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10 Ways to Volunteer with 4-H

Youth with 4-H volunteer4-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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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!
  3. Judge projects- we need judges to provide constructive feedback to youth on their project work.
  4. 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!
  5. Serve on an advisory committee or board- each county has an advisory committee to help provide direction and financial oversight of 4-H funds.
  6. 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.
  7. Help deliver a program- Volunteer at an afterschool project, summer program, or school garden.
  8. Serve on a fair committee- Volunteer with your local or regional fair to help provide learning experiences for youth.
  9. 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!
  10. 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!

Exploring the Origin of 4-H

Have you ever wondered how 4-H came to be?  4-H has a rich history that started in the late 1800’s (around the time of the civil war). The Morrill Act of 1862 gave each state in the US land for agriculture research and teaching. This established the land grant university system.  The second Morrill Act in 1890 made racial discrimination illegal for land grant universities receiving federal funds….unless a separate institution was established and maintained. This second Morrill Act gave rise to many of the historically black colleges. However, university researchers struggled to get these new practices adopted by farmers. Adults just didn’t trust new technology, but young people were. So researchers took these new practices into public schools and provided hands on lessons in the hopes that the new concepts would be shared at home and adopted on the farm.  These early 4-H clubs were known as Tomato or Canning Clubs for girls and Corn and Pig clubs for boys.

boy with corn

National 4-H Historic Preservation Project. Marius Malmgren , a member of a corn club in Virginia, grew 209 bushels of corn on one acre in 1912 when national corn yields averaged only 45 bushels per acre.

Before there was 4-H, agriculturally based youth clubs began in 1902 as a result of these hands on agricultural learning experiences, years before Cooperative Extension was created! Specifically in Clark County, Ohio and Douglas County, Minnesota, youth clubs were born. The Corn Growing Club for example, was an after-school club. Fairs also began in this same year allowing a venue for youth to share what they had ‘learned by doing.’ To honor youth’s efforts, Jessie Field Shambaugh created a four-leaf clover pin to honor the efforts of the youth. In 1910, the H was added on each leaf of the clover and shortly thereafter the title ‘4-H Club’ was born.

The original mission of the 4-H club was to introduce school aged youth to the agricultural community in which they lived with the intent of helping youth to gain practical, hands on experiences and aid with becoming productive members of their communities. These clubs empowered youth by teaching them valuable life skills enabling them to be better prepared for their transition to adulthood.

Cooperative Extension was born as a result of the Smith-Lever Act in 1914. As a result, 4-H became a nationwide club opportunity, and the clover emblem was adopted. Otis Hall, a state leader from Kansas created the 4-H pledge that was adopted in 1927 at the very first National 4-H Camp held in Washington DC. The motto ‘to make the best better’ was also proposed by Miss Carrie Harrison and adopted that same year. The 4-H pledge is still used today with one small addition in 1973, the words ‘and my world’ added to the end.

In less than 50 years, specifically in 1959, the National 4-H Center was opened and provided trainings and experiences for volunteers, youth, and professional staff. Eventually, the National 4-H Foundation and the National 4-H Service Committee merged to create today’s National 4-H Council. This rapid growth is a testament to the important positive youth development role 4-H has provided. Sadly,

4-H will celebrate it’s 120-year anniversary in 2022! Today, 4-H proudly serves youth from rural to urban areas and everything in between. Experiences still include school enrichment, agriculture, and livestock related projects, but have also branched out to include science, robotics, food safety, healthy living and more. From such humble beginnings, 4-H has grown and adapted to remain relevant while continuing to offer educational opportunities to teach concepts and skills guiding today’s 4-Hers to become productive citizens.

4-H and Extension have had (and continues to have) a huge impact on our country. Teaching today’s 4-her’s about the rich legacy of our organization can help develop a sense of belonging and connection. Focusing on 4-H history can also build excitement and anticipation for our 120th anniversary next year. Here are a few ways you can incorporate some 4-H history into your club meetings this fall:

  1. Share this video at your next club meeting. What was different about 4-H back then?  What is the same?

2. Design a fair booth highlighting 4-H History in your county

3. Ask 4-H alumni from different decades to come speak with your club. Ask them to bring photos, record books, and memorabilia to share with youth. Help youth prepare questions in advance about what alumni did and learned when they were in the program. Talk about what is different, and what is the same.

4. Host a 4-H history quiz bowl. The National 4-H Historic Preservation Project has lots of information. You can also refer to Florida 4-H: A Century of Youth Success (your local 4-H office or library most likely has a copy you can borrow).

5. Work with your 4-H agent to form a committee to plan your countywide 120th anniversary celebration.

10 Tried & True Strategies to Foster Family Engagement in 4-H Clubs

4-H youth around a campfireParents, grandparents, and other family members are assets to the 4-H program. One of the best things about 4-H is that it promotes (and welcomes) family engagement! And there are benefits of family involvement- Duerden et al. (2013) found when adults were involved in youth programs, it strengthen family relationships and improved parent-child communication and bonding. Family involvement is a win-win-win for youth, adults and volunteers!

