Character development: 4-H'ers gain character education when participating in livestock projects

Learn how character fits in with showing and fitting animals under the CHARACTER COUNTS! education program.

Michigan 4-H offers many opportunities for youth to choose and learn from a variety of projects. 4-H projects build life skills: when youth start out in a 4-H project, they may only have an interest in learning about specific topics. In reality, the learn not only about the project’s subject matter, but they also develop valuable character traits. Character development is an important part of every 4-H project.

This time of year, many youth are starting to select and learn about animal projects to show at the county fair or other events for the summer. 4-H animal projects offer a number of ways for young people to build character. As exhibitors learn to fit and show their animals, they are also learning how to develop themselves.

The Josephson Institute Center for Youth Ethics identifies six pillars of character in their CHARACTER COUNTS! education program; they are trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship. This article will focus on fairness.

You want to be fair by playing by the rules. If there are guidelines to follow when selecting an animal, being fair includes following them. It’s not the size of the animal that helps youth develop character – youth can learn about and develop their character whether they have a rabbit or a horse project. 4-H volunteer leaders recognize that a young child might need help in the show ring, but as the child grows older, he will be capable of doing the work on his own; this independence helps build character.

Taking turns with others in your club and sharing your ideas or suggestions are also part of being fair. If you learn a specific way to fit and show your animal, then work with others in your club and share this information. Listen to others and hear what they are saying and feeling. Try to understand what they mean. In showing livestock, we need to follow the same rules for everyone. Volunteers, leaders, parents and staff ask yourself, “Do we treat everyone the same?” “Do we treat all fairly?” “Does someone have an unfair advantage?” This is where the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” fits the best of all the six pillars.

Michigan 4-H livestock projects allow youth to learn about livestock and agricultural.  Livestock projects also provide young people with opportunities to learn good character principles and practice fairness.

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