Cloverbud programs Part 2: Providing a solid foundation for youth animal science programs

Cloverbud programs should include activity-based experiences and be cooperative learning-centered.

The Cloverbud program’s goal is to promote healthy development in children ages 5 to 8 by enhancing life skills such as social-interaction, self-esteem, making choices and learning to learn. To help club volunteers effectively structure their Cloverbud programs, The Ohio State University Extension Specialist Scott Scheer outlined ten effective parameters for successful Cloverbud programs in Ohio. Due to program differences between states, only nine of those parameters are extremely applicable in Michigan 4-H programs. This article will expound on the first two parameters Scheer outlined for successful Cloverbud programming: activity-based experiences and programs that are cooperative learning-centered.

Children within the Cloverbud age range of 5 to 8 years old have relatively short attention spans. This is especially true when there are distractions around them. Activity-based experiences, also referred to as hands-on learning, can engage youth in learning activities where they can explore a topic, ask questions and have fun. These activities should be kept to 20 minutes or less, to help ensure you are able to hold the youth’s attention.

For 4-H club leaders in animal science programs looking for ways to engage with this age group, here are some ideas from Michigan State University Extension:

  • Animal puzzles. Simply take a picture of the specie, laminate it (if you wish), cut it into pieces of various shapes and sizes and allow the youth to re-construct the original picture. This activity is more suited for the youngest individuals in the age group.
  • Tool identification. Collect common tools used with a certain species and explain what each tool is used for, how to use it correctly and safely, and then allow youth to handle each piece (or possibly use it). One potential tool could be an ear tagger: leaders can make cardboard or paper ears and allow youth to “tag” the cut out.
  • Animal part identification. Utilizing The Ohio State University Extension Learning Lab Kits, have youth match up the right animal part on the diagram. You can check with your local MSU Extension office for availability of the kits in your area or order them online.

In Cloverbud programs, it is important youth are exposed to a variety of short-term experiences that will help them learn life skills such as learning to learn. Activity-based learning, or hands-on learning, through activities such as these are an effective strategy to engage youth in the educational process.

The second effective Cloverbud parameter outlined by Scheer is having activities that are cooperative learning centered. This means activities should be done in small groups or teams, as opposed to individually. In more than 600 studies conducted during a 90-year period, it has been proven that cooperative-learning produces higher achievement, increases social skills by building positive relationships with others, and provides youth with a healthier self-esteem than competitive or individual programs. By using group processes, youth learn how to be part of a group and how to get along as they develop foundation skills such as how to take turns, use a teamwork approach and cooperate.

The next article in this series will focus on non-competitive activities and activities that are developmentally age-appropriate. To learn more about Michigan 4-H animal science programs, please visit the 4-H website.

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