Cloverbud programs Part 3: Providing a solid foundation for youth animal science programs

Cloverbud programs should include activity based experiences and be cooperative learning centered.

The Cloverbud program’s goal is to promote healthy development in children by enhancing life skills such as social interaction, self-esteem, making choices and learning to learn. Scott Scheer, Extension Specialist at The Ohio State University, has effectively outlined ten parameters for successful Cloverbud programs in Ohio. Because of program differences between states, nine of those parameters are extremely applicable in Michigan 4-H programs. This article by Michigan State University Extension will expound on the second two parameters Scheer outlined for successful Cloverbud programming -- non-competitive learning opportunities and developmentally age appropriate activities.

Non-competitive activities and cooperative learning are two concepts that are directly related to one another. As you may recall, cooperative learning is done in small groups and is highly effective in producing higher achievement, developing social skills through positive relationships and allowing a healthier avenue to increase self-esteem in young people than individual programs. The rationale behind providing non-competitive activities for youth aged 5-8 years is that competition is almost always connected to an external award or approval. Youth may relate negative feelings to their self-worth and identity when “winning” and “losing” is merged into the activity.  Children in competitive settings, whether they win or lose, naturally begin to define themselves by those wins and losses which builds a weak foundation for developing their own self-concepts. Numerous research studies have shown that children participating in non-competitive environments are more likely to develop confidence, creativity and competence than children in competitive situations.

According to the Journal of Extension article Parents' Perceptions of Life Skills Development in the 4-H Cloverbud Program, parents felt that the skills learned went beyond 4-H; they are skills that are carried over into future situations and are "what the child is going to need to succeed in life." These basic skills will help youth transition into a competitive environment with less stress.

Tying into youth developing their self-concept, we must recognize that youth aged 5-8 years are limited in what they can physically do, mentally understand, emotionally comprehend and how they interact socially. These limits exist because youth are still in the process of developing physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Children in the 5-8 year old age range have trouble controlling their bodies, limited hand-eye coordination, slower reaction time and shorter endurance, so volunteers must plan activities accordingly to compensate for those physical limitations. Additionally, children may have challenges socially and emotionally with taking turns, sharing, their attention span, accepting criticism and thinking logically. Some tips MSU Extension has for volunteers in working with youth aged 5-8 are:

  • Demonstrate the activity first; youth in this age range are very concrete thinkers; they may have to hear it, see it and do it to understand an activity.
  • Sorting and categorizing items into groups to show similarities and differences.
  • Activities should not require fine motor skills.

For more information about developmental ages and stages, visit the Missouri 4-H Youth Development Programs publication “Ages and Stages of Youth Development”. For information specific to Michigan 4-H, visit the website to learn more.

The next article in this series will focus on activities that help children aged 5-8 build the “self-care” life skill.

Other articles in this series:

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