Responsibility: 100 years and growing

4-H animal science projects still prepare children and youth for the future.

Most practices over 100 years old are considered old-fashioned and outdated.  While we may appreciate them for their historic perspective, we seldom consider anything that is incredibley old to be relevant and useful today.  However Michigan State University Extension would dare you to tell that to the thousands of 4-H youth that raise, care for and show their animals at county fairs across Michigan.  Just as the generations before them, 4-H youth put months of time, care and learning into their animal projects and come to fairs to show their animals and test their knowledge and skills.  Through this 100 year old practice of raising and showing animals in 4-H, today’s youth are still learning vital life skills that help them grow into successful adults. 

One of the life skills youth developed through 4-H animal science projects is responsibility.  Being responsible can be defined as:  liable to be called to account as the primary cause, motive or agent; one who is in control and trustworthy.  Owning and caring for an animal does take a great deal of responsibility.  Youth are accountable for making sure the animal is fed, watered, sheltered and healthy.  It is up to the young person to keep the animals needs in mind and carry out all the tasks necessary to keep the animal in good care and condition.  The animal is dependent upon his owner.  If the owner does not get up early in the morning to provide food to the animal, it goes hungry.  There is a large sense of selflessness involved in learning and practicing responsibility.  4-H animal science projects are an excellent and safe way to demonstrate to youth what responsibility means.  4-H adult and teen leaders work closely with youth to help them learn and grow.  While it may be a young 4-Hers responsibility to care for his or her animal, part of learning is to fail.  In this safe environment, youth can learn from their mistakes while 4-H leaders will help support the young person and their animal while modeling responsibility.  At times responsibility may feel burdensome, but instilling this value in youth will not only make them better 4-Hers, it will also make them better people.

Today’s youth face a future that requires a different set of knowledge and skills than the youth 100 years before them.  However, developing a culture of responsibility in young people remains just as important today as it did to our grandfather’s and grandmother’s generation. 4-H animal science projects provide great experiences and life skills that help young people practice and appreciate responsibility, and so much more.

To learn more about Michigan 4-H animal projects or life skills, like responsibility, contact the 4-H staff person in your county.

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