Starting the 4-H season off right: Suggestions for the year’s first meeting

This article will offer suggestions to make youth members, club leaders and parents alike excited to spring into action with their 4-H club!

Despite what the weather might currently be doing outside, it is time to start thinking about warmer days, county fairs, community projects, and all the other educational, inspirational, and recreational activities of Michigan 4-H Youth Development Programs! No matter what project youth are participating in, animal science, arts, environmental and outdoor education, food, health, and well-being, global and cultural education, or one of the many other programs offered through 4-H, it is important to start the year off right!

Michigan State University Extension has resources to evaluate the effectiveness of club meetings by using a 4-H club meeting scorecard, a checklist for success, and a vibrant club assessment, but what about that first meeting of the year? This article will offer suggestions to make youth members, club leaders, and parents alike are excited to spring into action with their 4-H club! 

Get to know youth and adults!

Clubs transition from year to year with new members who have never been in 4-H or youth trying a new project area, as well as members that leave for various reasons. Many club members may attend the same school, but could be in different grades, or there could be youth from several different schools enrolled in one club. The same is true of parents and club leaders – new adults become involved as others conclude their club involvement.

During the first meeting of the year, make sure everyone knows each other with a fun icebreaker activity. These get-to-know you games are fun and can be used with youth, adults or both. There are several different categories of icebreakers to be tried:

Pick one or two that will work best with the group and time you have for the meeting, and learn new and exciting things about everyone in the club!

Prepare a list of activities for the year

The 4-H year goes fast and there is a lot to do in a short period of time. Preparing a list of club activities for meetings is important to ensure youth are learning the life and technical skills of their 4-H project area. This will also help club leaders make sure supplies needed for various activities are ready for meetings ahead of time, avoiding the last minute rush for materials or the question of “What are we doing at this meeting?”

An example list of club activities for the year might include:

  • Field trip to somewhere related to the project area (e.g., a local dairy farm, a high school play, a museum, state park, botanical garden, etc.)
  • Quiz Bowl or Skill-a-thon competition
  • Senior club members presenting information to younger members
  • Skills clinics (e.g., showmanship, grooming animals for fair, how-to for art projects, cooking demonstrations, etc.)
  • Meeting with a professional in the project area (e.g., a veterinarian, orchestra member, personal trainer, park ranger, Extension specialist etc.)
  • Interactive lesson plans (e.g. Animal Science Anywhere, 4-H Backpack to Adventure, Seeds, Weeds, and Garden Reads, etc.)
  • Preparing for the county fair
  • Community service project
  • Year-in-review with club member stories, pictures, posters, etc. of their favorite activities

The possibilities are endless! Some of these ideas may take place over multiple meetings or be repeated with different topics, like trying several different lesson plans. Asking club members for suggestions is another great way to fill the schedule of events and have at least one activity everyone is really excited about.

Create a calendar

Once you have your activities picked out, it’s time to plan when and where it will all happen! Parents will certainly play a large role in these decisions to ensure youth can attend as many events as possible. Some events, like a county fair, cannot be changed, so schedule events to help prepare for this accordingly. For example, having a showmanship clinic before the fair will be much more beneficial than after!

Other activities will be much more flexible and can happen whenever it works best for the whole group. Setting-up tentative dates will help everyone plan ahead, but always make sure to confirm club meeting dates and times at least a week before the activity.

It will be helpful to have several activities that can be changed or modified, as plans do not always work out exactly as anticipated. For example, if a big thunderstorm happens the day a state park visited was scheduled, a new lesson plan can be covered inside instead.

Ready to go!

These tips, along with knowing the club and what has worked before, will help ensure your 4-H club springs into action on the right foot for 2014!

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