Tuesday, February 11, 2014

4-H: A Place where Friendships GROW

I confess, I am a Facebook junkie.  I love reading what friends and acquaintances are doing, especially funny or inspiring posts.  February in McKean County is usually cold, and this year has been particularly so.  In Pennsylvania, we take our groundhog prognosticator very seriously, and the posts before and after Groundhog Day showed that many of us would have preferred the forecast (however accurate) of an early spring. Poor Punxsutawney Phil! You lost some friends this year!

My Facebook friends live in several countries, I am connected with both males and females, and there are youth and adults sharing and reading my posts.  Some of these connections are more casual acquaintances, but others are or have become lifelong friends, even though we may live far apart.

This makes me think of one of the many benefits of a 4-H club.  Youth meet other young people in a range of ages rather than all the same as in a classroom.  There are usually both boys and girls in a club.  And every club has at least two caring adults involved with the program.  Some of the members may have been friends before they joined the club, but all have the opportunity to expand their friendships...and perhaps make lasting ones.  As 4-Hers become adults, some stay with the program as volunteer leaders and others move on.  But when they attend the county fair or happen to meet other 4-Hers, right away they discover a common bond--"I was in 4-H!"

In 2012, we celebrated 100 years of 4-H in Pennsylvania.  We had 4-H friends come from as far away as California to share their 4-H experiences.  Several were in 4-H over 70 years ago--but they still joyfully remembered their clubs, activities, leaders, and friends after all these years apart.

There is a game I like to play with my 4-Hers. It's called, "I'm looking for a friend":
Put chairs in a circle.  The person in the middle does not have a chair, but wants to find one.  He or she says, “I’m looking for a friend who…” and then inserts a visible characteristic such as “is wearing blue jeans.” All of those meeting the criteria must move to a different seat while the person in the middle tries to sit.  Whoever fails to get a seat is now in the middle.

Are you looking for a friend?  Why not get (more) involved in 4-H?  You just may find a friend who lasts a lifetime!  
"like" :)

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Growing Leaders

In a few days, 4-H teens and volunteers from across the state of Pennsylvania will gather in State College for the 2014 State Leadership Conference/Leaders Forum.  The theme for the youth component is "Leadership Makes You a Superhero" with 18 workshops from which to choose.  Meanwhile, adults (volunteers, leaders, and Extension staff) have choices from more than 40 workshops featuring horse, livestock, outdoor education, sewing, science and general topics.

Leadership is one of the main components of the 4-H Positive Youth Development program, which is based on 8 Essential Elements:
1. A Positive Relationship with a Caring Adult
2. An Inclusive Environment
3. A Safe Emotional and Physical Environment
These help to meet a child's need for BELONGING.
4. Opportunity for Mastery
5. Engagement in Learning
These help to meet a child's need for MASTERY.
6. Opportunity to see Oneself as an Active Participant in the Future
7. Opportunity for Self-Determination
These help to meet a child's need for INDEPENDENCE.
8. Opportunity to Value and Practice Service to Others
This addresses a child's need for GENEROSITY.

Motivator Max Dupree said, "The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.  The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant." (Forbes' 100 Best Quotes on Leadership)
The above elements address reality--what does a child need for success? Belonging, Mastery, Independence, Generosity.  I don't want to wait until last to say thank you, so I'll say it now--thanks to all those who work with the McKean County 4-H program, whether you are volunteers, members, supporters, or my boss! In between, I hope that I continue to be your servant.  But there is always room for growth. That is what 4-H is all about--growing!  Are YOU into it?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Early Beginnings

HEAD, HEART, HANDS, HEALTH...What does that mean to you?  4-H has existed in Pennsylvania for 100 years.  But are you into it?  Are you really into it?
     For some, 4-H is associated with agriculture, and that is where it started.  According to "4-H in Pennsylvania," a booklet by Jerry H. Reyburn, 4-H clubs got their start in Iowa in 1903, when O. H. Benson gave seed corn and flower seeds to school pupils.  Following instruction, the students planted the seeds and tended their gardens.  In the fall, they held rural day programs, exhibiting their crops and receiving prizes for their efforts.  In 1912, Charles McBride, Extension Agent, held meetings to prepare for the first youth corn-growing contest in 1913.  That is believed to be the first 4-H group in Pennsylvania.
     This year, in time for the McKean County Fair, I compiled 100 pages of stories, photos, and articles from the Extension Archives to celebrate 100 years of PA 4-H.  Our first Extension Agent came on board in 1916, but I haven't found (yet) when the first 4-H club was started in McKean County.  This book is available for purchase from the McKean County Extension office, with the proceeds going toward the 4-H endowment.  While the document is in print, with 50 copies for the first run, as new stories are sent to the office, the document will change and grow--just like 4-H!
     Very early in their history, 4-H clubs expanded to include home economics--cooking, sewing, and child care.  In McKean County, we also had capon (chicken), potato, and electric clubs.  There were dozens of project areas from the beginning--and now there are hundreds.  The purpose for all of these projects is not just content knowledge, however.  Our goal is youth development. Through the planting of seeds, the care of swine, learning to ride horses, sewing a dress, or building a robot, 4-H members learn valuable life skills of goal-setting, decision-making, communication, problem solving, and more.  Are you into it?