Building and practicing life skills in a 4-H club setting: Managing

4-H clubs provide an important learning experience for youth to build and practice life skills. Learn how 4-H club leaders can help youth gain skills in the managing life skills category.

4-H programs provide youth ages 5-19 a structured out-of-school experience where they can explore a variety of interest areas through hands-on learning. 4-H members gain leadership, citizenship and life skills through their involvement. Many of the learning experiences provided in 4-H are centered around 4-H projects—the specific interest areas of the youth whether it be animals, science, arts, culture or any of the other topics offered through 4-H. One important learning environment that is often overlooked is the 4-H club experience. This series of articles will utilize the Targeting Life Skills Model to explore how 4-H clubs can integrate learning experiences that promote life skill development into 4-H club culture.

This article will focus on the life skills category of managing. The life skills identified under managing include resiliency, keeping records, wise use of resources, planning/organizing and goal setting. The following are examples of activities or experiences Michigan State University Extension recommends that 4-H clubs implement to promote development of managing life skills.

End of year trip
To celebrate a successful 4-H club year, 4-H members may find it fun to plan an end of the year trip for the club. A club trip could include going to a sporting event, going to an amusement park, visiting another city or some other recreational activity. Some clubs may choose to make this opportunity a “reward” for members, which requires the member to accomplish certain tasks, outlined at the beginning of the year and contribute to the success of the club throughout the year. Thus the event can encourage goal setting as a group as well as at an individual level. If a club chooses to pursue a trip, the planning responsibilities should be assigned to the youth. Parents and leaders should provide support and guidance in the planning process, but should not take any of the planning responsibilities away from the youth members—the process of planning an activity is an educational experience in itself for the youth. The club may decide that assigning a volunteer as an activity leader to work with the youth planning the trip will ensure youth have the opportunity to develop the anticipated life skills throughout the planning process.

4-H club budget
Creating a budget for the 4-H club is a great opportunity to teach youth financial education. Creating a club budget at the beginning of the club year will require members to plan ahead for the year to determine expected expenses.  It also teaches them to plan how to raise funds necessary to support the activities and goals of the group throughout the year. Reconciling the club’s budget to the club’s treasury at each meeting will help instill the importance of keeping accurate records. Discussions about club expenses can be framed during the budget creation process and at club meetings throughout the year around the resources available to complete projects or activities and the opportunity cost of expending the resources. This article by MSU Extension can help 4-H clubs begin the process of creating an annual budget.

Club officers and committees
Reports from each officer and committee during the 4-H club meeting are a great way to what is happening. It also teaches record keeping to track and report its progress since the previous meeting as well as plan out actions to carry out before the following meeting, including roles which will involve other members of the club. Frequent reporting also ensures the club stays on track to meet its goals for the club year and takes corrective action if necessary if progress on the goals is delayed. The book “Helping you Help Officers and Committees” can provide additional suggestions for working with 4-H youth leaders.

4-H history
Your club may choose to elect a club historian in addition to other officers to help collect and record the story of your group. Club history can be preserved in a number of ways including photographs, videos, narrations of individual 4-H experiences, artifacts such as banners or awards, copies of member project report forms, or documents such as club calendar, newsletter or roster. The Michigan 4-H History Project is a resource that will provide instructions for interviewing 4-H members to gather information. The club historian may encourage or help members record their personal 4-H achievements to compare with their goals for the 4-H year.

Life skills development can be accomplished through nearly every 4-H experience. 4-H club leaders play an important role in helping guide the members of the club through the learning process. The Experiential Learning Model provides leaders with a process for helping members make the connections between the learning experience, the knowledge and skills gained, and relevance of the life skills in their future. Many of the 4-H curriculums and resources available to clubs will provide questions and discussion topics for sharing, processing, generalizing and applying that club leaders can facilitate with their 4-H club members. More information on teaching Life Skills can be found at the MSU Extension Bookstore.

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