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

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 “giving” life skills category.

4-H programs provide youth ages five to 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 by Michigan State University Extension 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 Giving.  The life skills identified under giving include community service, volunteering, leadership, responsible citizenship and contribution to group effort.  The following are examples of activities or experiences that 4-H clubs could implement to promote development of giving life skills.

Community Service Initiatives
Community service is a core element of many 4-H clubs, reflected in the Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles: youth grow and contribute as active citizens through service and leadership.  Community service provides a structured opportunity for 4-H clubs to donate their time, effort and talents for the betterment of their community or other people.  4-H leaders can utilize the Planning Your Community Service Project guide to help members select, plan, carry out, evaluate and celebrate community service projects that are meaningful to the members and group.

Club Officers
Electing club officers in a 4-H club contributes toward three additional guiding principles

  1. Youth are actively engaged in their own development
  2. Youth are considered participants rather than recipients in the learning process
  3. Youth develop skills that help them succeed. 

Club officers are elected by the members of the club to conduct the business meetings.  Officers work with the adult leaders of the club to carry out the club’s business.  Electing officers within a 4-H club provides not only a leadership experience for the members elected to the positions, but also an opportunity for all club members to understand how an election process happens.  4-H club officers and leaders can use Helping You Help Officers and Committees to gain more information about club officer roles, responsibilities and elections procedures. 

Utilizing Teen Leaders
Teen leaders in 4-H clubs provide a powerful resource to the 4-H program as they are able to connect with younger members in ways that adult leaders may not be able, while developing their own leadership skills at the same time.  The guiding principles connected to teen leadership are youth develop skills that help them succeed and youth grow, and contribute as active citizens through service and leadership.  Teen leaders may serve their 4-H club or the 4-H program in a number of ways including assisting adult leaders, leading a specific project within the club, serving on county, state or national committees, organizing community service projects, becoming camp counselors or serving as a club officer.  Teen leaders will find useful tips for planning, implementing and evaluating their teen leadership experience in the 4-H Teen Leadership Guide.

Citizenship Academy
One of the goals of the 4-H program is that members become active and contributing citizens.  4-H clubs are encouraged to promote educational learning opportunities focused on citizenship offered at the state and national level such as Michigan 4-H Capitol Experience and Citizenship Washington Focus.  4-H clubs may also utilize the Government is Us curriculum to develop club based learning opportunities that engage members with local issues.

Club Activities
4-H clubs should include input from all members when planning activities.  The planning process should take into consideration the abilities of each member and what they could contribute to the planning, execution or evaluation of the club’s activity.  It is important to recognize the efforts that each member of the club contributes to the overall success of the activity.

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 or additional articles in this series, including:

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