Types of Involvement
The 4-H Youth Development Program has successfully used a variety of methods to involve young people for a number of years. These methods are described below.
The purpose of a 4-H club is to provide youth with educational, fun learning experiences with their peers. 4-H Clubs may be organized in several forms.
- Organized Community Clubs
These groups include at least five members from at least three families ranging in grades from 3 to 12. The youth usually live in a geographic area they call their community or neighborhood. The club is led by one or more approved adult volunteer leaders. Youth enroll in subject matter areas of interest (projects), participate in 9-12 meetings during the year, select youth officers, carry out club responsibilities, participate in service to the community, and receive recognition for their work. Club meetings typically are held once a month in a location such as a school, community center, church, or other public meeting space. Project evaluation is often carried out during the county fair or at the end of the 4-H Youth Development Program year. The club often uses its meetings to develop group process skills, leadership ability, and communication skills.
- Organized Subject Matter (Project) Clubs
These groups are organized around a specific subject matter (project) area (e.g. robotics, junior leaders, shooting sports, rabbits, dairy goats, tractor, horse and pony, dogs, or electricity, etc.). The youth and adult volunteers use club meetings to learn together about the subject around which they have organized. They have lessons, participate in field trips, and teach each other about related concepts. They often prepare an exhibit for a county fair. They develop leadership skills (club officers) and group process skills by working together and completing projects that are meaningful to each other or their community.
- SPARK Clubs
SPARKS Clubs are open to youth grades 3-12 to “spark” new interest in the Indiana 4-H program. SPARK Clubs are special interest groups designed to capture the attention of youth with single focus, “out of the box” interests that are likely different from state-recognized 4-H projects. These clubs are led by volunteers bringing their subject mastery to the club. SPARK Clubs include six hours of instructional time that can occur in one day or over a length of time. Most SPARK Clubs end their program with a culminating event or activity.
Mini 4-H Programs are specifically designed to involve children (grades K-2) in activities that are experiential, developmentally appropriate, and related to enhancing children's self-esteem. Mini 4-H is a Purdue 4-H Youth Development Program that includes a curriculum that relates to many of the typical 4-H subject matter areas. Mini 4-H is typically led by adults who will involve children in activities that add effectively to the children's growth and development. Activities in Mini 4-H are noncompetitive.
Members have the opportunity to learn more about a subject matter that they choose to study through completing hands on activities. In 4-H, we refer to these as projects. In order to enroll in a project, members must sign up for them at the time of enrolling in 4-H. Each project has a manual that guides the youth through the learning process as well as a set of guidelines that helps them meet the project requirements. Adult volunteers and staff who are knowledgeable on that particular subject often host workshops to allow the youth to learn about that topic in a social environment. Each project has a beginner, intermediate, and advanced level to allow youth to build on their knowledge each year and continue to challenge their skills. Projects are meant to be worked on over time, providing an educational opportunity for youth outside of the classroom setting. Often, youth will exhibit and display their project at a local county fair in order to show the community what they have learned. There is no limit to the number of projects youth can sign up for, however, we suggest starting out with one or two your first year.
Workshops are meant to supplement the time the youth spends working on a project and the activities or subject area they complete in the project manual. Typically, these are offered several times a year. We encourage family members to attend these workshops with the 4-H member for the best educational outcome.
View this example of a workshop topic that includes the annual 4-H STEM Challenge (formerly National Youth Science Day) activities.
Every county is different, but most counties will have a fair in the summer that showcases what the 4-H members have learned while taking their projects. This gives youth the opportunity to have their project judged in order to gain feedback and then display what they have worked so hard on in order for the public to view. Buildings on the fairgrounds are lined with arts and crafts projects, sewn garments, photographs, and model rockets just to name a few. Barns will also house animals that the youth have worked to take care of and raise. The county fair is a celebration of hard work and allows a community to come together in order to showcase the accomplishments of their youth. To learn more about your county fair, contact your local Purdue Extension office.
Camps and Conferences
Many different 4-H Camps and Conferences are offered throughout the year to provide youth with additional positive youth development experiences. Some of these overnight experiences will take place in various counties near your home, while others take place overnight on Purdue’s campus or other locations in Indiana and around the country.
Local Purdue Extension 4-H Educators work with volunteers and leaders in the community in order to offer hands on educational 4-H experiences for youth during the afterschool hours. Often times, these experiences take place within a preexisting afterschool program, but are certainly not limited to that. These groups can be formed wherever young people are likely to gather. This may be a school, the YMCA/YWCA, a community building, a public library, a church, a shopping mall, or some other after-school gathering spot. This approach allows youth who need focused and directed activity (nonformal learning and recreation) to join together at a time when they are available. These youth can achieve together in productive and positive ways. An adult volunteer or staff member helps to oversee and direct the youth in their activities.
These groups may meet for several weeks while the young people and the adult pursue a meaningful 4-H project or activity. The focus of the group may range from career exploration to community service or discussions about critical issues facing youth. These activities can become a memorable and valuable 4-H experience. It is also possible that these youth may then join in other 4-H activities and gain additional benefits. If your child is enrolled in an afterschool program, or you coordinate an afterschool program, contact your local Purdue Extension 4-H Youth Development Educator to see how you can integrate 4-H into your program.
Local Purdue Extension 4-H Youth Development Educators and volunteers have access to experiential learning resources designed to supplement a specific learning topic in a school based setting. Whether it is personal finance, living a healthy lifestyle, or STEM related topics, we have research-based curriculum that can help enhance the student’s experience.
Special Interest Programs
Special interest programs are made up of youth who join with an adult volunteer to study one particular subject or participate in one specific activity. These topics usually relate closely to the prepared 4-H curriculum. Special interest groups can form around agriculture (animals, plants, or outdoors), science, technology (robotics, aerospace, photography, or mechanical science), food and fiber (nutrition, fitness, or consumerism), or leisure (biking, acting, or singing). There is no limit to the types of special interest groups that can be formed.
The unique aspect of the special interest method is the way in which youth and adults focus on a common interest and together learn and teach each other. Special interest groups do not usually form a club and elect officers. The group does not continue from year to year. The group may have less structure than a project club and be more like a school enrichment group, but be unrelated to the formal school setting.
Often, involvement in a special interest group may trigger a longer-term 4-H commitment. Both adults and youth are often attracted to a group that is meeting to pursue a special area of interest for a short time.
Examples of Special Interest Programs include:
4-H Military Partnerships create opportunities and bring community resources together to provide support to military connected youth whether they live on or near an installation, in our communities, or on overseas installations. 4-H clubs and opportunities provide consistency in belonging and an opportunity to develop life skills through a positive youth development framework. The 4-H Program is built upon four Essential Elements ensuring that youth feel a sense of belonging in a safe environment; develop independence in both group and individual work; share with others in the community through generosity; and develop a sense of mastery that continues throughout life as they practice and share what they have learned with others. Through the 4-H Military Partnership, Indiana 4-H is able to support the nearly 20,000 military youth of Indiana who live in each of the 92 counties. As military families move frequently and experience the difficulties surrounding deployment and reintegration, 4-H provides predictable programming and a safe and nurturing environment for military connected children and youth.
Collegiate 4-H is a student-run organization at the college/university level that serves the local community, promotes leadership development, and assists the Indiana 4-H program. We also give students the opportunity to socialize with people of similar backgrounds and interests.