Cloverbud programs Part 6: 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 from Michigan State University Extension will focus on incorporating animals and animal subject matter into Cloverbud programming and positive activities that focus on five key life skills.

Utilizing animals as a vehicle to ultimately develop content and life skills in youth is a unique element in 4-H programs as opposed to other youth development organizations. In Cloverbud experiences, animal activities should meet the other program parameters that have been discussed and the Cloverbud program objectives such as promoting self-esteem and social interaction skills. Animals can provide excellent subject material for Cloverbud curricula; however, because of safety, liability and competitive reasons, it is appropriate that there be restrictions in order to maintain the Cloverbud program objectives.

When working directly with animals, extreme caution must be observed. Volunteers must remember that children 8 and under often lack the mental and physical skills for controlling and understanding the strength of larger animals. The statistical research available indicates that working with livestock animals is the leading cause of injury for children on farms as compared to farm machinery in the state of Ohio. Additionally, the American Medical Equestrian Association stated that young children need to have the strength, balance and attention span to adequately manage and ride animals. Although individual state statistics are used, the cumulative inference can be made that there is a danger in all facets of animal science programming that does need to be carefully considered in Cloverbud youth programming.

Finally, the last programming parameter that is outlined is that activities are fun, positive and focus on the five general life skill areas through the experiential learning model. Activities must be enjoyable and not tedious for children. Volunteers should take their time and get acquainted with the children in the program in order to understand their personalities and their skill level in order to provide appropriate activities.

Attention should be given to how the activity contributes to the life skills of self-esteem, social interaction, learning to learn, physical mastery and decision making. Each activity may focus on one or two of the life skills and the overall program will build each of the life skills. By utilizing the Experiential Learning Model, volunteers can help youth process the skills they are learning. The five steps in the model are:

  1. Experience—the group engages in an activity.
  2. Share—the group shares reactions and observations from the activity.
  3. Process—the group discusses how questions are brought out by the activity.
  4. Generalize—the group explores common ideas or truths about the activity.
  5. Apply—the group talks about applications of the new information.

Incorporating the Experiential Learning Model may be challenging at first, but volunteers are likely already utilizing pieces of the model. With practice, it will become more and more natural.

The final article in this series will provide a list of questions leaders can ask themselves to ensure that the program parameters for cloverbuds are being met in their club.

Other articles in this series:

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