4-H is more than a love for animals

Youth learn important life skills in 4-H through a hands-on approach in programs and projects.

I was recently asked what I do for a living. When I replied I coordinate the 4-H Youth Development program in Hillsdale County, I received the following response, “You must like animals a lot!”

I do like animals a lot, but I have a much greater love for children and youth and being part of a positive development in their lives. 4-H offers many programs, projects and activities for youth to get involved in, no matter where they live – in the country, city, suburb or small town. Animal science and other traditional programs play an important role as well as many non-traditional programs such as entrepreneurship, financial literacy, leadership and citizenship, and science and technology, to name just a few.

All 4-H programs have a common goal: to teach and equip youth with life skills they need to become successful adults and active citizens in their communities. Youth choose the programs or projects they love and are interested in or passionate about. These projects youth are involved in are fun for them and are tangible. However, the learning process that takes place while doing the projects is much more important and has the greater positive impact on youth than the project itself.

Michigan 4-H utilizes a learn-by-doing approach that offers youth hands-on activities in which they develop life skills. These life skills include practical skills such as goal setting, record keeping, critical thinking and decision making, as well as personal and interpersonal skills such as team work, character, communication, self-esteem and responsibility. The greater impact of 4-H involvement on youth is clearly reflected in the Tufts University 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development.

Compared with youth involved in other out-of-school time activities, 4-H youth are:

  • 50 percent more likely to achieve high academic competence.
  • 60 percent less likely to engage in risky, problem behaviors.
  • Nearly twice as likely to plan to attend college.
  • Three times more likely to contribute to their communities.
  • 70 percent more likely to be emotionally and behaviorally engaged with school.
  • More than twice as likely to participate in science, engineering and technology programs.
  • 40 percent more likely to pursue careers in science.

No matter if you like animals or not, Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development has something of interest for everyone. Their goal is for every youth to learn the necessary life skills for a successful and productive life. 

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