Cloverbud programs Part 5: 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 choices and learning to learn. Ohio State University Extension specialist Scott Scheer has effectively outlined 10 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 in the series will focus on the distinct difference between programs geared towards 5- to 8 year-olds versus those geared towards 9- to19-year-olds, and how animals and animal subject matter should contribute to Cloverbud objectives and parameters. Being intentional about ensuring there is a distinct difference between 5- to 8-year-old programming and 9- to 19-year-old programming will strengthen the Cloverbud program and help volunteers achieve their intended goals for Cloverbuds

Children aged 5 to 8 years old can be better positioned to have a successful learning experience when the programs are presented differently than the program for 9- to 19-year-old youth. First, the type of learning for Cloverbuds should be activity centered rather than project centered. Activities should focus on developing hand-eye coordination, cognitive abilities and life skills. Second, the type of instruction is leader-directed rather than self-study or self-directed, as is common for 9- to 10-year-olds. Children will follow the direction of their leader in order to complete tasks and activities that build their confidence and skill. Third, Cloverbuds should be recognized for their participation rather than pushed in a direction that associates success with “winners” and “losers” of an activity. Lastly, Cloverbuds should utilize activity manuals rather than project manuals for their learning as they offer a wider litany of activities that focus on the child’s development rather than project development.

The curricula we utilize in Cloverbud programming must be success oriented. This will allow children to gain confidence and promote their self-esteem by mastering Cloverbud activities. Incorporating cooperative learning and non-competitive settings creates the ideal situation for children to experience success. By creating opportunities for children to be successful, we are building their self-esteem and optimism, which are by-products of doing well and being successful.

As youth learn how to safely work around animals, they are also building their confidence and sense of self-esteem. 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.

The more positive interactions youth have with animals, the more they are building their confidence around that animal and the experience will be more enjoyable. Parents and volunteers can help youth build their confidence around animals by preparing them by doing activities on topics like working around animals safely.

The next article in this series will focus on incorporating animals and animal subject matter into Cloverbud programming and positive activities that focus on five key life skills.

To learn more about Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Programs, please visit the animal science page.

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