 

 

 

Make them Feel Welcome– Just like you would do for youth, make adults and other family members feel welcome!

  1. Encourage them to participate in get to know you games, or introduce them to other adults associated with the club.
  1. A parent meeting at the beginning of the club year is a great idea to help new parents feel like part of the group.

Communicate Clearly– Communicating with parents is essential. In fact, in a survey of new 4-H families in Florida, communication with the club leader was a major factor in whether or not the families returned to the program the following year (Hensley, 2020). Try these strategies to build strong communication with families.

  1. Set up clear lines of communication with parents by asking them how they prefer to receive communication. Some clubs use social media, texting apps (like GroupMe or Remind), or email. Find a method that works for your 4-H families.
  2. Make sure the club schedule works for everyone and that the location is accessible for all.
  3. Give each family a copy of the club program calendar, and ask another parent or club officer to send out reminders before meetings.

Help them Learn 4-H– 4-H is a large organization and has something for everyone, which is great!  But it can also be a little overwhelming when you are new to the program.

  1. Explain the club cycle, such as when things normally occur during the year (service projects, fundraisers, competitions, awards programs, camp). That way, they can plan ahead and set goals for engagement.
  2. Ask a seasoned 4-H family to mentor a new 4-H family. This can help them learn about the program, and identify things that their children will want to participate in.

Discover their Skills, Knowledge & Interests– New 4-H families may think that they need special training or experience to contribute to the club. As a volunteer, let them know that we all “learn by doing” and everyone has something to contribute!

  1. Use the parent interest survey to find out how the adults might be willing to serve.

Identify Tasks and Make the Ask

  1. Make a list of things that you need help with, then write each item on an index card (one item per card). Ask each family to select one or two items they are willing to be responsible for by writing their name on the back of the card.

Make Individual Asks for More Complex Tasks

  1. Reach out to parents individually (when they are not distracted) and share some of the tasks you need help with that are a little more complex. For example, you may need a parent to help train club officers, teach parliamentary procedure or work with the service learning committee. Provide any resources they may need (such as an officer handbook or service learning guide) and let them know that the 4-H office will provide support for them in this role. If the task requires a level II background screening, then be upfront about that.

References: 

Duerden, M. D., Witt, P. A., & Harrist, C. J. (2013, Winter). The impact of parental involvement on a structured youth program experience: A qualitative inquiry. Journal of Youth Development, 8(3), 1-17. Retrieved August 31, 2018, from jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/88.

Hensley, S. (2020). Florida 4-H Retention Study.

Three Ways to Increase Parent Involvement

4-H club leaders are amazing instructors and terrific at running club meetings and events, but this job can be very time consuming. They deeply appreciate all the help they can get from the parents of the club members to help make the club even more successful. Even something as little as picking up snacks for a meeting or leading a group at a judging event can be a huge lifesaver. In addition, there are benefits to parent involvement.  When parents, grandparents and other family members get involved in supporting 4-H clubs, it strengthens family relationships by improving “parent/child communication, bonding, and perceptions of one another” (Duerden, Witt, & Harrist, 2013).  In addition, research shows that family involvement  “prolongs the experience’s positive post-participation effects” (Duerden, Witt, and Harrist, 2013, p. 1).

Aside from the benefits listed above, it is important to recognize reasons why parents volunteer. There are three types of motivation: achievement, affiliation and power (Atkinson and Feather, 1966). Henderson (1981) found most 4-H volunteers to be motivated by affiliation.  Individuals motivated by affiliation value relationships with people and organizations.  Affiliation-motivated volunteers would respond best to thank-you notes, verbal praise or informal “pats on the back.”  One of the best ways to recruit parents or grandparents to help with clubs is to provide opportunities for them to develop positive relationships with other parents, members, and volunteers. Here are two simple suggestions for recruiting more parents and grandparents:

  1. When advising parents to sign their child up on 4-H Online, mention that they can also create their own profile so they can get involved as well. Make sure when you are recruiting new youth to your club, to also be very welcoming to their parents and encourage them to stay for the meetings and programs.  Give them a copy of the club program calendar so they know when the meetings are and what is on the agenda.
  2. Introduce parents to other parents.  Help them build connections with each other. Better yet, ask a more experienced parent to mentor new parents.
  3. Let parents know you welcome their involvement and give them the Parent Involvement Form. This form will allow parents the opportunity to see all of the different jobs and responsibilities that they can do to help the club succeed and sign up for the things that interest them. This will help you as a club leader to have a little less on your plate and allow the parents to help get involved with their child’s interests.

Every chance that you get to be involved in 4-H, whether you are a youth, parent, or club leader, you are giving your community a brighter future. All of the opportunities that 4-H provides will help build youth into positive members of society one day. So, club leaders, go out there and recruit the parents of your club members to help out and make your programs even stronger! Next week, we will talk about how to engage parents in your club!

