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

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 “caring” 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 “Caring.” The life skills identified under caring include Concern for Others, Empathy, Sharing and Nurturing Relationships. Following are examples of activities or experiences that 4-H clubs could implement to promote development of caring life skills.

Community Service

Community service is a foundational principle of 4-H programs; nearly all 4-H clubs include at least one community service project in their club year program. Community service projects not only benefit the community and the people living there, but also serve as a learning experience that is incomparable for members to learn compassion and caring. Find more information about planning a community service experience from Michigan State University Extension.

Ice Breakers

Starting your club meeting with an ice breaker is the best way for members to get to know one another. Ice breakers can help members easily learn the names of others in the club, which is important for building respect and making each other feel valued.

Celebrations and Show and Tell

4-H clubs should provide an experience where a youth feels like they belong. Taking time to learn about what is happening in each other’s lives inside and outside the 4-H club bonds members together. Set aside time each meeting for members to share—this may include telling about something they have done, something they have learned, someplace they have visited, or someone they have met. To make sure everyone who wants to share has an opportunity the club may need to establish guidelines including time limits. Sharing has the potential to create new networking opportunities as well. To help members feel important, clubs may also include celebration of birthdays or other special occasions during their meeting.

4-H History Project and Promotional Booths

The Michigan 4-H History Project provides a chance for 4-H clubs to learn about past 4-H members and their experiences. Clubs may also have information that they can contribute to the exhibit for future generations. A 4-H club may choose to elect a member to the position of club historian to ensure records of the club are compiled each year including minutes, photos, and awards. A booth promoting 4-H at a community event is a great way to not only promote the 4-H program, but also share with others about the experiences your club members have had in 4-H.

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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