Fairs are a great way to learn about leadership

Michigan 4-H youth develop leadership skills through participation in county fairs.

Many families around Michigan will visit a county fair this summer. This is a great opportunity to learn about various projects that Michigan 4-H members participate in year-round! Not only do youth learn about a specific project, such as chickens or goats or photography, they also learn valuable life skills, such as goal-setting, critical thinking, problem-solving and communication. Many youth are also fine-tuning their leadership skills in this experiential learning showcase.

Leadership skills can take many different forms throughout a young 4-H member’s career. Some youth will take on formal officer roles in their clubs, such as president or treasurer. These participants are learning how to organize meetings, finances and goals for the club. They figure out how to listen to the concerns of all members and conduct meaningful discussions. They often lead their clubs in community service projects related to their areas of interest.

Other youth will take on more informal roles, such as mentoring younger members as they learn showmanship skills. These teen leaders are both cementing their own understanding of a project, as well as learning valuable lessons about helping others and communicating ideas.

During fair, public speaking skills are critical as young leaders learn how to convey their thoughts during interviews, present their knowledge during demonstrations and educate the public about their projects. Many 4-H youth will gain confidence and poise through these experiences at summer fairs, which they will later use in their college classes or job interviews.

A number of 4-H members are also learning how to take on leadership roles in their communities. Clubs use service projects to address community needs and individual youth take leadership on issues of local importance. Michigan 4-H’ers believe in taking responsibility for positive change; they are developing organizational skills, becoming decision makers and growing into responsible citizens as they work to make their communities better.

If your summer plans include touring the exhibits at your local fair, think about interacting with some of the youth you encounter. Ask them questions about what they have learned, but also about their life and leadership skills. You may just be surprised by the “Revolution of Responsibility” you will learn about!

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