Cloverbud programs set the stage for success – Part 2

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

As explained in part one of this article series, the Cloverbuds program goal is to promote healthy development in children by enhancing life skills such as social-interaction, self esteem, making choices and learning. Scott Scheer, Extension specialist from 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 will expound on the first two parameters Scheer outlined for successful Cloverbud programming: activity-based experiences and programs that are cooperative-learning centered.

Children within the Cloverbud age range of 5 to 8 years-old have relatively short attention spans. This is especially true when there are distractions around them. Activity-based experiences, also referred to as hands-on learning, can engage youth in learning activities where they can explore a topic, ask questions and have fun. These activities should be kept to 20 minutes or less to hold the youth’s attention.

Some ideas that 4-H Club leaders can use for this age group in animal science programs are:

  • Animal puzzles
    Simply take a picture of the specie, laminate it if you wish, cut it into pieces of various shapes and sizes, and allow the youth to re-construct the original picture. This activity is more suited for a 5-year-old age group.
  • Tool identification
    Collect common tools used with a certain species and explain what each tool is used for, how to use it correctly and safely, and then allow youth to handle each piece and possibly use it. One potential use could be an ear tagger. Leaders can make cardboard or paper ears and allow youth to “ear tag” the cut out.
  • Animal anatomy identification
    Utilizing The Ohio State Learning Lab Kits, have youth match up the right animal part on the diagram. You can check with your local Michigan State University (MSU) Extension office for availability of the kits in your area or order them online.

It is important that youth are exposed to a variety of short-term experiences that will help them learn life skills. Activity based learning, or hands-on learning, is an effective strategy to engage youth in the educational process.

Secondly, having the activities be cooperative-learning centered is also extremely beneficial to youth ages 5 to 8. This means that activities should be done in small groups or teams as opposed to individually. In more than 600 studies conducted during a 90-year period, it has been proven that cooperative learning produces higher achievement, increases social skills through building positive relationships with others and provides youth a healthier self-esteem than competitive or individual programs.

The next article in this series will focus on non-competitive activities and activities that are developmentally age appropriate.

To learn more about Michigan 4-H Animal Science Programs, please visit the Michigan 4-H website.

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