Jean Rogalsky, 4-H Youth Development Agent
When first learning about the Pinellas County 4-H Program, many people wonder how all these very different sounding programs could all be 4-H. Indeed, Pinellas County 4-H offers a number of ways in which a family can be involved in 4-H. These options are referred to as delivery methods. These delivery methods include 4-H Community Clubs, 4-H in the Classroom, summer camp, 4-H Afterschool, and special interest groups. However different they may sound, all delivery methods employ the experiential learning model; that is, youth both experience and process an activity through five steps. These five steps are:
Ø Experience- Youth perform or do the activity.
Ø Share - Youth describe what happened.
Ø Process - Youth determine what was important and identify common themes.
Ø Generalize - Youth relate the experience to their daily lives.
Ø Apply - Youth apply knowledge gained to a new situation.
This means that any youth in a Pinellas 4-H program will receive the educational and youth development benefits of 4-H, as all 4-H delivery methods follow the model of a 4-H community club.
4-H community clubs are one of the most effective delivery methods. Community clubs are organized groups of youth who meet on a regular basis and are supported by adult volunteer leaders with a planned program for the year. Community clubs have the advantage of long-term sequential learning events under the direction of a caring adult. Youth select subject areas in which they have interest and use project books, most of which have been nationally reviewed. Community clubs are the primary delivery method of 4-H throughout Florida.
4-H in the Classroom provides a planned sequence of learning experiences of six hours or more delivered by teachers, Extension staff, and trained volunteers. The curricula provided to the teachers contain lessons using the experiential learning model. In Pinellas County, Embryology, Tropicana Public Speaking, Pizza Garden: An Agricultural Adventure, and Earth Connections are the curricula offered for 4-H in the Classroom.
Summer camp is the most intensive delivery method for learning life skills. 4-H residential camp is an overnight planned educational experience of group living. Pinellas County’s summer camp at Camp Ocala is a weeklong experience where youth learn social and decision-making skills, in addition to the subject matter of their camp classes. Teen camp counselors practice leadership and communication skills. Evaluation results indicate that 4-H campers and counselors apply these skills to their lives after they return home.
In Pinellas County, the 4-H Afterschool program is a partnership with the YMCA of the Suncoast and is part of the YMCA’s after school program. The participants become 4-H members upon enrollment and are lead through a series of activities in a club meeting format. The activities used are part of a curriculum that has been adapted especially for the Afterschool program. At the end of each meeting, the youth take time to share and reflect on the day’s activities and record their thoughts in a record book, similar to a journal. The club leader is a YMCA staff person who has been trained in 4-H youth development.
4-H Special Interest groups meet for a specific learning experience of six hours or more. The teaching is led by Extension staff or trained volunteers. The educational activities emphasize hands on learning. The membership of these meetings are not restricted by club. Often, a youth’s first experience with 4-H is through a Special Interest group. Some Special Interest groups include a community service project. For example, a clothing construction group applied their newly developed skills to sewing quilts, walker caddies, and soft toys. Upon completion, the items were donated to local charities and support groups. In Pinellas County, Forestry, Consumer Choices, and the Marine Ecology Event are the main Special Interest groups. After several weeks of meetings, field trips, and study sessions, the groups participate in state level competitions.
While community club members regularly join Special Interest groups, it is important to note that all 4-H members are eligible to register for a variety of competitive and non-competitive programs and events that are offered at the county, district, and state level. A 4-H member in any 4-H delivery method should ask their adult leader for information on how to register. A listing and description of many of these district and state activities can be found at: http://florida4h.org/events/files/2008-2010_Events_And_Activities_Handbook_low.pdf.
In summary, each 4-H delivery method will be characterized by the following:
Ø Utilization of the experiential learning model
Ø 4-H programs, curricula, and procedures are based in research
Ø 4-H programs, curricula, and procedures are developmentally appropriate
Ø 4-H programs provide access to county, district, and state opportunities
Ø 4-H membership is open to all youth
Ø Encouragement of active involvement and participation
Ø Volunteers and staff provide a critical support system
References: Understanding 4-H Youth Development Delivery
Knowing the Basics about 4-H Clubs https://4h.ifas.ufl.edu/Military/101%20pdfs/Section%20III/Section%20III,%20Lesson%2010.pdf