Running 4-H club meetings gives youth their first taste of business and leadership skills

The Michigan State University 4-H Youth Development program provides a hands-on learning experience for youth to learn how to run meetings and experience leadership.

The Michigan 4-H youth development program is unique in many ways including that youth enrolled in 4-H not only have the opportunity to participate in 4-H club meetings, they also have the opportunity to run them.

According to the Michigan 4-H Club Development Guide, a 4-H club consists of five or more youth enrolled in a club, with youth coming from two or more families. 4-H clubs need to meet at least six times a year, and they are encouraged to meet more often. There are three different types of clubs that are most commonly followed: the project club, the community club and the explorers club.

A 4-H club meeting should include business, educational and recreational components. In the business part, youth take on a leadership role by becoming an officer and learning how to run a meeting. 4-H offers club officer trainings to youth who are interested and demonstrate promise in being a leader.

The second part of the club meeting is the actual educational component. Clubs can take time to actually do the hands-on learning, such as setting up quiz bowls, doing demonstrations, completing work books, inviting a guest speaker to come and talk, arranging field trips, preparing for the fair, having mini fitting and showing clinics if the youth have animal projects, and a whole lot more.

The third part of the club meeting is the recreational time. This is the social time, having fun and getting to know each other in the club. This could also include refreshments as part of the social time. There may be times when all three of these components will not be included at a meeting.

One of the purposes of 4-H club meetings is to learn life skills. Youth work on their 4-H projects throughout the year at their club meetings, workshops and individually. This is the hands-on educational part of the 4-H club. Once the project is completed, they are then able to reflect on what they did, talk about what types of life skills they learned and then apply these skills for the youth to use in the future.

An effective club meeting will make sure all the youth are involved and help with the decision making. One of the ways is to have the club plan out a yearly calendar. This should involve the whole group and determine what the needs are in the group to accomplish the goals for the year.

The Michigan 4-H Club Development has guidelines available on running effective meetings and what makes a good 4-H club. Contact your local Michigan State University Extension office to find out more on how to start or participate in a 4-H club.

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