What is the 4-H Thriving Model?

Learn more about the 4-H Thriving Model and how you can create 4-H meetings and activities that help youth thrive.

A flower growing out the ground as a graph. The bottom, the soil, is the developmental context (4-H programs with sparks, belonging, relationships and engagement). The stem is youth thriving (social, emotional and cognitive learning with growth mindset, openness to challenge and discovery, hopeful purpose, prosocial orientation, transcendent awareness, positive emotions and goal setting and management). The leaves are developmental outcomes or positive youth development with positive academic attitude, social competence, personal standards, connection with others, personal responsibility and contribution. The top, the flower, are long-term outcomes with academic and vocational success, civic engagement, employability and economic stability and happiness and wellbeing.
The 4-H Thriving Model.

Positive Youth Development (PYD) is the groundwork for the 4-H program. Through PYD practices, 4-H works to better engage youth, help them feel a sense of belonging, and build relationships that last a lifetime. Michigan 4-H, the youth development program of Michigan State University Extension, has always provided opportunities to meet the needs of Michigan’s youth. Recently, the 4-H Thriving Model has been developed. This model will help Michigan 4-H show how it is meeting the needs of today’s youth and truly helping them thrive.

The 4-H Thriving Model is the theory of change for PYD in 4-H. The model illustrates the process of PYD in 4-H programs by connecting high-quality program settings to the promotion of youth thriving. The model was developed by the 4-H Program Leaders Working Group on PYD.

4-H already takes the approach that all youth have interests, abilities and strengths that can become stronger through participation in 4-H programs. The 4-H Thriving Model is a road map for staff and volunteers to help enhance the sparks that they see in youth to help them truly thrive. Just participating in 4-H does not ensure that youth will thrive. Research shows it is quality youth programming that will truly help youth thrive. In her article, “From Context to Outcomes: A Thriving Model for 4-H Youth Development Programs” in the Journal of Human Sciences & Extension, Dr. Mary Arnold states the qualities needed include the program having a goal of promoting PYD; a positive program atmosphere that fosters hope and facilitates youth agency; and activities that allow youth to explore their interests, build skills and experience leadership.

4-H volunteers can make a difference in the lives of 4-H members. In his book, “Sparks: How parents can ignite the hidden strengths of teenagers”, Dr. Peter Benson says that when sparks are illuminated and nurtured, they give young people joy, energy and direction. They have the power to change a young person’s life from one of “surviving” to “thriving.” As a volunteer, you can help identify sparks and encourage youth to grow that spark into something more. Watch for more articles about the 4-H Thriving Model and how we can ensure that Michigan 4-H is providing high-quality programming through high-quality volunteers and staff.

Learn more about the 4-H Thriving Model on the 4-H Program Leaders Working Group on PYD website. For more information about joining 4-H visit the MSU Extension 4-H website.

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