Tools for teaching life skills

One of the most valuable outcomes of joining a 4-H club is learning life skills that will help youth become successful adults. This article looks at what life skills youth learn and tools available to help teach these skills.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development offers many learning opportunities for youth. 4-H categorizes the topics available for learning into project areas, such as annual science, healthy living and citizenship. Through project work, 4-H members learn life skills which are an important part of youth development.

No matter what project area youth choose to learn about in the 4-H youth program, valuable life skills are taught. Life skills are taught and then built upon as youth progress in the 4-H club and the projects they are learning.

Using the Iowa State University Extension 4-H Targeting Life Skills Model can help youth relate learned life skills to the head, heart, hands and health which make up the 4-H clover. Under the section of the head, the life skills developed fall into two categories: thinking and managing. For the heart section, life skills are categorized under relating and caring. The hands quadrant breaks into working and giving, and the health area categories are being and living.

The Targeting Life Skills Model is a simple way to look at youth development. Starting in the center of the diagram is the 4-H clover showing head, heart, hands, and health. The next ring moving out from the center are the eight categories as listed above. For example, under the health section the categories are living and being. The next level moving out from the center identifies the specific life skills that youth will learn related to the 4-H element and subcategories. Some of the life skills youth can learn and develop include stress management, managing feelings and self-responsibility. These life skills can each be further defined; for example, self-responsibility means youth can learn to be personally accountable, capable of making moral and rational decisions, and learn to use good judgement.

Each life skill can be taught to youth in any age range. When teaching life skills, you should adapt the lesson to the youth’s age and ability level.

Michigan State University Extension’s Academic Success Life Skills work group has defined Michigan 4-H project areas into 13 broad topics. The work group has developed fact sheets to help volunteers who work with youth in these project areas to identify and learn life skills related to their project area. In addition, the work group has developed training materials available in 30-minute, 60-minute and 90-minute presentations on life skills. The fact sheets and the training DVDs are available through the MSU Extension Bookstore. The fact sheets and training provide activities and questions broken down in age groups for volunteer leaders to use.

The work group also developed another useful tool to help teach life skills – the life skill wheel display. The display is a large, interactive replication of the Targeting Life Skills Model that can be used at meetings or events. A grant was written by the work group to purchase life skill wheels to be used around the state. Training can be held in counties using the life skill wheel.

For further information on joining 4-H or learning about life skills, please contact your local MSU Extension office.

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