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4-H youth complete community service projects to help communities

Youth in 4-H plan and conduct community service projects to benefit the community, country and world.

4-H club sewing pillow cases
4-H club sewing pillow cases for children in the hospital. Photo by D’Ann Rohrer, MSU Extension.

4-H has a rich history of completing projects to benefit the community. The 4-H pledge includes, “I pledge my hands to larger service for my club, my community, my country and my world.” Through 4-H, young people have the opportunity to design their own service learning based upon what they see is a need in their community. After pinpointing the need, 4-H’ers create a solution to that need, whether it is sewing pajamas for a local shelter or conducting a food drive for the local food bank.

Besides meeting the needs of the community, 4-H’ers are learning valuable skills about designing a project and following it through to completion. In this way, 4-H community service projects are good examples of the Experiential Learning Model. The model’s five steps are listed below and discussed in detail in “Implementing the Experiential Learning Model in 4-H programming by Jodi Schultz, Michigan State University Extension educator. Her article lists the five specific steps:

  • Experience – Youth do an activity.
  • Share – Youth describe their experience. Often we can use the five senses to elaborate on the experience.
  • Process – Youth relate the experience to life skills, goals and objectives.
  • Generalize – Youth make a connection between their experience and the world around them, they create relationships, find similarities and differences.
  • Apply – Youth apply what they learned throughout the experience to other situations or experiences in their lives; often this is described by using identified life skills.

The National 4-H website states that “4‑H members contribute hundreds of thousands of hours back to their community every year. Service is a hallmark of all 4‑H programs, teaching youth about the importance of giving back, improving our communities and developing innovative solutions to solve problems, large or small. 4‑H’ers learn skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, community engagement and build a sense of compassion, confidence and pride.”

The three program areas in 4-H civic engagement include leadership and personal development, community action and communication and expressive arts. On many different levels, 4-H community service projects help communities and provide valuable skills to youth in conducting programs and gaining a sense of community.

To learn about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth leadership, citizenship and service and global and cultural education programs, read our impact reports.

Other global educational opportunities including the Michigan 4-H China Art Project can be found on the MSU Extension global and cultural education website. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your county MSU Extension office.

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