Reflecting on your fair experience

Showing animals at the fair is one of the most memorable summer youth experiences. Taking time to look back and evaluate the experience allows for optimum learning and self-improvement.

Reflecting on your fair experience will help learning come full circle. Photo credit: Steve Thelen | MSU Extension
Reflecting on your fair experience will help learning come full circle. Photo credit: Steve Thelen | MSU Extension

After you have caught up on sleep and unpacked the show day supplies, it’s time to take a breath and reflect on your fair experience. Hopefully there were some things that went really well and great efforts were made to reach your goals.  There may also be things that didn’t work very well or challenges that you were not able to overcome. Now is the time to think through those items and make changes necessary to help you in future years.

Evaluating your experience and setting goals for 2015 can easily be done now. The following questions should help you reflect on your fair experience and make the most of your 2015 project year:

  1.  What went well? If you showed a market animal, hopefully it weighed in at the correct weight and the animal behaved the way you had practiced at home. Even if the class did not turn out how you had planned, congratulate yourself on making it through a fair optimistically without injuries and meeting a few new friends.
  2. What could you have done differently? What adjustments should you make, either at the fair or at home? If an animal got sick while at the fair, think through what you could do to prevent the illness or concern in the future. This may be a great time to consult your veterinarian and continue to build your veterinarian/patient/client relationship.  Another aspect to review is your preparation efforts leading up to the fair and the facilities you used at home. Did you practice training the animal enough ahead of time? Is the pen system you used still working? What infrastructure improvements can and should be made to prepare for the 2015 projects?
  3. What did the judge say? When you exhibited your animals, it is likely an expert was brought in to evaluate your project. Whether or not you agree with the decisions made by the judge, you can still learn a lot from what they said. For example, if the judge mentioned something about needing to be more “structurally sound,” that means there was a concern about skeletal structure of the animal. To learn more about what the judge's comment meant, visit the What does the judge really mean? news article.
  4. Did all the rules make sense? Review your fair rules. Are there things that could be tweaked to make the event more educational? Are there items in the fair book that are no longer relevant? It is important to get involved and be proactive in decisions that will impact you and other youth now, so that if a change needs to be made, it can be done before the fair book goes to print (or is put online). Just complaining about something doesn’t do any good; lend a hand and get involved as much as you can with your local events.
  5. What do you really know about your animal project? Did the judge ask you questions? Did you know the correct answer? You have until the next fair or event to continue to learn about your project and be prepared for whatever questions the judge may or may not ask. Knowing about your animal species, your individual animal and the industry it is a part of is important in being an educated producer and consumer. Michigan State University Extension provides numerous resources including Animal Science Anywhere lessons that can aid in learning more about your project.
  6. Who helped you to get to where you are? The success of a 4-H project is often impacted by much more than the project and the youth that completed it. Make sure to take time to thank the individuals and groups that made the experience possible as it is an essential part of youth development.

Reflecting on recent opportunities helps the learning experience come full circle. Consider having a reflection activity at a 4-H club meeting to allow more youth to think through and set goals for their future.

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