Explore the 4-H Guiding Principles with youth

Creating ways for youth to learn and practice the Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles will lead to greater growth and success in their 4-H involvement.

Thumbnail image of the 4-H Guiding Principles document.

The Michigan 4-H Youth Development Program has seven guiding principles for positive youth development that help us create an environment where youth and adults can learn and grow in a positive way.  The principles support volunteer leaders and parents in understanding how Michigan 4-H programs are developed.

Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles:

  1. Youth develop positive relationships with adults and peers.
  2. Youth are physically and emotionally safe.
  3. Youth are actively engaged in their own development.
  4. Youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process.
  5. Youth develop skills that help them succeed.
  6. Youth recognize, understand and appreciate multiculturalism.
  7. Youth grow and contribute as active citizens through service and leadership.

Young people will be more interested and active learners if they plan and develop activities around these guiding principles. One of the first steps a club could take is to incorporate the guiding principles in their meetings. Help youth get comfortable with the words and discuss what each principle means. A simple activity exploring the seven guiding principles could also help build understanding. A large sign can be made of each principle. At a club meeting, give the members an opportunity to write a single descriptive word on the principle sign. Focus on one principle at a time at each meeting.  Debrief after everyone participates about what that principle means, and the descriptive words used.

After all principles have been discussed at a meeting, a review activity could be done to reinforce what was learned. Create seven groups and have each group come up with a short skit that demonstrates that principle. They could use props or adults to help. This is a fun way for them to reinforce and understand what they mean.

After all the principles are reviewed and discussed, it is important to revisit these guiding principles once a year. This process can help new families understand what it means to be part of a 4-H program. A repeat or review of the activity could be done. Another quick and easy way to remind the group of the guiding principles is to have youth share one of the principles at each meeting and mention a few concepts that are connected to that principle.

For more articles and information about the seven guiding principles, visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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