There’s a fair in the air!

Fairs and 4-H go hand-in-hand – both aim to educate!

It’s that time of year again: fair time! There are several fairs that occur during the summer months across our great state. 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? The answer is simple: a judged competition is part of the “experiential learning model” that we base our 4-H programs upon.

Utilizing the Experiential Learning Model helps youth to be 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 has 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 such as:

  • What was your favorite part of the project?
  • Is there anything that you did not like about the project?
  • What went well during the project?
  • What is one thing you did new this year that was successful?
  • What is one thing you plan to do differently next year? Why?

This type of questioning helps youth process their experiences in the project critically, which enhances learning.

For more information on how the Experiential Learning Model can be used in competitive events, please feel free to view the prerecorded webinar “The Experiential Learning Model in action: fairs and other competitive events.”

To learn more about Michigan 4-H Animal Science Programs, please visit the Michigan 4-H website.

To learn more about the Experiential Learning Model and its use in 4-H programming, see these MSU Extension articles:

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