4-H youth develop skills that help them succeed

Explore how to implement the fifth 4-H guiding principle in 4-H clubs and communities.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development has seven guiding principle for positive youth development. This is the fifth installment in a series that explores each of those guiding principles.

The fifth Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles for Positive Youth Development is, “Youth develop skills that help them succeed.

This principle ties in closely with the 4-H slogan, “Learn by doing.” I think this is the principle that most 4-H leaders, parents, volunteers and members “get.” A big part of 4-H involves working on projects and improving on the skills required to complete that project. Whether it is showing an animal, taking a picture or leading a group, 4-H provides countless opportunities to try new things.

One big part of knowing whether the youth in your club are gaining skills is to have them practice during club meetings. Are the projects just done for the fair, or are they done year round?

Evaluation by a caring adult is very beneficial in helping young people grow. Consider bringing in an outside person who is familiar with the topic area to evaluate the youth at a time other than the fair. It could be a relative from another county, a person from church or just an old friend.

Youth can also learn by evaluating each other. Often, we see others mistakes, but not our own. If you do this, it is often helpful to have the youth alternate between positive reinforcement and constructive criticism.

It is also helpful if youth set skill building goals and try to achieve them. Goals should be SMART:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Realistic
  • Timely

Winning every event at the fair is not realistic; a better goal might be, “Knowing all the parts of my animal by fair time.”

“Getting better at photography” is not specific or timely; a better goal would be, “Taking pictures at my brother’s birthday party so faces are always lit properly.”

How do you know if your 4-H member has mastered a skill? Even though there is always room for improvement, particularly at shows, there are other ways to measure a level of mastery in a particular area. Some fairs or shows incorporate a written skill test as part of the competition. This can allow for a member to demonstrate mastery without competing against anyone except themselves.

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