Encourage 4-H youth to engage in their own development

Explore how to implement the third 4-H guiding principle in 4-H clubs and communities.

Michigan 4-H Youth Development has seven guiding principle for positive youth development. This is the third installment of a series that explores each of those guiding principles.

The third Michigan 4-H Guiding Principles for Positive Youth Development is “Youth are actively engaged in their own development.

Too often, adults think they are “helping” young people by doing things for them. Adults, including 4-H Educators, don’t know what youth need unless they ask them. 4-H members need opportunities to decide for themselves what they want to learn about. Although youth are busy, experiences will be more valuable if they are allowed to direct their own learning.

Make sure youth are involved in all stages of their development. Planning a project from start to finish, gathering the needed resources (human, financial, equipment, informational, etc.), conducting the project and reflecting afterwards on how it can be improved in the future.

Here are some ideas on how to do this at your club meetings and activities:

  1. Have youth plan the yearly calendar for the club.
  2. Have youth discuss their strengths and weaknesses in a particular project area, then seek out individuals who can help youth in areas where they want to learn more.
  3. Have youth plan an educational field trip; include budgeting and fundraising as part of this process.
  4. Work with youth to have them develop a personal improvement plan. During a club meeting, have youth write down something they would like to improve upon for the next club meeting. Reward those who meet their goals.
  5. Make sure youth are setting the agenda for all activities within the club. If you have a young club, you miht limit it to a few choices for a topic at club meetings.
  6. Place show and tell – an oldie, but a goodie.
  7. Have youth evaluate each other’s projects. Make sure that youth say at least one good thing and one thing that needs improvement for each project.
  8. Have the youth plan a community service project and gather the resources for the project.
  9. Facilitate a discussion with your club about what makes a “perfect” community. Then create an action plan to make your community more “perfect”.
  10. Have youth plan every step for a show. Let the youth hire judges (or act as judges themselves), plan the showbill, gather money for trophies and evaluate the program.

Hopefully you will find some of these ideas helpful in your own clubs.

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