As we prepared for the fair, I had the opportunity to work with the Superintendents of 4-H and Open Class to review the Kansas 4-H Club Corner Youth Program Quality Principles. There are eight essential principles for quality youth programs as defined by 4-H. I believe these apply to any youth program!
1) Physical and Psychological Safety – Youth need to feel safe in 4-H programs and be able to interact positively with others. .
2) Appropriate structure – Whether it is a club meeting or a leadership camp, 4-H programs should have clear and consistent rules and expectations, with clear boundaries and monitoring appropriate to age.
3) Supportive Relationships – All youth need to feel warmth and closeness with others in 4-H. Young people need to feel that others care about them and support them. They also need to receive clear guidance and communication from 4-H volunteers and staff.
4) Belonging Opportunities – All young people should feel meaningfully included in 4-H, regardless of gender, ethnicity, sexual orientation or ability. Young people have opportunities to share their culture and heritage with others and to build a positive identity. For me, at the end of the day, have I helped a young person feel valued and have a support system?
5) Positive Social Norms – Youth should experience clear rules and expectations for participating in 4-H, including the values, morals and ethical expectations of being a 4-H member. deadlines and a code of conduct for appropriate behavior, especially when representing your family, club, county and state at events.
6) Support for Effectiveness and Importance – 4-H youth should be taken seriously and respected for their ideas and contributions. Young people should be given the opportunity to develop their responsibilities and be challenged to set and achieve new goals. excellent examples of opportunities to develop responsibility. Each new 4-H year provides an opportunity to set new project goals for learning. These are all important life skills!
7) Skills Building Opportunities – Young people need to develop physical, psychological, intellectual, emotional and social skills as they grow and develop. 4-H offers young people the opportunity to develop these skills, skills that support a young person through adulthood and in the workplace. As young people explore specific project materials, they also learn communication skills, responsibility, time management and a sense of belonging.
8) Integration of family, school and community – Youth in 4-H do best when there is a connection between their 4-H experience and their family, school and community. That’s why 4-H programs begin at the local level, in the community where young people can practice their emerging leadership skills as they grow and develop. As a teacher, do you have a 4-H member in your class? Invite them to share on a project! Are you part of a civic organization that would like to learn more about what 4-H members learn? Contact them and ask them to present! Your commitment and support helps enrich their 4-H experience and learning opportunities.
If you want to take an active role in developing the next generation of community leaders, business owners, and workforce, consider volunteering with a youth organization! This often means checking your own attitude and agenda at the door, but the results are amazing!
Keep learning. Continue to show grace and kindness.
Michelle Beran is the 4-H and Youth Development Officer for the Cottonwood Extension District – Barton County Office. For more information on this article or other issues related to 4-H and youth development, email Michelle at [email protected] or call 620-793-1910.