Positive Youth Development Through 4-H Community Clubs
4-H Critical Elements – An Opportunity to Achieve Competency/Mastery Positive Youth Development Through 4-H Community Clubs
The third critical element in positive youth development is the opportunity to achieve competency/mastery. Mastery is the building of knowledge, skills and attitudes and then demonstrating their competent use in the manner of the proficient practitioner.
Youth will experience success by completing activities appropriate for their own developmental stage and learning style. Youth set goals and celebrate accomplishments. The development of mastery is a process acquired over time and improved with repetition.
4-H volunteers might consider the following questions: In our club…
- Do members get assistance and guidance in selecting projects that are appropriate for their individual developmental level and learning style?
- Do individual members set goals for their own projects as well as goals suitable for the group as a whole?
- Do members have the opportunity to practice skills until they master them?
- Do members gain knowledge in project areas through hands-on activities?
- Are members held accountable for their goals?
- Do members reflect and receive feedback on their accomplishments?
- Do members share their achievements with each other?
- Do members receive public recognition for their achievements?
Some practices the 4-H club may want to implement if they are not already in place include:
Project Selection - At one meeting early in the year, set aside time to highlight different projects and to discuss with members and parents the differences in the project levels. Encourage members to try new activities and enroll in a variety of projects each year to gain wider experiences. In time, they will probably discover their own talents and skills and choose to limit their involvement to a few select projects. Then members should be encouraged to try more challenging activities within a project area to expand their learning. Leaders may want to share information that is included in the 4-H fact sheet Project Selection by 4-H Members.
Project Goal Setting –Parents, project leaders, junior leaders as well as organization leaders should help members set project goals. Youth should scan the project manuals to see what types of activities are offered and read the fair exhibit recommendations. Project planning sheets for each age level are available from the Extension Office. Completing project planning sheets and the competitive application in the 4-H Recognition for Excellence program will assist youth in developing worthwhile record keeping skills. More information and a timeline for planning are included in the 4-H fact sheet Setting Project Goals . Periodic checks at 4-H club meetings to review members’ progress toward their goals should be scheduled.
Hands-on learning - The 4-H motto is "Learn by Doing." This integral part of the community club program offers needed opportunities to learn and practice new skills, talents and abilities. Doing doesn’t automatically mean learning. Youth need time to talk about what they are doing and how it applies to their own lives. Project and junior leaders can assist members in experiencing active, fun learning at 4-H meetings, at project meetings or in individual sessions. Members need time to practice those skills until they master them. The new 4-H manuals often list subject matter as well as life skills. 4-H members gain experience in communication skills through the delivery of project talks and demonstrations at the club and county level.
Feedback and reflection - 4-H volunteers should assist members in practicing the experiential learning model when doing project activities. Time to explore, discuss, and reflect on their ideas and choices are important means for feedback and reflection. A key component to experiential learning is that youth have the opportunity to reflect on their experience and to receive feedback from others as well. Conference judging at the 4-H fair is one example of feedback. Clubs may also want to incorporate times for reflection on project work and club events and activities in their club program. Each new 4-H manual explains the experiential learning model and lists questions to help members and leaders experience, reflect and apply their knowledge and skills.
Recognition - The 4-H Recognition for Excellence program provides formal and informal ways to recognize the accomplishments of individual members and the 4-H club as a whole. Items for recognition are available yearly for recognition of progress toward goals (based on goal setting) through the Extension Office. 4-H clubs should plan recognition events to celebrate the accomplishments of their individual members as well as the achievements of the club.
Club goal setting – Youth should be involved in planning and carrying out programs and activities based on their individual and collective needs, interests, and concerns. Youth are the best source of information about what youth will find interesting and worthwhile. 4-H clubs should complete a yearly planning process involving members, leaders and parents to develop the club goals and plans for the 4-H year. A good club program plan will provide a role for each member and leader, meet the needs of all members and leaders, share responsibilities; inspire a balanced plan between learning, work and fun provide for better communication; develop teamwork skills, and help to avoid calendar conflicts.
- Junior leader responsibilities -Youth profit through opportunities to practice skills and knowledge they have learned; to develop their own leadership skills; and to share their knowledge with others (particularly younger members) through teaching project skills. To increase retention of older members, 4-H clubs should look for ways to give experienced youth new and progressively more complex responsibilities within the club setting. The 4-H fact sheet Junior Leader Responsibilities gives numerous ideas of ways junior leaders can assume responsibility in their club.