Building and practicing life skills in a 4-H club setting: Relating

4-H clubs provide an important learning experience for youth to build and practice life skills. Learn how 4-H club leaders can help youth gain skills in the “relating” life skills category.

4-H programs provide youth ages 5-19 a structured out-of-school experience where they can explore a variety of interest areas through hands-on learning. 4-H members gain leadership, citizenship and life skills through their involvement. Many of the learning experiences provided in 4-H are centered around 4-H projects—the specific interest areas of the youth whether it be animals, science, arts, culture or any of the other topics offered through 4-H. One important learning environment that is often overlooked is the 4-H club experience. This series of articles will utilize the Targeting Life Skills Model to explore how 4-H clubs can integrate learning experiences that promote life skill development into 4-H club culture.

This article will focus on the life skills category of “Relating.” The life skills identified under relating include Accepting Differences, Conflict Resolution, Social Skills, Cooperation and Communication. Following are examples of activities or experiences that 4-H clubs could implement to promote development of relating life skills.

Exchange Opportunities

One of Michigan 4-H’s Guiding Principles is that “Youth recognize, understand, and appreciate multiculturalism”. A great way to carry out this goal is to provide opportunities for youth to meet and get to know others who are different from them. This can be done at any level—within the club, with others in the same county or state, through interstate or even international exchanges. Although youth may gain a greater understanding of others through meeting in person, there are a variety of other avenues that may be more cost-effective and less intense planning for groups just starting out. 4-H clubs could consider “meeting” other groups via letters, email or video messaging.

Club Newsletter and Reports from Project Meetings, County Councils, or Committees

An imperative aspect of relating is communication amongst and between members. Communication builds trust and thus, in turn, a stronger connection among members. A club newsletter is one avenue that can increase or improve club communication. The newsletter may take on many forms—printed publication that is mailed or handed out at meetings, an e-newsletter, website or social media site that all members are able to access. Whichever form of communication the club choses, it is important that they use it consistently and update it regularly. Ideally, future meeting dates would be published at least a month in advance so members can plan to attend. Club communications may also include reports from project meetings and county councils or committee meetings that have been attended by a member of the club. This will ensure club members are able to stay apprised of information that may affect their project areas and provide appropriate feedback.

Club Picnic

Informal events offer a fantastic opportunity for 4-H members to interact and get to know each other without feeling pressure of an official setting. Planning a social event as a club can be an exercise in cooperation, and participating in the event will allow youth a chance to build social skills. Fun events may build friendship and comraderies among members, which can help alleviate tensions in future situations if members are in a situation where they disagree on an issue within the club.

Role Playing

Role play can be a powerful teaching technique to use in your club setting. Not only does it encourage youth to retain what they learn through hearing, seeing, saying and doing; it also encourages them to consider situations from various perspectives that may differ from their own. Role play can be used to model or reinforce positive social behavior. It may be used to practice how to handle difficult situations a youth may encounter such as acting out scenarios to learn safety risks or appropriate sportsmanship in a competitive activity. Role play can prepare youth to respond positively when facing a new challenge.

Life skills development can be accomplished through nearly every 4-H experience. 4-H club leaders play an important role in helping guide the members of the club through the learning process. The Experiential Learning Model provides leaders with a process for helping members make the connections between the learning experience, the knowledge and skills gained, and relevance of the life skills in their future. Many of the 4-H curriculums and resources available to clubs will provide questions and discussion topics for sharing, processing, generalizing and applying that club leaders can facilitate with their 4-H club members. More information on teaching Life Skills can be found at the Michigan State University Extension Bookstore.

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