Michigan 4-H launches improved 4-H SPARK Survey

The Michigan 4-H SPARK Survey was developed by 4-H staff to connect youth with 4-H programming. It is an assessment to help youth gauge their interests by answering a few questions and referring them to programs of interest.

Youth sitting at a computer.

Are you a youth looking for a way to get involved with the Michigan 4-H Youth Development Program? Or are you a caring adult who works with youth? Do you know what 4-H has to offer? Do you know how your personal interests connect to 4-H programs? The Michigan 4-H SPARK Survey is a great tool to help you get started. 

The Michigan 4-H SPARK Survey was developed by Michigan 4-H staff to create another venue for youth to connect with local programming and become long-term 4-H members. It is an assessment to help youth gauge their interests by answering a few questions. The individual results are provided immediately and provide information on a variety of programs they will enjoy. 

The initial goal for this tool was to help youth in 4-H clubs, SPIN (SPecial INterest) clubs and those not yet connected to 4-H to identify the interests, skills and talents that ignite direction and purpose in their lives, also known as SPARKS. Discovering their SPARKS helps youth explore the types of 4-H projects they would be most passionate about and begin tapping into resources related to those projects. Michigan State University Extension and Michigan 4-H Youth Development help youth discover their SPARKS by providing educational experiences and resources that help youth develop knowledge and skills in a wide variety of projects.

The SPARK Survey was launched in October 2022. Since then, some 4-H staff have utilized the survey as a part of programming, but most of the traffic has come from readers of the Michigan 4-H newsletter and visitors to the Michigan 4-H Youth Development website. Approximately 1,300 youth participated in Phase 1 of the survey. The most popular activities youth selected were working with animals, gardening, learning to identify plants and animals, fishing and hiking, and learning new ways to cook. 

The results read like a Buzzfeed survey or a magazine quiz, providing insight into individual interests and personality traits. There are links to the Michigan 4-H programs pages related to each category, so youth can immediately discover programs and projects 4-H offers that empower them to grow in their passions. 

The survey encourages youth to reach out to the county 4-H program coordinator at their local Michigan State University Extension office to find out about getting involved with 4-H. If they are already 4-H members, youth can also express their desire to get involved in 4-H programs in the specific project areas.

Phase 2 of the survey has been adjusted to help Michigan 4-H staff meet the needs of youth taking the survey. By now asking for a youth’s age and what county they live in, 4-H staff can be empowered to see where there may be gaps in local programming so they can make adjustments and serve additional youth. 

Phase 2 was successfully launched on February 1. It is open to all Michigan youth who are seeking to have a deeper connection to their 4-H projects or explore getting involved in 4-H. If a youth took the survey prior to February 1, they are encouraged to retake it. Young people grow quickly and their interests change as a result. New 4-H opportunities are also popping up in counties all the time, so learn what is new in your area!

As youth become 4-H members, the concept of “SPARK” is designed to assist youth in meeting the goals from the 4-H Thriving Model of 4-H Youth Development. Caring adults can help support this by encouraging youth to take this survey and give them an opportunity to become members of Michigan 4-H Youth Development. Caring adults are important in helping youth identify their sparks and seeing them thrive. This survey can assist adults in learning what SPARKS exist for youth in their community.For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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