Mark Tassin | 7/9/2009 6:53:58 PM
Once considered a club just for rural and farm kids, 4-H boasts an enrollment of more than 243,000 in Louisiana and 7 million across the country.
4-H conducts a wide range of projects, including aerospace, communications, computers, the environment, electrical energy, horticulture, entomology (insects), photography, robotics, vet science and more.
The new school year offers the opportunity to join the most popular youth group in the nation, according to the LSU AgCenter’s Dr. Mark Tassin, director of the Louisiana 4-H Youth Development Program.
The Louisiana 4-H program also is one of the leaders in the country in character education. Some 1,494 clubs are active across the state, including in Louisiana’s densely populated urban areas. Character development is conducted in all 64 parishes of Louisiana.
“Besides offering educational opportunities, 4-H helps youth develop life skills that are important for success in school, in personal relations and later in earning a living,” Tassin said, explaining, “These skills include self-esteem, communicating, commitment to others, problem solving, decision making, getting and using information, managing resources and working with others.”
Enrollment is available for those in the fourth through 12th grades, with the program tailored to two broad groups – grades 4-6 and 7-12. In turn, each grade level has its own focus, ranging from working with others in the fourth grade to independent living in the 12th. Once enrolled, a member becomes part of a club.
“A 4-H Club is a group of young people who want to use their heads, hearts, hands and health to become the best they can be and to become positive, capable and compassionate members of their communities,” Tassin said, referring to the Hs in 4-H.
Every 4-H member has the opportunity to select a project or subject to learn about. Each project has its own project book that guides the 4-H’er through the topic. Completing a project means doing the activities in the book and participating in parish workshops, as well as regional and state programs and activities.
4-H’ers can select projects from three major areas: science, engineering and technology, healthy living or citizenship.
“Many 4-H’ers like to learn more about a subject, so they join a project group,” Tassin said. “They become more focused in one topic area and are able to participate in challenging project-specific activities.”
Volunteer leaders meet with the groups to guide them through hands-on activities. Meetings are held in homes, schools and other public locations.
“‘Learn by doing’ is the 4-H club slogan,” Tassin said, explaining, “4-H members are exposed to projects that allow them to experience hands-on activities.”
They make things, take part in club meetings, learn interesting new ideas, learn to follow and learn to lead.
“More than 38,000 4-H’ers also helped their neighbors and their neighborhoods through service-focused activities,” Tassin said.
Each club has its own officers, with adult support from volunteer leaders and LSU AgCenter extension agents. A leader may be anyone interested in working with young people.
Organizational leaders supervise clubs, and project leaders help 4-H’ers complete project activities. Parents also are encouraged to participate.
In addition, more than 1,300, older 4-H’ers participate as junior or teen leaders. They join special clubs where they develop even stronger leadership skills and do service projects. Special awards are available for those who teach others and perform community service.
The state 4-H leader recommends contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office to learn more about the program. Also, click on the 4-H link at the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.
Editor: Mark Claesgens