Cloverbud programs set the stage for success – Part 3

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 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, develops social skills through positive relationships and allows a healthier avenue to increase self-esteem in young people than individual programs.

The rationale behind providing non-competitive activities for youth aged 5 to 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.

Tying into youth developing their self-concept, we must recognize that youth aged 5 to 8 years are limited in what they can physically do, mentally understand, emotionally comprehend and how they interact in socially. These limits exist because youth are still in the process of developing physically, mentally, emotionally and socially. Children in the 5 to 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 for volunteers in working with this age range of youth 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
  • Sort and categorize 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 University of Arizona’s publication “Ages and Stages of Youth Development: A Guide for 4-H Leaders.”

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