Cloverbud programs Part 4: 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 by enhancing life skills such as social-interaction, self-esteem, making choice and learning to learn.  Scott Scheer, Extension Specialist at The Ohio State University, has effectively ten outlined parameters for successful Cloverbud programs in Ohio. Because of program differences between states, nine of those parameters are extremely applicable in Michigan 4-H programs. This article by Michigan State University Extension will expand on the parameters that Scheer outlined for successful Cloverbud programming through safe activities for children.

As the previous article discussed, youth in the 5-to 8-year-old range have limitations in what they are capable of physically, mentally and emotionally. These limitations exist because youth are still developing.  Most 5-to 8-year-old youth are not fully aware of the real dangers that animals, kitchen appliances, machinery and outdoor activities can pose. Youth often times do not understand the consequences of not following directions.  

Additionally, in animal science programs, youth ages 5 to 8 often lack the mental and physical skills for controlling and understanding the strength of larger animals according to the Livestock Conservation Institute. Working with livestock and animals was reported as the leading cause of injury for children in Ohio. Additionally, the American Medical Equestrian Association advises that young children need to have the strength, balance and attention span to adequately ride animals.

While youth are learning how to safely work around animals, they are also learning skills that are helping them become increasingly independent and that build their confidence. Parents have identified these two skills as being important as they aim to help their child develop according to Parents’ Perceptions of Life Skills Development in the 4-H Cloverbud Program.

Volunteers must take extreme care to ensure that activities are low risk and safe for youth, in the case that directions are not followed. Some suggestions to lower risk in animal science programs are:

  1. Have plenty of adult helpers when working with live animals. A 1-to-1 ratio is appropriate when working with youth ages 5 to 8.
  2. Make sure that all safety equipment, such as a riding helmet, is used.
  3. Properly screen out animals that may not be calm and gentle mannered, remember that 5-to 8-year-olds do not have the same reaction time as adults.

The next article in this series will focus on the distinct difference between 5-to 8-year-old programs and 9-to 19-year-old programs and how animals and animal subject matter should contribute to Cloverbud objectives and parameters.

To learn more about Michigan 4-H Programs, please visit the animal science page.

Other articles in this series: