Gearing up for fair projects using the Experiential Learning Model

Fairs and 4-H go hand-in-hand both aiming to educate. Get prepared now!

It’s that time of year again; time to gear up and prepare for 4-H fairs and fair projects!  There are several fairs that occur during the summer months across our great state, but the planning begins very early in the year.  One common theme at a vast majority of them is youth 4-H exhibits.  After months of toiling on their projects, the fair is the perfect opportunity for youth to show off what they have achieved during their year in 4-H.  Many youth exhibit animals or still life projects such as sewing, cooking or arts at their local fairs.  But you may ask, so what?  Big deal that they go; what does showing off a project at the local fair accomplish besides going home with a ribbon?  Michigan State University Extension suggests the answer is simple: a judged competition is part of the Experiential Learning Model that 4-H programs are based on.

Utilizing the Experiential Learning Model helps youth become engaged in their own experiences.  Rather than telling youth what they should learn and how they should feel about an experience, they have the opportunity to discover their own learning through a guided process.  The Experiential Learning Model includes five specific steps:

  1. Experience
  2. Share
  3. Process
  4. Generalize
  5. Apply

During competitive activities, youth are sharing and processing their experience with trained evaluators or judges who are experts in that particular project area.  Judges ask youth questions during the judging about their projects like:

  1. What was your favorite part of the project?
  2. Is there anything that you did not like about the project?
  3. What went well during the project?
  4. What is one new thing you did this year that was successful?
  5. What is one thing you plan to do different next year? Why?

This type of questioning helps youth process their experiences with the project by thinking critically, which enhances learning.  As fair classes, fair judges and fair projects are beginning, it is a perfect time to think about how to utilize the Experiential Learning Model in an intentional and effective way at your 2014 fair!

For more information on how the Experiential Learning Model can be used in competitive events, view the pre-recorded webinar, The Experiential Learning Model in action:  fairs and other competitive events.

More information is available online about Michigan 4-H animal science programs as well.

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