References:

  • Duerden, M. D., Witt, P. A., & Harrist, C. J. (2013, Winter). The impact of parental involvement on a structured youth program experience: A qualitative inquiry. Journal of Youth Development, 8(3), 1-17. Retrieved August 31, 2018, from jyd.pitt.edu/ojs/jyd/article/view/88.
  • Atkinson, J., & Feather, N. (1966). Theory of achievement motivation. New York: Wiley.
  • Henderson, K. (1981). Motivating the adult 4-H volunteer. Journal of Extension. 19(1). Retrieved from: http://www.joe.org/joe/1981january/81-1-a4.pdf

 

Strategies for Teaching Time Management in 4-H

Toolkit for teaching time management picture of a clock and scheduleThe “secret sauce” for successful 4-H clubs is often the not-so-secret time management skill of the club leader.  Time management is a learned skill.   This week’s  blog post will explore strategies for time management. One important detail about time management – what works for one person may not work for everyone.  Choosing time management strategies that suit the person increases the likelihood that these skills will become permanent, frequently used tools in a personal “toolbox.”

Teaching Time Management Skills

One strategy to learn a time management skill is to teach it.   Both club members and volunteer leaders can benefit from learning and practicing time management skills. Youth and adults alike can begin with some basic elements of planning to start developing time management skills.

To complete a time management activity during a club meeting, the following items will be needed: a weekly schedule template, a Post It adhesive flipchart or a white board/chalkboard, pencils/pens, scratch paper for note taking.

Write the five elements of S.M.A.R.T goals on the flipchart or white board:

S – Specific
M – Measureable
A – Attainable (or actionable)
R – Relevant (or realistic)
T – Time-bound

During this activity, participants will learn about time management, scheduling, and goal setting.   Begin the activity with a task.  Ask adults and youth to consider and write out their schedule for an average week. Use a weekly schedule template so that everyone can use a visual organizer to describe their individual schedules.  There are a number of free schedule templates online.   One free option is available from Microsoft office: https://templates.office.com/en-us/schedules.

Once everyone has completed their schedule, ask each participant to write down a personal goal related to school or 4-H.   Then, explain the S.M.A.R.T goal concept.   Next, ask everyone to consider their goal within the S.M.A.R.T framework.  Does their goal fit the five elements of a S. M.A.R.T goal? Why or why not? If their goal needs to be adjusted, what changes should be made?

After discussing several different goals, ask everyone when the time is scheduled to work on achieving this goal.  Spoiler alert: very few of the participants will include anything related to the goal in the initial weekly schedule draft.

During the next phase of this activity, introduce one or more time management strategies from the blog resource list to the group. Engage participants in discussion about which strategies might be effective for them than others.

Setting Individual Member and Club Goals

Conclude the meeting by setting short and long term goals.  What do members want to accomplish by the next club meeting?  What goals do club members want to achieve for the year? Toolkit for teaching time management picture of a clock and scheduleTime management is a skill that can be practiced and improved throughout the 4-H club year.  Be sure to schedule in time to report on progress toward goals as part of 4-H club business meetings.

Resources

 

Hashtags and Handles for 4-H Clubs

If you are new to social media, it can seem a little overwhelming!  Hashtags are a way to connect the social media content you post to a specific topic. They make it easier for the reader to find information around specific topics for further interest and conversation. After all- that is what social media is about- conversations! Even if you are using a private group, you can use specific 4-H hashtags and handles for your conversation. As you become more comfortable with using social media for your club, you should consider using hashtags. Both National 4-H Council and Florida 4-H have specific hashtags you can use as appropriate. This article breaks down the differences between hashtags and handles, when to use them, and includes a “cheat sheet” for 4-H specific hashtags and handles that you can use as a reference.

Hashtags are words or phrases preceded by the “#” symbol that make your post searchable. For example, if people are looking for information about 4-H poultry programs, you can add the hashtag “4HPoultry” and your post will show up in their search. As you become more comfortable with using social media for your club, you should consider using hashtags. Both National 4-H Council and Florida 4-H have specific hashtags you can use as appropriate:

Example: You have a 4-H volunteer in your club who participated in 4-H activities as a youth and is now teaching your current club a hands-on specific skill. They are doing such as great job and you want to thank them in your Facebook group. You might use these popular hashtags: #FL4HAlumni #4HGrown #FL4HVOL

You can also use hashtags for events.
Example: 4-H Residential summer camp for youth in the panhandle is at Camp Timpoochee or Camp Cherry Lake. As you advertise or post about camp, you might use: #CampCherryLake #4htimpoochee #FL4HCamps

If you are the administrator of your group, you are able to pin hashtags on your group page that group members can easily see to generate interest. This can save time, so you don’t have to search through all posts and allow you to organize topics.

Handles are the name of an individual or organization preceded by the “@” symbol. When you use a handle, it connects your post to that person or organziation’s page and can be seen by that person’s or organization’s friends or followers. Use the handle @Florida4H if you post has information relevant to the Florida 4-H population. It is always a good idea to use your county 4-H handle to connect your post to your county’s page and followers. For example, @yourcounty’sname4-H.