Set youth up for success in completing their project record books

Looking at 4-H record books in a different way may help youth change their feelings about completing them and enhance their learning.

Every year, 4-H leaders pass out animal science 4-H record books with dread. It is one more thing to do. I, too, was there once. As a youth, I thought completing my project record books was the most boring, pointless thing I could spend my time on. I was the queen of record book procrastination.

Now, reflecting back on those project record books my 4-H leaders made me do, I find significant value in them. Sometimes we never see the value in experiences until they have passed. After all, record books helps prepare youth for their futures when they have to keep records for work, personal taxes and maybe even for their own businesses. Perhaps, shifting the conversation and our approach to record books could help youth see them through a different lens.

Here are some tips in helping youth complete their record books:

  • Start simple. Oftentimes, we hand families the record book and say “go, do good work” and it feels overwhelming. Take the time during club meetings to introduce the topic of record books as a lesson. Teach youth what the important things are to keep track of and what strategies they can use to be successful.
  • Make them fun and interactive. Encourage youth to complete them over time instead of at the last possible minute, pulling receipts from the trusty old shoebox that served as the collection point. During your club meetings, do a group check-in so youth can share what they are learning—share successes and failures. We learn from both.
  • Relate. If youth can see a benefit to keeping accurate records, they will be more likely to keep them.
  • Reflect. At the end of each project year, 4-H leaders should guide youth through a reflection of their project record book so they can see areas where they may improve on their record-keeping skills or their project management skills. We oftentimes forget about this step and it may be the most critical.

Learning how to keep and learn from records is a very valuable life skill. 4-H projects offer the perfect opportunity to help youth build that skill they will need in adulthood in a meaningful way.

To learn more about Michigan 4-H Animal Science Programs, please visit Michigan State University Extension’s Animal Science page.

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