Animal science programs for youth build life skills

Life skills, animal science, youth

Since the inception of 4-H programs, we have touted that youth who are involved in animal science projects gain valuable life skills through animal ownership and exhibition. However, what we inherently know and what we canprove through evaluation data were two separate things. In order to prove that participation in animal science programs builds youth’s life skills, researchers have been evaluating the impact that 4-H animal science programs have made in the lives of youth who have participated in animal science programs.

4-H animal science alumni were surveyed within five years of their last 4-H experience and related exactly what researchers had hypothesized. In a series of questions about their 4-H experience, alumni identified that 4-H had helped them accept responsibility, influenced their ability to work with others, and helped develop their skill in decision making and public speaking (Knowlton-Ward, 1996).

Michigan 4-H animal science programs are also actively collecting data to begin to tell our own story of how 4-H impacts the lives of youth right here in Michigan. In 2011, the State 4-H Dog and Goat show participants were asked to complete an evaluation asking how preparing for and participating in the animal show helped them set goals for themselves and their projects, increase their self-esteem, enhance their decision-making skills and network with people who share the same interests. Eighty percent of participants reported that they had set goals for themselves and their project animal to accomplish during the show. Additionally, 60 percent of participants reported that they had increased their decision-making skills and met new people who share the same interests.

Why is this important? As youth development programs evolve and change to meet the needs of youth and society, the primary basis of our programs—to help youth develop skills that will allow them to be successful in a complex and changing world—remains very strong in animal science programs.

We are fast approaching spring, which brings with it a cadre of opportunities for youth to continue to develop and hone their skills through participation in 4-H. Some events that are listed on our calendar include 4-H Poultry Palooza which is a statewide poultry show and poultry skill contest that 4-H members from across the state can compete in. A complete electronic calendar of youth Animal Science events is available. The State 4-H Goat Expo and State 4-H Rabbit and Cavy Expo contests are held on the campus of MSU and are truly tests of a youth’s knowledge and skill in their respective project area. Participants compete in a series of contests that allow them to demonstrate their concept mastery and problem-solving skills relating to their project. 

Information regarding upcoming activities and events in Michigan 4-H Animal Science programs is available through Michigan State University Extension.

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