Project Selection by 4-H Members
Volunteers, parents, and members should be jointly involved in the project selection process. There are 45 different project categories from which to choose. The Illinois Clover breaks project categories down into project units with suggested ages for participation. There are four different age recommendations - Cloverbud projects for ages 5-7, ages 8-11, ages 12-14, and ages 15-18.
What is important to consider when selecting 4-H projects? The most important factor in selecting a 4-H project is the interest of the 4-H member. The 4-H volunteer may stimulate interest in a project by his/her own enthusiasm, by reports and exhibits of work done by other members or by discussing the possibilities of the projects being considered. The members should be familiar with the nature of the project, the possible cost involved and the level of skills required. Parents should also be involved in the project selection decision.
Will others in the club be carrying the same project? When several members enroll in the same project, the club may devote club meeting time to project information and help, the club may have a project leader assigned to work with members in that specific club, or may identify a junior leader or resource person to assist club members with the project. Parents need to think about the level of support they can provide to their child in each project area. Parents may want to volunteer to serve as a project leader for one project for the club.
What equipment, facilities and resources are needed to complete this project? Parents and members will need to plan ahead. Cost of materials, equipment, and other supplies should be considered before enrolling in a project. Review project manuals to get a general idea of the type of learning activities being offered to members in each project unit. Members will be asked to set goals for each project and to select learning activities that they want to complete during the 4-H year. Parents and members should check out the fair exhibit requirements so that they know what will be expected for the fair entry.
How do I decide what project unit to enroll in? The Illinois Clover gives a suggested age for each project unit, but more important is the ability of the individual 4-H member. Many areas have beginning, intermediate and advanced project units that allow for progression from year to year. Parents and members need to find the best level for each child. Older members may start at a higher level if the beginning projects are too elementary for them. The Clover Challenge, which is open to 4-H members 15-18 years of age, is an advanced study unit for state 4-H projects. Members may participate in the Clover Challenge if they have successfully completed all other project levels in a given curriculum area. More detailed information about the Clover Challenge is printed in The Illinois Clover.
How many projects should a member enroll in? There are no firm rules on the number of projects that a 4-H member may enroll in. However, beginning members may want to limit their project selection to one or two for the first year. As they become more familiar with 4-H, they may want to increase their projects. Older members may want to consider their other obligations as they select projects - school, extra-curricular, work, and social schedules.
What is the cost of 4-H projects? It varies. Members are responsible for the cost of supplies for their projects. This may influence project selection. Costs should be realistic for the family situation.
Project manuals cost on average about $3.00 per project. The cost of project manuals may be covered by the county Extension Office, the local 4-H club or by the individual families. If members enroll in projects and then do not utilize the manuals and/or complete the project, this is wasteful. The project selection process is a good time to begin to teach the life skills of responsibility and follow through.
County Extension offices also are concerned about the number of fair entries that are made in projects each year that result in "no shows." Again time and resources are allocated in securing judges, preparing the paperwork for entries and other preparation activities. "No shows" account for as much as one-third of all entries in some counties. Discussion about the importance of the completion of projects and fair entries should also be held when thinking about what projects to select.
Parents might encourage their members to do more work in a few projects than just a tiny amount in many different projects. Often there are related projects that members might enroll in - such as foods and horticulture, home furnishings and woodworking, or horse and veterinary science.
Projects are the cornerstone to the 4-H members' learning experience. 4-H volunteers, parents, and members need to work together to select the best possible projects for each individual member.